YSEALI Story

written by Shirley Chin from Brunei

The first two weeks of arriving in the US has been beyond amazing. We had a couple of days in Washington DC for our pre departure (worksite) orientation and had some free time to roam around at night during our first few nights. We also had the chance to tour the US Capitol in Washington and visited the white house. We have been paired with different fellows intentionally so we are obliged to make new friends and get to know other fellows more. The first few days passed by in a blink of an eye. It is amazing how a short two days in this YSEALI program has open up so many opportunities for us to make good friends and develop great network. It is a little sad that we all have to part ways to go to our respective workplace but I believe we will all come back to the Congress at the end of the month sharing more exciting stories!

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Each fellow has been placed to a different worksite or different state. I am placed at Sacramento, California in a non-profit organization called Visit California. This organization strive to create desire for the California experience and to promote California as a premier travel destination. It is a tourism marketing organization inspiring travel to California.  I had the opportunity to attend the board meeting held every quarterly of the year. This year it was held at Squaw Valley, Tahoe where they used to host the Winter Olympics Games back in the 60’s.

Lake Tahoe Olympic Stadium

At the board meeting, I had the opportunity to meet the President and CEO of Visit California, Caroline Beteta; the CEO of Ridgemont hospitality, Sima Patel; the Executive Vice President of operations of the Interstate hotels, Russ Cox and also the President and CEO of Orange County Visitor Association, Co-founder of Laguna Strategic advisors, Formal President and Managing Director Marriott International- Edwin Fuller. Most of them serve as commissioners of Visit California’s board meeting and I am so delighted to have taken the initiative to speak to them. Their knowledge on the tourism industry has been astonishing and their vision to make California a premier tourist destination has been really clear and goal orientated.

Shirley at Olympic stadium

Of course, this opportunity will not have happen without the help of my supervisor Kayla Wood who is the Public Affairs Manager. We work well together and she has assist me in so many ways that I’m so grateful for.

Besides work, I also had the chance to assimilate the American culture during the weekends. I joined one of the fellows (Funnur- Indonesian fellow) host parents to Oakland to watch the Oakland Athletics vs. the Baltimore Orioles game. It was fascinating to see how patriotic the Americans were during the national anthem before the start of the game. With my little knowledge on baseball game, Jon and Stephanie (Host parents of Funnur) willingly explain what was going on throughout the match.

Shirley at baseball game

I am looking forward to meeting more new people throughout my journey here in the US. I can’t wait to share more stories and I am so grateful for the opportunity the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural affairs (ECA) has provided and also to American Councils for International Education (ACIE) who assists in administering this.

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