Questions/Comments?Contact Us

« Previous CIEE ON THE GROUND - JULY 2015 | Main | SPOTLIGHT ON - JULY 2015 Next »


By Jennifer Conway, International Recruitment Consultant

Make no mistake, summer has started! Our last newsletter highlighted best practices for preparing your Work & Travel USA students. So this month, we want to focus on how to work together with your international students to ensure a smooth transition into life in the United States and your workplace.

Living in a new country can be challenging, but you can make a big difference in how well your student staff members adapt and succeed at your company.

Cultural adjustment

Culture shock is real, and it happens to everyone, but may present itself in various ways. Work & Travel USA students travel thousands of miles to work at your company and experience life in a new country. Needing time to adapt is only natural, and sometimes may be a struggle as students adjust to new food, a new language, a new home and a new workplace. Your assistance and understanding through this time can make all the difference to both students and your company!

The first few weeks
Recognize that your international students are going through a normal adjustment period.

  • Students may seem tired – and that’s understandable. Thinking and listening in another language all day is exhausting! 
  • Students may feel homesick and frustrated because of the challenges of living and working in a new place. 
  • Students may feel shy or withdrawn – feeling that they don’t fit in or understand their new culture. This may keep them from asking important questions about life and work in the United States.

What you can do

  • Show students that you’re excited to host them! Hang a world map in your break room, and ask the students to make a pin or informational paragraph about where they’re from.
  • Pictures! Do your training manuals or posters in the workplace include pictures? It’s true they can be worth a thousand words. Adding them to your materials can help cross some language barriers.
  • Ask students how they’re doing, and really listen to their responses. Is there someone at your workplace they can go to when they have questions or want to talk about challenges?
  • Your company may need to ask students to adapt from their cultural norms in order to succeed at their job. Be clear about expectations regarding friendliness, timeliness, hygiene, and job responsibilities. Some things we take for granted in the United States may be quite different for your new staff members.
  • Talk to CIEE about any questions or challenges you’re facing. We want to work with both you and your students to make sure your shared Work &Travel USA program experience is a great success. 

If you’d like more information about cultural adjustment, please visit here.

Cultural exchange opportunities

As a host employer to international student staff members, you have a great opportunity to make a long-lasting impact on young ambassadors from around the world in this valuable person-to-person exchange that promotes global diplomacy.

Here are some ideas:

  • Mentoring/Buddy Program. Is there a local staff member who could work closely with your international students? This is a great way to provide training in the workplace and encourage connections with your domestic employees.
  • Is there a downtime for your business? Encourage students to take advantage of local sites and activities on their days and time off. Let them know what shouldn’t be missed in your area. You might post information in your break room about fun things to do and see, for example.
  • Stay active! Does your company participate in a local sports league? Summer sports like softball, kickball, and Ultimate Frisbee may be new and exciting to your international staff members. Invite them along to company games or events. It’s a great way to build overall team morale, too!
  • Let your staff cook for you! Have you ever tried shopska salad, borscht, pelmeni, or pan-fried buns? Let your student staff members show you what it’s like to eat in their countries. Hosting an international potluck is a great way for your local staff and Work & Travel USA students to open a conversation on something everyone understands – FOOD!

Do you have ideas to share about cultural exchange experiences? Please answer our question of the month , or email us with tips and suggestions.

For your company

Did you know that Work & Travel USA students must pay federal, state, and local income taxes, but do not pay into Social Security, Medicare or federal unemployment taxes?
For more information related to Work & Travel USA student payroll please visit here.

Social Security
Did you know that it’s legal for international students to work and be paid before they receive their Social Security number, as long as they have applied for a number through the Social Security Administration? For more information on how international students apply for a Social Security number, check here.

CIEE nuts and bolts

Second jobs
The U.S. Department of State requires that all Work & Travel USA students report second jobs.
If you’re interested in hiring a CIEE Work & Travel USA student for secondary employment, please remind the student that he/she must have approval BEFORE beginning work at your company. Students can reach CIEE at 1.888.268.6245, or contact@ciee.org for more information on reporting second jobs.

Monthly surveys
The State Department requires all sponsors to communicate with their students on a monthly basis. As part of its program requirements, CIEE asks students to complete monthly surveys about their experiences in the United States. You can help CIEE and your staff members by reminding them to check in with their sponsors each month.

Keep in touch with CIEE
You’re welcome to contact CIEE for assistance at any time, but it’s especially important that you contact us in these situations:

  • A student does not arrive as expected
  • A student quits before his/her agreed end date
  • A student has a medical emergency
  • The termination of a student’s employment
  • There’s a performance issue – let us know right away, so we can work with you and your student

There’s more information on our website about working with Work & Travel USA students. Please don’t hesitate to send an email if you have a question or would like to share tips about working together with your international student staff.