A “cultural exchange” program is recognized as an important component of any internationalizing education. Such a program is part of a “comprehensive institutional transformation process that aims to integrate international and intercultural dimensions in the mission and the substantive functions of higher education institutions” (Codina et al., 2013, p. 1). The Philippine government has accepted this fact so much so that it has become a part of The Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022 to help promote Philippine culture and values to the international community (National Economic and Development Authority, 2017). Together with two other goals, namely, (1) to ensure clean, efficient, and self-centered governance, and (2) to pursue swift and fair administration of justice, cultural promotion is considered primary in the enhancement of the social fabric under the theme “Malasakit” (Concern).
The extent of globalization in higher education differs depending on the academic field and the institution (Danish Ministry of Education, 2010). In Denmark, the number of students in the academy and professional bachelor education programs who complete a part of their education outside of the country is less than in the ones who finish in the local universities. A well-founded globalization of the profession in the academy and programs of the professional bachelor education leads to quality and encourages young students to pursue higher education. Additionally, a student’s competitiveness is maintained through a cultural exchange program where he/she acquires the skills necessary to perform internationally.
Adjusting to different cultures helps students recognize that cultural adaptability is key to the success of a professional. Accommodating differences in culture will vary across groups. Accommodation will depend on the quality of communication that occurs to negotiate uncertainties during cross-cultural transactions or interactions. Cultural awareness training helps in improving students’ communication skills (Maclachlan, 2010), necessary in an increasingly international professional environment. On the one hand, new professionals in an international work environment will have to deal with the social milieu where the profession is embedded. On the other hand, they also have to face organizational culture, which is more focused on goals but is not detached from the social milieu. Greater ease and competency in a multi-level cultural environment lead to greater professional competency via access to a common sense-making within the workplace (Watkins, 2013). Sense-making is defined as " a collaborative process of creating shared awareness and understanding out of different individuals’ perspectives and varied interests" (para. 6).
It has long been established that the success of expatriate workers is determined by “how well they can learn from experience in overseas assignments” (Yamazaki, n.d.). Working in a foreign environment requires that one becomes adept in navigating an unfamiliar environment and diverse cultures. Individuals try to fit in with the host culture and adjust him/herself in order to maintain proper relationships and achieve social interaction (Felicen & Celis, 2012). But more than adapting to a host country’s culture or to that of organizations, higher education must help students to lead in an intercultural setting. “Global managers must adapt how they do their work to the global context,” posited Deal, Leslie, Dalton, and Ernst (2003). Experiential Learning Theory created 12 taxonomies of intercultural competency and they are as follows: (1) Human relationship skills; (2) Caring, respect, and understanding people of different cultural backgrounds; (3) Action and initiative skills; (4) Listening and observation skills; (5) Tolerance of ambiguity and stress management skills; (6) Interaction skills; (7) Management skills; (8) Analytical skills; (9) Decision skills; (10) Communication and language skills; (11) Technical job skills; and (12) Adaptability and flexibility (Yamazaki, n.d.).
Cultural Exchange Program in the Philippines
To be able to bring about the needed changes in future generations to help them cope and excel with the increasingly diverse cultural landscape in workplaces all over the world, various options are given to students to experience different cultures. The Work and Travel program providers, in partnership with multiple schools, provide cultural exchange programs across the different universities in the Philippines. Some of the programs offered are the Work and Travel program where students spend a productive summer from March to June by working and, at the same time, they are given a 30-day grace period to travel and explore the host country. While they are working, they are given a salary to spend for their day-to-day expenses. On the other hand, internship/career training programs are also offered, specifically, for graduates. Internship programs are for those people who graduated a year prior, while career training programs are for those people who graduated about two years earlier. In both of these programs, graduates are also given the chance to be trained in another country for 6 to 18 months. The last program offered would be the special interest program where programs are customized for an individual or a group of persons. This program focuses on cultural, intellectual and sports enrichment, and culinary tours.
One of the accredited agencies that facilitate and assist the students who want to join the Work and Travel Program is First Place Incorporated (FPI). First Place started in 1999. It is an education counseling organization that helps and assists students and young professionals to attend training, internships cultural exchanges, travel opportunities, and work-study programs. They send students and young professionals, not only to the United States of America, but also to countries in Europe, and in Australia. The organization’s mission is to provide their applicants with safe and challenging opportunities to enhance their skills, learning, and values. In addition, FPI is the only organization in the Philippines that is a member of WYSE Work Abroad Association, a merger of the Golbal Work Experience Association (GWEA) an the International Association for Educational Work Exchange Programs (IAEWEP). It is also an affiliate of the sector association memeber of the prestigious World Youth student & Educational Travel Confederation (WYSETC) based in the Netherlands. Currently, FPI handles 75 schools. Examples of these schools are ABE International College, Arellano University, Asia Pacific College of Advanced Studies, Ateneo de Manila University, Centro Escolar University, De La Salle College of Saint Benilde, Lyceum of the Philippines University, St. Paul University Manila, and University of Santo Tomas (First Place, 2015a).
