The J1 exchange visitor program provides so many people with such great experiences. At IENA we know this and love to hear how the J1 exchange visitor program affects our participants! This year, we held a contest for all of our summer camp participants – we asked them to share a story of their experience on the program and to also provide a corresponding picture. We received SO many amazing stories and wanted to share them with everyone!
The following is Oriana Cardenas Galeazzi’s summer story in her own words!
Oriana is from Venezuela and worked at Culver Summer Schools and Camps as an equestrian counselor.
¨ This summer I’ve found there’s no expiration date on a dream¨
My culver story started during the summer of 2008 (10 years ago), when I was just a 10 year old little girl, who was a little scared but full of dreams. That was the first of my three summers that I attended Culver Academy’s Summer Camp, this will give you an idea about how much I really liked it there. Since I was a camper, I always had the dream to become part of the Group of staff who helped to build those unforgettable memories that would eventually be kept in the hearts of all of us, the campers, for the rest of our lives.
For a long time, I thought I would not be able to make it back, because I had already started College and I was living other stages of my life as a grown up. But this year, 10 years later, I decided it was the moment. I’ve been a fairly good student all my life, so it wasn’t an easy decision to make, because I had to take a break from my college duties because I had no vacations during the same dates that Culver Summer Camps was scheduled for 2018, but I knew what Culver Academies meant to me, and I knew I’d never regret it to go back and that it would be worth it and so I finally made my mind up and started with the paperwork for my summer program. But, it wasn’t easy at all, because I am a Venezuelan Citizen and I live in My country and the economy is really in trouble at home.
I started the application process and I was finally accepted, and so people at IENA got in touch with me and issued my DS2019 form, and everything was going really smooth until IENA sent my papers (DS2019) by DHL to Venezuela, and once I got them I could apply for an interview at The American Embassy in Caracas. I live in San Cristobal, a city located in the Venezuelan Andes. When IENA sent my papers by DHL, they were supposed to get to me by May 9th, which would give enough time because I was supposed to be in Culver by June 15th, but then everything started to get difficult because the mail system in my country does not work, my papers were stock at customs and there was no way for DHL to get them out of there and make them get to me… and weeks went by… and I started to panic and emailed IENA, whose staff were so kind and helpful and started to make some pressure to people at DHL… it was so stressful for me because no one was sure when I would get my papers, and without them I could not book an appointment at the American Embassy for my J1 Visa, neither could I book my international airlines reservations, and so on… many nights it was hard for me to get some sleep at night because my dream to go back to Culver was falling apart, and it felt like water through my fingers… I was really, really sad.
But people at IENA never gave up, they kept on calling DHL, and finally I received my papers on June 5th, and immediately applied for an emergency appointment at The Embassy and they gave it to me for Monday June 11th (four days before my arrival date), but I could not find any plane tickets to go from San Cristobal to Caracas… so my father and I took a 12 hours’ drive to Caracas, and on Monday June 11th I was at my appointment at The Embassy and my J1 Visa was finally approved, but I had to stay in Caracas until next day to pick up my Visa… Once I got my Visa, I realized I had no way to get to the United States because I had not booked any flights because there was no way to know for certain if my Visa was going to be approved. I could not find any reservations on flights going out of Venezuela to the US, so I finally find reservations to flight through Colombia, which meant taking another 12 hours drive back to San Cristobal, and then next day Wednesday 14th I had to go to Cucuta and over there I took a plane to Bogota Colombia, and FINALLY on Saturday June 17th I was in the United States…
I must say that had it not been for IENA´s staff, I could have never been able to have the opportunity to fulfill my DREAM, IENA´s people were always in touch with me, always there for me, during each and every step I had to wait… endure… and take… helping me to go through all the troubles caused by a country in Chaos like Venezuela, they were always kind, answered all my doubts, with their best attitude until we finally finished all my paperwork… I finally got late, two days later, but one day before the first day of camp… but just in time to start another summer camp, another beautiful and wonderful summer experience that will forever change again my life…
I don’t think it’s possible for me to describe what culver really means to me, it’s really hard to put so many feelings into words, but I’ll try my best…
Culver It’s a place out of this planet, you can feel it and you can see it. You can even see it in the sky, it has the most beautiful array of colors, and during 6 Weeks, it surprises you every day with a different one, and I promise you, that at the end, it’ll be impossible for you to pick just one of them as your favorite.
I love everything that they have over there, I love the people who is part of it, I love what happens there and every single attention to detail at Culver Summer Camps. This summer, Culver changed my life one more time. I had the opportunity once again to live the happiest days of my life, full of learning, growing and enjoying.
I became part of the horsemanship staff, and my daily job was to teach the little kids how to embrace the magic that horses bring along with them, and the tools needed to enjoy them in the best possible way. It was my first ever teaching experience, but I wasn’t aware that on the other hand, the little kids taught day by day their own magic, they taught me lessons, they showed me the happiness about simple things, they taught me to be a better person… they made me grow up.
Additionally, the other staff members, not only at the horsemanship classes, but from all the other activities and classes offered at The Camp, became another beautiful family, we all learned together what Team work really means, we learned that days are better when you give a helping hand, we learned that you can express you feelings and ideas and when you do it kindly but firmly you can achieve your goals, and that living your days with a smile on your face make them better days.
One of my best experiences was to have the chance to run, once again, into those people who became my friends when we were the little campers, ten years ago, but now on the other side of the moon, now being the teachers, assuming our responsibilities, in love with what we were doing, being older, but deep inside being the same little kids that our lives and Culver Summer Camp had brought together, once again, from all over the world
Every single day I was in awe, I was in love in the sight of boys and girls from 7 to 17 years old, helping each other, working together, as a team, putting others before themselves, growing, learning, being happy, putting our differences aside, giving their bests in each and every activity, and feeling proud of being part of Culver Academy.
I am happy and thankful to have been blessed to be there this summer, and to be able to give back some of all that I have been given Culver Summer Camps… Culver is my home away from home, it’s really a hard place to go away from. After this summer I’ve left my heart all over the world, and I can’t wait until next summer!
Thank you Culver Academy.
Thank you IENA
Thank you so much for sharing your story with us Oriana!