October 18, 2023

UB Feature: Bridge USA Cultural Exchange Program

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In the pursuit of cultivating empowered professionals in a fun learning environment, the University of Baguio offers many opportunities for students to grow and mature outside of the classroom. Exchange programs, in particular, provide great opportunities for students to be able to encounter new and exciting experiences beyond the confines of the university campus. 

The Bridge USA J1 Visa program (Broadening  Reach through International Development and Global Experience) of the University of Baguio allows currently enrolled students to experience American culture through a three-month summer exchange program. It is the perfect opportunity for students looking to broaden their horizons, an enriching experience that seeks to build character and hone the necessary skills to help them live independently while they are abroad.

“As a curious and eager third-year student myself, I joined the orientation, and after knowing more about it, I sent my filled-out application form and a copy of my latest resume to the School of Business Administration (SBAA) office as well as the Linkages Office. There, my journey towards the cultural exchange experience, or simply the SWT 2023 program, began.”

– Christine B. Adolfo, 2023 Bridge USA participant

Students interested in the program are first invited to attend an orientation, giving them an initial briefing on the provisions of the program’s visa and what to expect from the immersion. Once they have been briefed, the students’ applications are endorsed by the respective school deans, and the names of the applicants are forwarded to ZIP Travel, the university partner for the program.

From there, the students continue their preparations by submitting the necessary documents and scheduling practice interviews for visa applications. Once all the required documents have been submitted and approved, the students continue to have their interview proper and second orientations from the partner company and their respective schools. 

“Participating in this summer program changed my life, and it was an experience I will never forget. This program is more than just going to another country to work and earn money; it is about striving to be the greatest version of yourself, being grateful for life, learning to be responsible and independent, and enjoying every second of your stay.”

– Akkitha Vielle C. Quitasol, 2023 Bridge USA participant

The  UB administrators led by the Vice President for Academic Affairs, Director of the Linkages Office, and the Deans from the different schools of the University of Baguio during International Academic Mobility visits.

As the students get ready to be deployed to their international outfits, the university continues to monitor their progress to make sure things are going smoothly. Constant communication with ZIP Travel ensures that the processing of documents, orientations, and interviews are all going through without any issues.

When the students are cleared, the university continues to keep in contact with their respective schools to gain real-time updates as they go through with their immersion. 

“For three months, I was able to immerse myself in American culture, interact with them and learn things I never knew before. I may have learned some of it from books but when it is actual, it is really different.”

– Cristine Mae Joy A. Pagal, 2023 Bridge USA participant

The program is offered to incoming third- and fourth-year students, allowing them to make use of the knowledge and abilities they’ve learned and cultivated throughout their collegiate years in a practical setting.

In the School of Business Administration and Accountancy (SBAA), the students are trained in fields such as finance and business management, providing them with a swathe of skills and theoretical expertise that they’re able to utilize during their stay. SBAA students are exposed to a wide variety of business-related work during the program, expanding on their stock knowledge and further developing their professional skills to be ready to enter the workforce as empowered professionals.

Though the work didn’t always directly involve Accountancy and Business Management, the participants enjoyed their time regardless and were open to new experiences. Their time during the immersion program was enriching and honed their professionalism and work ethic regardless of the field of practice they were stationed in.

“As a business administration student, this is helpful for me because I can be able to know my abilities in managing a business as well as how to properly deal with rude customers. I learned that when you want to succeed in a business, you must have a lot of patience and understanding. You should wear your biggest smiles at all times in front of the guests because that shows that you are welcoming them in your area.”

– Lyn P. Busway, 2023 Bridge USA participant.

The program isn’t just about work, however. As a work and travel program, the Bridge USA program also allows students to explore and travel when they aren’t working, allowing them to fully interact with and immerse themselves in American culture.

New sights and sounds abound as participants travel through the areas they’re stationed in, giving them the chance to see major landmarks and attractions and familiarize themselves with the city they would be calling home for the next three months. The participants even have the pleasure of traveling to neighboring cities and states during their off time, further broadening the scope of their travels and allowing them to experience America and American culture in a fully immersive and fun way.

“I was able to explore the local area and discover new places, foods, and activities that I had never encountered before. For instance, I visited a national park and went hiking, which gave me a greater appreciation for nature and the outdoors. This experience taught me so much about myself and the world around me.”

– Rodelyn L. Duran, 2023 Bridge USA participant

Participants also form meaningful connections with those around them. They’re able to meet with their fellow exchange students from different parts of the world, creating friendships that go beyond just transactional affairs. The students also formed meaningful relationships with their coworkers and superiors, connecting with them on a professional level and nurturing healthy business relationships.

“I also made friendships around the globe making it even harder to leave the country. As they share their culture with mine, I was also able to showcase my knowledge and skills to the organization that I have learned from (the) University of Baguio. The managers became my friends, and they even threw a party before we left. Thus, living independently once in my lifetime helped me gain valuable skills that I may use in my future profession.”

– Yvette Dazzle C. Balisi, 2023 Bridge USA participant

The  UB administrators led by the Vice President for Academic Affairs, Director of the Linkages Office, and the Deans from the different schools of the University of Baguio during International Academic Mobility visits.

This year’s SBAA exchange students finished the program in high spirits. Their experiences were overwhelmingly positive, enjoying a balance of work and leisure that allowed them to grow as future professionals and enjoy a summer of travel and adventure. The university aims to continue supporting the dreams and ambitions of its students to be globally competitive individuals. Through programs such as the Bridge USA cultural exchange, UB continues to foster the spirit of learning and growth in its students, furthering their development as future professionals in their respective fields.

“I conclude that life in US may not be easy but there were a lot of learnings and additional knowledge from the experiences we encountered. Summer work and Travel Program was a big help for giving us the opportunities to encounter a lot of things outside the country where we came from.”

– Angel Faye B. Gomez, 2023 Bridge USA Participant

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