St. Paul University Manila on Tourism and Cultural Exchange Program
St. Paul University Manila continues to live up to its character as a pioneering spirit driven by its founders. In 2004, formerly St. Paul College Manila was awarded the “university status” upon the certification of Commission on Higher Education. In the same year, courses in Tourism started. The following year, the university became co-educational, recognizing the need for diversity in its continuing growth and development as an institution. The Language Development Center was also created with multi-level courses for different languages to guide students and professionals. In 2006, the university signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with St. Louis College in Thailand for faculty and student exchange program. Eventually, it was followed by another MOA with Ehwa Women’s University in Korea and Beijing Tongda Century International Educational Consultation Co. Ltd. for educational and cultural exchanges as well. It is also an affiliate of the sector association member of the a merger of the Global Work Experience Association (GWEA) and the International Association for Educational Work prestigious World Youth Student & Educational Travel Confederation (WYSETC) based in the Netherlands. Beijing Tongda Century International Educational Consultation Co. Ltd. for educational and cultural exchanges as well. In 2011, the preliminary survey for the Tourism Program was held for accreditation purposes. Later, it gave the program candidate status together with other business courses. Presently, the university along with its outstanding programs continues its tradition and legacy of educational excellence and service to others as it responds to the growing challenges of a more technological and highly globalized world (St. Paul University Manila Paul, 2014).
According to Dr. Mary Grace Leongson (G. Leongson, personal communication, March 31, 2016), one of the pioneers of the Work and Travel Program in St. Paul University Manila, there is no exclusivity clause between the University and FPI, albeit the two had just celebrated their tenth year anniversary of partnership, as they have worked together since Work and Travel started. Their MOA is renewed annually. In the MOA signed by both parties, the university’s objectives in integrating the Work and Travel Program are to expand the training opportunities of the students and to let the students experience the cross-cultural aspects and the hidden curriculum of the program. This is intended for students so that they may experience how to live independently for three months in another country, and have the opportunity to travel.
The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) on Work and Travel Program
Recently, CHED has received reports that students have misconceptions that the Work and Travel Program is a training and employment program instead of an Exchange Visitor Program (EVP). Hence, students end up working in jobs not related to their course. Nevertheless, students are being recruited in the program. In fact, there is an increase in the number of students being recruited. Thus, CHED reminded Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) that the Work and Travel Program is different from on-the-job training and employment programs. Students join the program for the sole purpose of immersing themselves in the culture of another country, and in return, share their own culture. They are not to expect that they can gain back the expenses they have incurred. Also, it is not necessary to match their profession with the job they are going to have, as the position being offered to them is only at the entry-level. Furthermore, HEIs were also reminded that they should give authentic and complete details to students engaged in this program and that they should be partnering with decent recruitment agencies to protect the welfare of the students. In addition to this, HEIs are also called to consider the Intern Program and Trainee Program. These programs are made for foreign college students and fresh graduate students to also experience the culture and to have training in their chosen field in the United States of America (Licuanan, 2016).
On-the-job training is different from the Work and Travel Program. However, the output it provides is pertinent in a sense that it both offers the skills and capabilities that a participant acquires through proper training and unique experiences. An on-the-job training is usually conducted by managers or experienced employees. The students are to be trained by these people so they can build personal relationships and have ideas about how the company runs and how they will fit in. They will also encounter a lot of various personality types among workers and learn how to interact with superiors (Heathfield, 2015).
On-the-job training is common in every organization. However, the real training comes when the trainee gets trained by the manager. This is more effective since trainees get feedback immediately and, in turn, they can improve their performance quickly. This does not only increase the self-confidence of the trainees; it also helps employees build relationships with their fellow colleagues. People who undergo on-the-job training usually do tasks under the supervision of others. Usually, these people are oriented by their colleagues on the job they would be taking. They are provided with a mentor who helps and guides them every step of the way. This activity is a great way to introduce recent graduates or new employees to the real world because they are provided with real-life experiences that would make them more confident. Furthermore, this activity gives a background of the job that one will be entering. With this at hand, people will get the chance to interact with others and know things that cannot be learned in class but only in the real world (McQuerrey, n.d.).
The Work and Travel Program is by far different from on-the-job training and they are two different entities; however; they are related in a sense that on-the-job training is part of the experience that Work and Travel provides. On-the-job training is part of the curriculum of any course in the university, while the Work and Travel Program is limited to selected universities and hospitality courses only. Nevertheless, every student needs to undergo such programs before graduating because this is a chance for students to apply everything they have learned in school. This is important since it exposes them to business and also gives them information about the kind of industry or job they may want to enter in the future. In addition, it will equip him/her with better skills and experiences that he/she can use to contribute to the field in which he/she would be working, and for his/her own personal achievement, as well.
The Work and Travel Program in St. Paul University (SPU) Manila
According to Leongson, Chair of the Hotel and Restaurant Management (HRM) Program and the Graduate School Program of the College of Business and Management of SPU Manila, who initiated and started the Work and Travel Program at SPU Manila in the year 2007, one of the advantages of joining the program is that it gives the participants actual experience in the hospitality industry. When the Work and Travel Program was initiated in SPU Manila, the very first participants were the HRM students of the university. It was also adopted by the Tourism and Business Management Programs in the succeeding years. It may not be a guarantee that the participant’s practicum requirement would be credited through the Work and Travel Program, but there is a greater possibility of it being granted if his/her work is totally related with the field of study that he/she is specializing in. Ever since the program started, First Place Incorporated was the only agency that was allowed and accredited by SPU Manila to facilitate the participation of students who express their interest in joining the Work and Travel Program. From 1999 to present, First Place has continuously been building its legacy of enabling thousands of students and young professionals in learning self-reliance and independence while building lasting friendships in other cultures (First Place, 2015b).
According to the testimonies of some of the 2010 – 2013 Work and Travel participants from different universities/colleges in the Philippines, they were given a once- in-a-lifetime experience when they had the opportunity to meet nice and friendly people abroad and to be involved in their daily lives. In addition, they also had the opportunity to become more aware of the industry they intended to work in. They had the chance to adapt to and learn another culture and share their own culture as well. They also had the opportunity to enhance their personalities and confidence, and developed their communication, social, and problem solving skills. They discovered things they did not know about themselves. They said that with the help of the program, they were able to learn values like becoming independent and coming out of their comfort zones, budgeting their own money, becoming more mature, enduring hardships, and facing responsibilities. In fact, they highly recommended the program not only because they had the opportunity to experience life working and traveling abroad, but also because they considered it as a stepping stone for achieving their dreams and goals.
