Whitman County Gazette - Serving Whitman County since 1877

By Kara Davidson
Gazette Reporter 

Experience International looking for local host families for exchange visitors


March 21, 2019

Experience International is a non-profit educational international work-study program that has partnerships with 26 other countries for development in agricultural and natural resources related fields.

The program allows foreign students and graduates to have internships in the USA and provides study tours in the USA, Europe and Latin America and work experience in Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Canada for students, teachers and professionals.

The program is looking to expand more host opportunities into eastern Washington, and Whitman County is a prime candidate. In Whitman County, hosts can help give opportunities to international interns and trainees by teaching them as they work in the field.

“We are hoping to expand more into the local setting,” said Rachael Ropkey, a coordinator for Experience International which is headquartered in Bellingham. “We have such potential here.”

Ropkey had a booth at this year’s Ag Expo in Spokane.

These international visitors are interns or trainee’s who come here on an exchange visa also called a J1 visa.

They are also noted to be professionals with a degree, certificate or relevant work experience, or are college and university students and recent graduates who come to the United States to gain exposure to U.S. culture and receive training or experience in U.S. business practices for their work-based program or occupational field.

They have at least a year of practical work experience or are enrolled or recently graduated from a field-related degree program.

The international trainees and interns will also have a driver’s license and be 21 or older. They are noted to be reliable and experienced young professionals who have been screened and interviewed by Experience International and their program partner in the home country.

The application they submit includes a resume, references and their placement requests. Exchange visitors are required to be able to speak an intermediate level, or conversational, English, so there isn’t a large language barrier.

These students and professionals are coming over to work from one to 12 months, and will need to be paid minimum wage or higher, or to receive a stipend which, when added to room and board is equivalent to those wages.

The exchange visitors may be granted up to a year stateside with their program. Many are hoping to take what they learn here through structured training back home to enhance their work and experience there.

Aside from agriculture and natural resources, EI also has programs in Architecture, Business, Forestry, Math and Science to name a few.

The program staff will work with hosts to ensure the experience to be enjoyable, constructive and productive and will do site visits and check-ins.

EI doesn’t require their participants to live where they are employed while here.

Hosts are required to provide practical training and cultural immersion to the visitor. If a host isn’t capable of providing lodging, the program will work with them to find acceptable lodging for the trainee or intern. The type of lodging needs to be specified beforehand, whether it’s a room or apartment provided by the hosts, or a lodging option set up elsewhere with the help of the host and program representatives.

“We really want hosts that are open to the core values of the program,” said Ropkey.

EI wants hosts to be individuals who are excited about providing an educational program and are flexible and culturally open. Ropkey noted that the program was made to connect people around the world.

“So as long as you are ready to do that, that’s what we’re looking for,” she said.

More information can be found at Experience International’s website, expint.org.


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