The US Cultural Exchange J-1 Visa Program: Expectations vs Reality

We have a saying here in the US when you’re making comparisons between two things that aren’t related. We say that you’re trying to compare Apples to Oranges. It’s not a fair comparison.

You’ve probably watched TV shows that were filmed in the glitz and glam of NY or on the sunset hills in California. Americans are fun, carefree, indulgent, and enjoy a wide variety of cuisines and lifestyles.

Some of that may be true — but not always.

Your experience in the US cultural exchange program will not be like the sitcoms that you watch on tv. It will be real and potentially very beneficial for you and you can’t compare your experience to the stories that you hear.

If you want to have a successful and rewarding experience in your J-1 program, it’s important that you have the right mindset going on. You need to have realistic expectations about what to expect on our journey and be confident in the goals that you hope to achieve.

The US Cultural Exchange J-1 Visa: Expectations vs Reality

Before you can begin to set your expectations and ground them firmly in reality, you have to be clear on your goals for your program.

Yes, coming to the US is exciting. You’re going to see and learn a lot of new things. But, you’re leaving your family and friends behind for a year of your life because you want to further your career. You are making an emotional and financial investment in your future — so let’s talk about how you can make sure it’s a solid investment.

Expectation: The US is Going to Be Like the Stories

You might have watched TV shows or talked to people that have been to the US before. They’ve painted a picture of what the US is like — and they probably painted a good one if you’re excited to come here.

Reality: This is Real Life, Not TV Shows or Stories

You are coming here to work a job in the career that you’ve chosen to invest your time and money into. You want to grow your resume and build valuable job skills. While you are here, you are going to be working a full-time job and have responsibilities.

However, you will still experience everything that America has to offer. You’ll just be doing it as we do — after work is over and on your days off.

Expectation: I’m Going to Make Awesome Money

You may be coming from a country where money and good-paying jobs are harder to come by. So it’s easy to get excited at the prospect of how much money you’ll be making in USD that you can send back home and support your family.

Reality: You Shouldn’t Do it For the Money

Yes, you will be receiving wages at the same rate as a US citizen, but that shouldn’t be your primary reason for coming here. You are coming here to advance your career. You should be able to make enough money to live on while you’re here and having some spending money on top, but you won’t get rich while you’re here.

Also, if you intern in an area that sees a lot of tourists, the cost-of-living will be much higher, so you might not have as much extra spending money as you think you’ll have.

Related Reading: Frequently Asked Questions from Interns and Trainees – Employment & Compensation

Expectation: The Work Will Be Easy

You may think that since this is a training program, you’ll just be doing easy jobs for the next year. Maybe you’ll be shadowing another employee or observing how things need to get done.

Reality: You are Working (actual work)

The training environment that you’re working in is one designed to build your skills in your chosen field of study. You will be doing actual work and training. The type of responsibilities and workload that you have will greatly vary based on your skills and the needs of the individual hotel or resort.

Related Reading: Open Positions with Host Hotels and Resorts

Expectation: You Have to Be in a Major City

The US has a handful of very notable cities that have received notoriety around the world. We receive a lot of requests from people that want be placed in these high-profile cities, like New York, Miami, LA, Vegas, etc.

Reality: There are a LOT of Big Cities in the US

The United States has 50 states and each state has a capital city. Inside each state, there are typically at least 2 or 3 other cities that are highly sought after metropolises. For example, Tennessee has Nashville, Knoxville, and Chattanooga that are all very well-known and highly populated.

Sometimes being placed in lesser-known cities can greatly reduce your cost of living while still keeping you close enough to enjoy the fun of the bigger cities.

Learn More and Plan Your Trip

Making the journey to get a J-1 Visa and plan your trip is a big one. There are lots of steps along the way and plenty of people that will help answer questions.

We publish new articles and advice like this article on our site on a regular basis. If you’d like us to send you an email when we publish something new, just CLICK HERE