According to Leongson, the main objective of Work and Travel Program for the Tourism students is to expand their training opportunities. But since the program is cross- cultural in nature, SPU Manila is trying to target not only the skill development of the students but also the cross-cultural aspect and hidden curriculum of the program. This is because, while the skills can be learned in the Philippines, working in another country poses unique challenges. As a cross-cultural program, it underscores the cross-cultural experience of the students living independently in the course of their stay in another country. At the same time, it is an opportunity for them to travel. In addition, this program also allows the students to experience how to apply for a visa and other documents. Indeed, it brings about changes and growth among the students, which can make them better individuals.
In order to attain the objective(s) mentioned above, SPU Manila makes use of an evaluation tool to monitor and assess the performance of the students and gain information from their different unique experiences. It is addressed to and signed specifically by the training supervisor of the participant and the participants themselves, which includes an accurate rating of their skills and performance at work.
Uncovering the different experiences of the students who have participated in the program is hoped to give useful and meaningful information that could guide and help Tourism and other hospitality programs in the university. It can also provide opportunities for students participating in the Work and Travel Program to increase their chances at employment as a result of direct linkages made with international organizations. Realizing that the Work and Travel Program could give various experiences to the students, the researchers believe that the study could enlighten the minds of its readers on how and in what way this kind of programs can affect the students who take part in it.
Figure 1 shows that the experiences of Work and Travel participants were gathered to become the foundation of the researchers’ study. These lived experiences are considered important in phenomenological inquiries. The lived experiences of the Work and Travel Program participants were subjected to thematic analysis. Afterwhich, the researchers used the emergent data to come up with a set of guidelines as an output.
Statement of the Problem
This study aims to come up with a set of guidelines as an output established and gathered from the different Work and Travel experiences of Filipino Tourism students of selected universities. In a phenomenological study, such as this, a grand tour question that surfaces “lived experiences” is used, resulting in the following general query for this study: “What are the lived experiences of the work and travel program participants from selected universities in the National Capital Region?”
The study adopted the phenomenological approach in finding out the different experiences of Tourism graduates of SY 2015-2016 from selected universities in National Capital Region who were participants from First Place Inc. with regards to their work and travel outside of the country. The interviewees came from five different universities within NCR (five informants from university 1, two informants from university 2, two informants from university 3, one participant from university 4, and lastly, two informants from university 5, totalling 12 interviewees who participated in the work and travel program). The informants were recruited via snowball sampling. The study was conducted in a suitable location that was both convenient for the participants and the researchers, such as a coffee shop, or a closed room in the interviewee’s favorite restaurant or his/her house. The researchers conducted in-depth interviews until the saturation point was reached using open-ended questions that probed the informants on their lived experiences. In the process of the interview, a camera, voice recorder, pen, and paper were used for documentation. The researchers reached the data saturation period during the eighth to tenth of the twelve interviewees.
￼The researchers applied Giorgi’s method in analyzing the data. Giorgi’s method is used often to “uncover the meaing of a phenomenon as experienced by a human through the identification of essential themes” (Koivisto et al., 2002, para. 3). Giorgi’s method is crucial to this study as this is a phenomenological inquiry seeking the same. The researchers dug deeper at the specificity of the different meanings of data to arrive at “psychologically sensitive meanings.” After which, the essential psychological structure, the lived experiences, of which some description of the phenomenon is not known by the participants, is surfaced. Lastly, the obtained final structure describes and states how the phenomenon is lived by the participants (Giorgi, 2003). Under the data gatehring process, the researches used the thematic analysis process before establihsing meaningful patterns of data form the direct narratives of the informants.
Results and Discussions
Three major categories were established as a result of the thematic analysis. These are the following: “having the opportunity to know the industry well and improve one’s capability,” “undergoing different cultural exchange experiences for better development,” and “being able to practice intercultural immersion.”
Work and Travel, as viewed by the informants, was an opportunity, an experience and a learning process. It also provided cultural gains and acquisition and development of skills necessary for one to be essentially competitive in a global extent. While in the program, students slowly formed their own responsibilities and tasks. There were new activities each day that students would gradually get used to. There were new daily routines that were different from their routines in their country. There were also connections and inspirations along the way. As a result, training abroad gave the students the courage to grab opportunities and to gain insights. It was one of the many things that created a positive outlook in a student’s life. It led the students to a completely new career path that inspired them. This was how the students got inspired to work out of their home country. Nevertheless, the biggest benefits obtained from the program were the experiences learned and investments gained for the future (Güldoğan, 2010).
As one of the informants said, different nationalities and cultures were not hindrances to having new friends and family. Experience taught her that even with that short span of time, she found a family outside her usual environment. On the other hand, another participant mentioned that she became independent and that, although she was still a student, she was able to learn practical life skills and the reality life imposes, which she knows was waiting for her outside the four walls that she was used to. The students who embraced the culture of the other country were able to make realizations and connections. They became more imaginative and flexible to the changes in their surroundings (Paul, 2014). People with many experiences of different cultures were more able to communicate well with other people, as well as understand the things that were happening around them.
