Coming together to eat, play and give.

They came together to eat, play and give.  They came from all over the world and gathered all over the country. Thousands of foreign students working in the U.S. during their summer breaks, celebrated “J-Day” in communities across the country. Though the annual events and activities were as varied as the places they were held and the people who participated, by all accounts, the events, activities and civic and charity contributions made a huge impact.

In Galveston, Texas, a free trolley transported over 200 participants to Schlitterbahn Water Park, where the price of admission was a donation of canned goods to support a community food bank.   J-1 participants were treated to an afternoon of watery fun, compliments of the one of many Galveston’s businesses who hire and host foreign students for the summer.

In Sandusky, Ohio, 50 people convened to help the Erie County Soil and Water Conservation clean up a public park and then spent the afternoon snacking on pizza and playing American-style relay races.  Participants from Moldova, Turkey, Jamaica, Grenada, Colombia, Taiwan, Ukraine, India, Russia, Romania, Poland, Philippines, Serbia, Dominican Republic, China teamed up to compete for USA inspired red, white, and blue themed prizes.

Host employers turned out to show their gratitude for the students who keep their restaurants, water parks, hotels, pools and shops staffed and operating at peak capacity during their busiest summer months. Many supplied food, festivity or entertainment, but all showed their support of the students participating in a cultural exchange program.

J-1 visa sponsors worked together to organize, coordinate and promote the annual event,  even shopping together to buy hundreds of American picnic staples- hamburgers, hot dogs and good ole’ fashioned pecan pies.

In over 49 locations, local officials, community representatives and citizens joined the students in the good fun, showing their support and offering them welcoming and warm hospitality.

For many of these students, it was a day of firsts.  Some of the students asked about the meaning of the civic and charitable causes, such as contributing to Food Banks and other community projects. They learned that volunteerism is an important element of American culture.  Others came from countries where things like amusement or water parks simply don’t exist.  A day of free fun after a long summer of work is something they won’t soon forget.  For many of these hard-working youths, it was the first time all summer they had a chance to relax away from their work. Still others have never been exposed to as many other people from different parts of the world, and found themselves having a blast, participating together in games they’ve never played.

But all of the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of students that gathered together on J-Day to eat, play and give shared a least one common experience. They learned, grew, laughed, met new friends and contributed. They had a chance to get a firsthand understanding of true American hospitality and to give back to the communities that have opened their doors, hearts and homes to them.

National anthems were sung, country flags were drawn, cultural lessons were taught, laughs were shared, fun was had, good food was served and thanks was given.

But one of the most significant things about J-Day that will linger on long after the students return home, is the happy memories of so many global citizens coming together to discover more about one another and maybe even a bit about themselves.

We give our thanks to all who gave their time, efforts and passion to make this annual J-Day a monumental success.