Trump is expected to abolish the J-1 Visa, the one widely used by international students to enter into summer internships. WNOL spoke to Yana Hadzhigeorgieva, who took part in an internship with Southwestern Advantage last summer.
Motivated and adventurous students have expressed their concerns about the future of summer internship programmes and the uncertainty around their right to take advantage of what they have to offer.
Southwestern Advantage, founded in 1855 in Nashville, Tennessee, is a company with a long tradition of securing millions of American families the most accessible, up-to-date and useful educational tools.
In 1986, they went one step further. In allowing foreign university students to enter into the already established summer sales and leadership programme, hundreds of students were tempted with promises of rapid, if ‘seasonal,’ success.
Independent conductors, as participants are trained to become, are taught sales, leadership, communication and organizational skills. Most importantly, they are given a chance.
People like Yana Hadzhigeorgieva, 21, from Bulgaria, who participated in Southwestern Advantage last summer. She is currently doing a degree in the Netherlands and has agreed to share her life-changing experience.
What made you consider participating in the programme?
It was an internship, so I had the opportunity to go there to build my CV and see a different country. I am a person, who likes experiences, so I decided to gain some knowledge in the United States.
Did you expect to get chosen?
Definitely not. The requirements for the programme are very challenging. You need to cover a couple of steps in order to get accepted.
How would you describe a perfect candidate for a first-year experience?
A very motivated person and a person, who is able to overcome every challenge that can come on the ‘bookfield.’ A person, who is not afraid to challenge him of herself.
Is this experience for everybody?
Honestly, I do not think this is for everyone. Usually, people especially in my country think that it is a crazy programme, although the European students get it very easily.
Was there any tension in working with an international team of people?
I do not think there was any, while I was working with Americans, people from the Czech Republic, Russia, the Netherlands. It was actually a competition between us, but we respected each other.
Do you think you need to be competitive in order to succeed?
I do not like competition that much, but somehow you get really motivated to beat the others. So, you become competitive, if you were not before.
Yana had a life-changing summer at Southwestern Advantage. It was the friendly and prepossessing environment above all other, that changed her character and motivated her throughout.
This is what a Southwestern Advantage experience sounds like in her own words.
What did it feel like to be a foreign student in America there and then?
As Americans say: ‘Awesome.’ It was a wonderful experience. I was really well accepted.
Would you say you felt welcomed?
Even though Trump was elected and he does not really want international people in his country, I felt really welcomed to go there again, to meet a lot of nice people, to meet the best families and get inspired for life.
You are planning to go for your second summer this year. What might be different in a post-Trump America?
I do not think that Americans are going to change for nine months. But maybe it is going to get really difficult to get the J-1 Visa, the one we are using.
Will people be treating you differently?
If they had voted for Trump, that does not mean they are going to change their whole ideal system just because they have another person as a president. Let’s not forget, not everybody voted for Trump, right?
Who will lose if the programme is cancelled?
The people, who are going to lose most are the Americans and their GDP. The students, who go there to work from Europe, they work for their lower-paid working force just for the summer. They are pushing the American economy.
Is there something you regret about the experience?
I regret that I could not finish my programme. I had to leave three weeks earlier because I needed to start school.
With what Trump has in store for international summer programmes, we might be seeing experiences coming to a premature end much more often. And, quite unfortunately, for entirely different reasons.