Yeung (2013) emphasized that interacting with people from various backgrounds and ways of life could help the students discover new things from the other cultures and find good companions. There is a great possibility that the students might work with people from different cultures throughout their careers; thus, it was fundamental to see the world from different perspectives as early as possible. Several of them mentioned that they were able to meet, work, and become friends with other people of different nationalities. One participant said that she saw and discovered how professional these people from various cultures were when it came to work. An interviewee said that she loved to meet people and was interested in what was in their culture that could be learned. On the other hand, one participant stated that working with and for other people from different backgrounds was not as easy as it seemed because one could not please everyone and one always had to really adjust one’s self to have different perspectives. Work and Travel provided a significant experience for the participants, especially in that they were able to share the values and the Filipino culture to others and were able to enrich their own culture and experience as well. It was a cultural gain in a sense that one was able to experience everything personally rather than merely learning it through words and pictures only.
Having the Opportunity to Know the Industry Well and Improve One’s Capability
The first theme formed was “having the opportunity to know the industry well and improve one’s capability.” Under this theme were categories namely: “opportunity,” “enhancing of skills,” “exposure to certain industry,” “practicum and work orientation.”
The responses that fell under this theme are as follows:
In-encourage din naman ako ng mama ko, ng parents ko na mag-participate kasi nga malaking bagay din talaga yung nakapag-naka-experience ka ng trabaho sa US or kahit sa ibang bansa" (I was encouraged by my parents to participate because of the advantage it presents when you have an experience working abroad);
The encouragement and support of my family and relatives because it is a great opportunity for me while I was still a student;
Para hindi rin kasi mahirap mag-apply for jobs. (so that it will be easier to apply for jobs.);
And also gusto ko makapunta dun kasi feeling ko that’s an opportunity na din na magagamit ko in the future as a key na makapag-abroad or migrate in US (I also wanted to go there because I felt that it was an opportunity which I could use in the future as a key to go abroad or migrate in the US) since I don’t have any relative abroad;
Dahil dito sa Work and Travel, nagkaroon ako ng opportunity to speak in front a lot of people and talk about my experience (Because of the Work and Travel, I had the opportunity to speak in front of a lot of people and talk about my experiences);
… malaking opportunity na yun para sakin to grow as a person ayun" (that is a big opportunity for me to grow as a person);
Malawak pa pala 'yung pwede naming puntahan. Ang dami pa palang opportunities na pwede naming pasukan. Hindi kami pwede maglimit sa isang bagay na iisipin namin hanggang doon lang kami (I realized that the industry was broad and there were a lot of job opportunities we could enter. We couldn’t limit ourselves and think that we can only go so far).
“Enhancing of skills” was comprised of sub-categories which were “learning of technology,” “developing interpersonal skills,” “serving as training ground,” “gaining enough skills,” “developing English vocabulary,” and “developing interpersonal skills, intrapersonal skills and attitude.” According to Kingston (2013), working in new environments would be a great experience for those international students because this would provide a helpful skill for their future careers in their own countries. The responses corresponding to these are the following:
'Pag nag US ka parang iba 'yung technology (at) culture mas marami kang matutunan (when you go to the US, you will see that their technology and culture is a bit different from ours and you will learn a lot);
I also want to expand my English skills and social skills kasi need 'yun sa course namin (I also want to expand my English skills and social skills because that is what is needed in our course);
I wanted to gain work experience, to learn skills, to travel, to meet new people and to be able to experience and appreciate other culture, and to gain independence;
But as I was processing all the requirements needed, I realize that it’s like a training ground for me that I can use in facing the “real world”;
'Yung communication skills mo, na-develop mo, kasi mas marami ka pang malalaman na English, though before naman alam mo na 'yung meaning nito, pero dahil nga d’on nasanay ka na araw-araw kang nakikipag-communicate sa mga Americans, so mas nade-develop mo 'yung English skills mo" (Your communication skills were developed because you would learn more of English words though at first you already know what those words mean but because of your work, you would get used to communicating with the foreigners a lot and eventually would develop your English skills);
… na-develop 'yung confidence ko, lalo na sa pag-speak ng English, kasi before, parang isa*'yun sa naghi-hinder sa akin magtuloy ng Work and Travel kasi, natatakot akong makipag-usap ng straight English sa mga Americans, lalo na diba mabibilis sila magsalita. Na-earn ko 'yung social skills ko, kasi ang dami kong na-meet na iba’t ibang nationalities, tapos 'yung pagiging magaling sa teamwork at saka 'yung pagmu- multitask, kasi doon hindi pwedeng sa isa ka lang naka-focus kasi, kailangan, habang nagka-cashier ka, nagluluto ka, nagpe-prepare ka ng food, kailangan lahat continuous"* (My confidence was developed especially in speaking in English. Before, that was one thing that hindered me in joining the Work and Travel because I was afraid to talk with the foreigners especially that they talked too fast. I also earned my social skills because I got to meet people of different nationalities. I also mastered teamwork and multitasking because in working there, it was not enough that your focus was only on one thing. It could be that while you were cashiering, you were also cooking and preparing foods. And it was continuous) speaking the English language skills and their interpersonal and intrapersonal skills;
Before nahihiya pa kami. Hindi kami ganito kadaldal. Hindi kami ganito ka- open" (Before, we were still so shy. We didn’t really talk too much. We were not that open unlike today.).
The informants worked in the tourism and entertainment establishments such as hotels, restaurants, or entertainment parks. It also included sales people, cashiers, and hosts. Some of the informants worked as hotel room attendants and narrated that what they did was the typical cleaning of the rooms until they finished the designated rooms assigned to them, while some worked as park ride operators and narrated that what they did was operate the rides and assist the guests for safety purposes. The other participants worked as part of the cashier and sales team and narrated that their work was more of the park’s revenue.
