Jozsef Simco, left, and Rita Majorova share information about their home country of Hungary with local children at J-Day in 2017.

Students traveling abroad are not just here to work as part of a summer program. They’re also here to learn.

According to Robyn Walker, executive director at  Cultural Exchange Network, Summer Work and Travel is a state-authorized program through the U.S. State Department and has it roots in the Fulbright Hays Act established during the Kennedy administration.

“It’s been around for nearly five decades,” Walker said.    

A pair of J-Day celebrations, named for the J-1 work visa held by the students, are planned for  the Tri-Lakes Area for Monday, Aug. 6. According to an email from Leslie Corn, senior director, the first is set for 10:30-11:30 a.m. at the Ozark Mountain Family YMCA in Hollister.

The event will serve as a cultural exchange program as a select group of exchange students meet with local children and will provide cultural presentations to those attending camp at the YMCA. Hollister Mayor David Tate will also speak at the event.

The second event is planned to run from 4:30-7:30 p.m. at Moonshine Beach in Branson. According to the email, the event is open to exchange visitors, host employers and community members. Branson Mayor Karen Best is also set to make an appearance.

“It provides them with a little bit of cultural immersion and asks them to give back to the community,” Walker said.

Mercedes Botica, community support coordinator for CENET who works locally, said, counting those at Silver Dollar City, there are 240-250 exchange students in Branson this summer.

Walker said J1 visa students average more than 650 a year in Branson. Of those, Walker said Branson has had students from Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and eastern European countries such as Bulgaria, Hungary, Croatia and Serbia.

Of those students, Walkersaid positive experiences turn into requests for repeat placement in Branson

“We just had one of international partners from Jamaica said it’s quickly becoming one of the most popular destinations,” Walker said.

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