“Exposure to a certain industry” was comprised of sub-categories which were “exposure to hospitality industry,” “having work related to their course,” “learning more about the hospitality industry,” “experiencing the industry they wanted to pursue,” and “experiencing hospitality and tourism industry in USA.” It was truly a great experience because it widened one’s scope of knowledge not only with the industry itself but also with other people, and, therefore, gave one wider connections. Informants said that what they valued most upon joining the Work and Travel Program was the experience it gave them, specifically, the exposure to the hospitality industry. Another informant said that she was encouraged to join the program because of the chance that it offered to her of working in the United States. An informant also said that she had experienced what it was like to be in the hospitality industry and knew that it was significant for her to know how the industry works in reality. An informant then said that being in the field made her realize that the hospitality industry was more of service, not solely for one’s self but also for other people. One informant even narrated that it was her first time to experience a long flight in a Boeing 747 and she was amazed seeing how the flight attendants did their jobs and she even roamed around airports just to familiarize herself with the industry. Additionally, one informant said that the Work and Travel Program really reflected the real world because from there, one would really see the industry that he/she wanted to pursue in the future and that the tourism industry was really a booming industry. Another informant mentioned about her experiences in the hospitality industry that helped her become open-minded about the field that she was in. On the other hand, an informant said that the experience that the program had brought to her was the widening of the scope of her knowledge not only on the industry but also with other people, which gave her wider connections.
The practicum was comprised of a sub-category which was “practicum crediting.” Felicen & Celis (2012) noted that because of the emergence of different opportunities due to globalization, networking and connections now encourage HEIs to incorporate in their system the practice of internationalization. To achieve global competitiveness, universities welcomed changes and continuous innovation. Internationalization could take place if the students, the staff, the curriculum, and the activities were to be aligned with the current cultural changes brought about by internationalization. They stressed that intercultural orientation would establish great understanding of how people from different cultures interact with each other. An interviewee said that she was able to work with people of different nationalities. She also learned their culture and applied it in her work. One interviewee particularly noted wanting the experience to be credited as practicum.
“Work orientation” was comprised of sub-categories which were: “working accurately,” “being passionate about your job,” “following works’ standard operating procedures,” “expecting a work oriented environment,” “being inspired by the professionalism shown by the Americans,” “being professional and flexible,” and “being more responsible for work and one’s self.” Zorn, Ponick, and Peck (1995) mentioned that students who were exposed to other cultures were more motivated to expand and enhance their knowledge and skills. However, this was limited due to the fact that only few people were able to avail themselves of the opportunity of studying abroad. But the benefit of a two-way exchange program opened opportunities to gain knowledge and awareness for a larger number of students.
Two participants said that what they expected from their work in the program was that it would be related to the course that they were taking. One participant said that she expected a working environment that was strict with their policies and rules. One participant said that she was able to experience performing a task that was not part of her job. Another participant said that with her experience as a room attendant, one should always knock and ask permission first before starting to clean because there were some people who were really meticulous and did not want their rooms to be cleaned. Another participant also said that in her work as a ride attendant, there were many adults who did not follow rules like going on a ride intended for the kids only and limited by the height limit. Some participants said that they had clients who gave them tips, and for them, it was unforgettable. One participant then said that what she learned while working abroad was that one could not please all people. The mentality that “customer is always right” was what always prevails and as an employee, one always has to adjust. Another participant said that while working, she experienced being transferred to different locations and that she was even promoted because she became the right-hand of her supervisor while she was away. Another informant narrated that her work was really hard because they sometimes worked beyond usual work hours, and most of those times, their supervisors would be the one to bring them back to the housing because they already missed the service bus. Another participant stated that while at work, one should always have something to do to always remain productive. Some participants also said that while working, they were able to witness how professional the people were and they were able to prove to themselves that what they always hear was true. One participant even compared the working experience in the Philippines and abroad. She said that abroad, they were not treated like babies. They were really forced to work, unlike in the Philippines, she said companies only let them do simple jobs. One participant said that after the program, she realized the significance of work and how hard it was to earn money for a living. With regards to what they had learned, one participant said that she learned that while working, shortcuts were not allowed. One would really have to do the work thoroughly. She also mentioned that one should be passionate and give importance to any job assigned to him/her so that at the end of the day, he/she would gain a sense of self-fulfillment.
Undergoing Different Cultural Exchange Experiences for Better Development
The second theme formed was “undergoing different cultural exchange experiences for better development.” Under this theme were categories, namely: “experiences,” “personal growth,” “independence,” “travel,” and “family.”
“Experiences” comprised sub-categories which included the following: “having an experience,” “getting to experience serving Filipino nationalities which uplifts Filipino foods,” “undergoing homesickness,” “unforgettable and awesome experience,” “amazement with the feeling of experiencing the US,” “enjoying the working experience,” “great experience,” “experiencing the industry they want to pursue,” and “accepting more experiences.” Most of the interviewees said that joining the Work and Travel Program provided them an international experience, which gave them edge compared to others. Another interviewee said that she was motivated to join the program because of the idea of working, living, and traveling in the USA. One interviewee even mentioned that having international experience was a good thing to put on one’s resume. One participant also said that for the first time, she experienced snow and she had to wear multiple layers of clothes because of the cold weather. She felt intimidated because her supervisor scolded her because she could not do her work fast because of her body adjustments to the cold weather. One interviewee said that one of her unforgettable experiences while working was having a Filipino customer and she was touched seeing them very happy to see a co- Filipino. Another interviewee said that the program provided her a great experience because she was able to explore and know more people. She was also able to see how Filipinos become united and caring for each other when in other countries. Another interviewee narrated her experience of being caught by police while traveling due to some road violations and what she learned from them was to always bring a personal identification card or passport with her all the time. One interviewee said she was very happy to meet new people and make lots of friends and wonderful memories with them. While on the other hand, she was saddened because of the loss of one of her friends due to accident. Another interviewee said that even with the sadness brought to her by missing and being away from her family, she was very happy to earn money and be able to buy what she wanted out of all her efforts. Another interviewee mentioned that her experience was good because it helped her in dealing with different life situations and made her trust herself a little more. It also taught her to make decisions not only for herself but for the benefit of the majority.
“Personal growth” was comprised of sub-categories which were: “learning from the program,” “gaining more self-confidence,” “feeling growth in terms of personality,” “learning the concept of time management,” “realizing the importance of work and money,” “learning to value the things they have and feeling happy with the fact of earning.” Giolando (2015) stated that students who went outside of the country during their university for the purpose of work, study, or even teaching undoubtedly gained knowledge and improved self-confidence. Some participants mentioned that through Work and Travel, they were able to travel and did everything by themselves without any help from anyone. A participant also mentioned that Work and Travel made her go to places she never expected she would be able to see. Another participant said that one would really grow as a person, especially, because one was away from family. One would really learn to stand up on his/her own feet and do things independently. Still, another participant said that she experienced snow for the first time and she had to wear multiple layers of clothes to adapt to the very cold weather, which she was not used to.
“Independence” was comprised of sub-categories which were: “learning to be independent,” and “stand on their own,” and “being independent.” Swanson (n.d.) posited that the combination of working, studying, and traveling abroad allowed the individual to experience and live like a normal person. One’s life would not be as easy and pleasing as how majority of people who dreamt of working, studying, and traveling abroad perceived it to be. This was a very rare opportunity as one should have enough courage, confidence, passion, and most of all, money. Most of the informants said that they learned to be independent, and live on their own as part of the program itself. Another informant said that she got to travel alone, lived alone, and flew to other states all by herself.
Under “travel” were sub-categories such as “traveling,” “traveling with none other than participant’s themselves or with just friends,” “traveling across states,” “going to known places,” “trying the local foods and shopping,” “traveling alone and becoming a tourist to see different places,” “learning more about the places,” and “seeing with their own eyes what they see in mere pictures.” Travel was comprised of the participant’s experience of trying the dishes of other cultures and exploring places that the participants had visited. Some of the responses reflective of the above were:
Tapos 'yun nga 'yung sa Work and Travel nagkaroon kami ng mga friends ko na mag-travel na kami kami lang, walang travel agency, walang tulong na kahit sino, kami kami lang ang nag-ayos ng itinerary namin." (During our Work and Travel, I and my friends had the opportunity to travel by ourselves. We traveled without the help of the travel agency or anyone. We were the ones who made our itinerary.);
I get to travel alone like staying in a hotel and taking a taxi and flying to San ￼’yung makapag-travel ka sa mga places na hindi mo akalain na mapupuntahan mo like 'yung New York City ganu’n" (That moment when you go to places that you don’t ￼ ￼￼
Nakadagdag sa knowledge ko ang pag-travel, mas marami ka pang malalaman dahil nakita mo na sa personal 'yung mga lugar, hindi lang puro sa Internet." (Traveling increased my knowledge, I learned a lot because I personally saw the places and not just through Internet only.)
Under the sub-categories of family were “encouragement and support from family,” “becoming reunited with relative(s) abroad,” and “appreciating the value of family and trusting God.” Family was essential to the participant’s experience abroad. Most of them were happy to get all-out support and encouragement from their families and had reunited with them after years of not seeing each other. The responses related to this were as follows:
￼The encouragement and support of my family and relatives was a great opportunity for me as a student;
Nag-grow talaga kasi malayo ka ganyan tapos since away ka sa family mo, matututunan mo talagang tumayo, matutunan mo 'yung time management" (I really did grow because I was far from my family. I indeed learned to stand on my own and to manage my time.);
￼I learned to value money kasi nga as I said hindi madaling magtrabaho lalo na ￼malayo ka sa family mo. Dati kasi happy go lucky lang ako. (I learned how to value ￼money because I realized it was not easy to work now that you were away from your family.); ￼
Learn the value your family. Learn to appreciate more your family kasi dun mag-isa ka lang. Kahit na sabihin mo may workmates ka, iba pa din pag family yung kasama." (I learned the value of family. I learned to appreciate them more since I experienced being alone. Even when you were with your workmate, it was still different when you were with your family);
￼I had mixed feelings because I thoroughly enjoyed my stay there and I wanted ￼to stay longer but I also missed spending time with the family and was happy to tell ￼them stories about my experience;
￼I get to travel alone like staying in a hotel and taking a taxi and flying to San ￼Diego and I get to visit some of my relatives;
Mae-enjoy mo naman, makakapaggala ka, at mabibili mo ang mga gusto mo. Living abroad 'yun, mahirap rin kasi talaga. Hindi naman talaga mawawala yung pagka-miss mo sa family mo." (You will really enjoy it. You can travel and buy the things you want. That’s living abroad, but it’s still hard. One cannot really escape the feeling of missing one’s family.)
Being Able to Practice Intercultural Immersion
The third theme formed was “being able to practice intercultural immersion.” Under this theme were the categories: “cultural exchange,” “socialization and adaptability,” and "flexibility.
Under the sub-category of “cultural exchange” were the following: “cultural gains, such as acquaintances with other nationalities,” “sharing of values with different people,” “learning others’ culture and experiencing it firsthand,” and “being able to adapt and learn from it,” “curiosity about other cultures,” “sharing the cultures and values of Filipinos,” at the same time, “learning the cultures of the people with different nationalities met and experienced firsthand,” and “adopting and learning the environment and culture of others.” Below are some responses that reflect the sub-categories:
'yung pagpunta namin sa New York. Kahit na sobrang saglit lang yung timeframe na pasyal namin du’n, sobrang ang ganda talaga, the best. Kasi, parang dati nakikita mo lang sya sa pictures, tapos ngayon nandito ka na, naglalakad ka na. (When we went to New York in a short time frame to travel, I could say that it was a beautiful thing and one of a kind. It was because before this happened, I could only see it in pictures, but now, I’m standing here);
'yung unang experience ko is*'yung naka-travel sa ibang lugar. Nakapunta kami ng Michigan bago kami magstart ng work, tapos after nu’n is 'yung downtown, nakita namin 'yung Navy Pier, Skydeck, ganyan saka nakapunta rin kami sa gate ni Michael Jordan. Ayun, kahit ang lalayo ng distance nila, pinursue talaga namin na makapunta dun sa mga places na 'yun kasi, 'yun na lang 'yung chance namin na makapunta, kasi nga hindi kami in-allow ng school na mag-extend, since maaga 'yung pasukan."* (The first thing I experienced was to travel to a different place. I and my friends went to Michigan before we started to work. After that we went downtown. We’d seen the Navy Pier, Skydeck, etc. We even went to the gate of the house of Michael Jordan. So even when the locations were far, we pursued to those places since that was our only chance. This was because the school did not allow us to extend because the start of school was early.);
Eat, sleep, take a bath, and go to work. Every month, I always take a leave for 3 days because as a Work and Travel participant, it’s not just about work but also to enjoy and travel as well;
Sonakakapagkwentuhan kami and nashi-share din namin 'yung culture ng Filipino." (So we told stories to them and we were able to share the culture of Filipinos.);
Yung pag-iingat sa actions mo kasi hindi mo alam yung isang bagay na okay lang sa culture niyo, nakaka-offend pala sa iba gan’on." (Be careful of your actions because you don’t know that things that are fine with your culture may be offending to others.)
Siguro na-culture shock lang ako du’n sa mga American foods. Tapos minsan kahit summer 'yung napuntahan ko, ako lamig na lamig tapos 'yung iba pumupunta lang sa store ng naka-sleeveless." (Maybe I was just shocked by the culture of Americans regarding their food. And though I went there during summer season, I was cold then I saw people going to the store wearing sleeveless attire.)
“Socialization” included meeting every kind of person and working, bonding, and building friendships with them. Socialization was composed of sub-categories such as: “meeting people,” “working and bonding and building friendships with supervisors and foreign co-workers,” “building friendships in different schools,” “amazement with the feeling of meeting new people,” “being saddened by a loss of a friend,” and “realizing that culture and nationality were not reasons for hindering friendship.”
Simpson (2012) emphasized that global citizens must have a deeper understanding of various cultures to be active members of the global community.
Then nagkaroon din ng bond with the supervisors and team leader ng bawat department (Then I had the time to bond with the supervisors and team leaders of each department);
In-expect ko rin na iba’t ibang tao yung makakasalamuha ko with different cultures. (I expected that I’ll get to talk to different people with different nationalities.);
Magandang experience siya kasi I love to spend time with them and know kung ano 'yung mga meron sila. (It is a beautiful experience because I love to spend time with them and know what characteristics they have.)
Kingston (2013) stated that some of the benefits of cultural exchange programs in the Unites States were seeing international students build their personal relationship with the Americans by working and interacting with them and learning more about their culture. The Work and Travel Program allowed the students to meet with new people and train them how to communicate because there were people from different cultures who were working together in various workplaces.
Expected na namin na sobrang focus nila sa work na kapag ganitong oras dapat nandito ka. So, expected namin na madidisiplina talaga kami. (We expected that they were very focused on their work. When they said a specific time, you should be there. Hence, we expected that we would be disciplined.);
'Yung be able to share the values and culture of the Filipino kasi 'yung mga supervisors namin nagtatanong din sila anung meron sa Pilipinas ganu’n (that I was able to share the values and culture of the Filipino since my supervisors asked us about the Philippines);
. I got to work with different nationalities tapos 'yung mga naging ka-work ko rin, they were from different nations. Merong from Kenya, from Nepal tapos Romanian din 'yung iba. Magandang experience siya kasi I love to spend time with them and know kung ano 'yung mga meron sila. (I got to work with different nationalities. There were people from Kenya, Nepal, and Romania. It was a great experience, since I loved to spend time with them and learn about them.);
It also allowed me to meet with people from different nationalities.
“Adaptability and flexibility” focused on learning to become accustomed with the customer’s behavior, and also talked about the adaptation of the participants to the different climate encountered and experienced abroad. “Adjustment periods” were composed of the sub-categories: “adjusting to customers,” “experiencing and adjusting to different climate,” “feeling hard on adjustment periods,” and “Pakikisama (Getting along well),” and “learning to adjust.”
Giolando (2015) mentioned that significant elements such as a knowledge of a foreign language, interpersonal and intercultural communication with the other nationalities, being open to new ideas and environments, and being prepared for difficult and unexpected situations were becoming valuable as time went by. This was visible with the experiences gathered and shared by the participants themselves.
Kasi malayo ka family mo, ibang iba 'yung environment, 'yung culture, kailangan mong mag- adopt talaga para ayun mag get along kayo ng mga kasama mo (Because you are far from your family, the environment is different. You need to adapt to their culture so that you can get along with your friends and co-workers);
… ikaw nalang yung makikisama, since ikaw yung nandoon sa bansa nila. So parang learn to be flexible, yun 'yung pinaka-term doon. Learn to be flexible, kahit nasaan ka, kasi hindi mo alam kung ano yung pwedeng mangyari." (… you should be the one to get along with them since you’re in their country. The very term is to learn to be flexible because you don’t know what may happen);
Work and Travel as a whole, ang pinakanatutunan ko is dapat talaga you start to adjust kasi hindi naman all the time kung ano 'yung gusto natin, gusto rin nung iba tapos hindi rin laging same culture (What I learned from work and travel as a whole is that you really need to start adjusting since not all we want is also what others want. This is because culture is also different);
siguro in general, siyempre parang trabaho na nga kasi talaga siya, parang hindi mo nga mapi-please lahat, lalo na employee ka, may authority ka, pero siyempre dahil yung ‘customer is always right’ nga, talagang kailangan mong ikaw ang mag-a- adjust sa kanila." (Maybe in general, since this is like a real job, one cannot please everybody. Yes, as an employee, one has the authority, but since, the customer is always right, one needs to adjust to them.).
Integrating an international portion into an American higher education was detractingly important in creating a workforce with the capacities and attitude to grab the opportunity in experiencing the world’s hardest challenges of interdependence like homesickness, climate change, disease, economic inequality, and many unexpected things (Giolando, 2015). This was supported by the responses below:
… living abroad was good and bad. Good thing was being able to live independently, and bad thing was difficulty in adjusting. You had to do everything on your own and you could not depend on anyone kasi (because you had to stand on your own, I was able to exercise it and be dependent enough na nung umuwi ako (when I returned). Feeling ko tuloy ang matured ko na (I feel I have matured) in some way;
minsan nafi-feel mong homesick ka parang iba pa rin talaga 'yung pakiramdam nagkakaroon ka ng ibang lahing kaibigan, may nabubuong family doon. (Sometimes you’ll feel homesick; it is still different to have friends that are foreigners. One will build family there.)
These experiences were essential to form a better outcome and development of a person as he/she learned and understood others.
The experiences encountered and gathered directly from the Work and Travel participants themselves were categorized into themes through thematic analysis. Such themes were considered and used in coming up with the output of the study in the form of guidelines. Hence, these guidelines established from the different experiences of the participants would serve as a future reference and foundation for a better experience and opportunity to the succeeding generations.
Based on the data generated, the following material was created to help guide future Work and Travel participants. The data above were used as basis for the narrative content of the emergent program guide. Likewise, photos taken by some of the participants were used as visual materials that revealed the significant experiences that were highlighted by them. The resulting guide serves as a mere starting point for a draft on which the final design could be developed. Hence, creative decisions made in the creation of the guide are not considered final as they did not go through a formal design process by a graphic designer or layout artist.
Conclusion and Implications
The fundamental aim of this study was to discuss the Work and Travel experiences of Filipino Tourism students and use those experiences to come up with a set of guidelines that can be used as a reference not only by the future Work and Travel participants but also by the tourism field.
The results based on interviews revealed that most of the participants have the opportunity to know the industry well and improve their capabilities. Since most of the students are assigned to be food service worker or ride attendants in a theme park or housekeepers in different resorts and hotels, they have been exposed to the standard operating procedures in the hospitality industry. This has improved their knowledge and ability in that industry since supervisors and higher-ranking persons have already guided and trained them to become better professionals and better versions of themselves as workers in their chosen field. In addition to this, participants have also enhanced both their interpersonal and intrapersonal skills in the process of actual work and travel. A lot of them gained confidence in speaking English while they were in the program.
Participants have also undergone different cultural exchange experiences for better personal development. Since the beginning of the program, participants have experienced being away from their families. The only people they know in a foreign country are their friends and classmates. Because of this, participants learned to stand on their own and become independent. In fact, several of the participants have traveled just to be with their friends in a different state which some consider to be a big move on their part.
Participants have been able to practice intercultural immersion. Since participants are in a foreign country to work as part of the program, it is inevitable for them to talk to the locals of said country. In fact, they have earned friends that they have met during the duration of the program. Also, participants experienced the host country’s local foods and culture. They even had the time to share their Filipino culture. Indeed, during the duration of their stay in a foreign country, the participants enriched their knowledge of and skills in dealing with the local culture. Also, the participants learned to adapt to the environment that is different from their usual surroundings.
Finally, as this study was based mainly on personal accounts of what transpired during their stay in a foreign land, their collective accounts constitute shared and divergent opinions that emerge from real experiences of students who aspire to work abroad after they graduate, all of which are legitimate and worthy of attention. Public opinion, being a collective opinion of the people in a society on an issue or a problem, resonates with those of the students in this study in that overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) have similarly experienced being separated from a social support structure that forced them to adapt in a foreign country; hence, the public opinion among OFWs that exist at the macro level are actually mirrored by those of students at the micro level. And yet, students who participate in Work and Travel Programs possess a point of view that OFW parents have long transcended as they took on responsibilities in a family of their own. As a result, within these students lie public opinion that bridges the concerns of young who experience being alienated from their own OFW parents, and those of the latter as they take on roles of OFWs informally. As such, the work and travel program, seen from the public opinion lens, may be considered a valuable source of opinions that draw from mindfulness and compassion, possible only because the youth in the Work and Travel Program are able to take on the subjectivity of parent OFWs who find themselves often misunderstood by their own children. Hence, the data arising from this paper provides access to an opinion that one can rarely find in children of OFWs or OFWs themselves. These opinions can be used to develop programs that mitigate the sense of loss and alienation of children of OFWs that often remain unaddressed by universities that seek to educate them.
Sharon Manguerra, PhD is a faculty member of the Tourism Program of St. Paul University Manila. Her co-authors are her mentees in the same program who graduated in 2017. Her research interest lies in tourism, management, and quality performance systems.
She can be reached at St. Paul University Manila, 680 Pedro Gil Street, Malate, Manila, Philippine or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Date of submission: 2018-01-19
Date of the review results: 2018-02-13
Date of the decision: 2018-02-21