J-1 Visa students hit the slopes

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J-1 Visa students hit the slopes

Diego Calderon Quevedo

Diego Calderon Quevedo

Ian Major

Diego Calderon Quevedo

Ian Major

Ian Major

Diego Calderon Quevedo

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If you visit Jay Peak Resort this winter, you might find Peruvians Diego Calderón Quevedo, and Jorge Andrés Sánchez smiling as they come down the slopes.

Peruvian students have been given the opportunity to spend the winter months at ski resorts across Vermont through the J-1 Visa program that is overseen by the United States State Department.

Quevedo, 19, and Sánchez, 22, are both from Lima, Peru. Quevedo is studying engineering at the University of San Martín de Porres, and Sánchez is studying Medical Technology at Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos.

Quevedo is a ski instructor for the Ski and Ride School and Sánchez is working with the housekeeping department. Both students have been in Vermont since November, staying in employee housing near the resort. They will be going back to Peru in March.

Since Quevedo’s time in the United States, he has made it clear that he likes it here. “I think that skiing is awesome, and I love all the new friends that I have made here,” he said. “The people and culture seem better. Everybody is much friendlier compared to where I am from.”

Sánchez noted that he has also enjoyed his time here: “I have made new reliable friends and I’ve been able to experience different customs and ways of life.”

Quevedo said he really enjoys being able to help change other people’s lives while also being a part of an experience that is changing his own. “In Peru, a lot of people are not that friendly,” said Quevedo.
“I told myself that I wanted to go to the United States to improve something in myself and I have been able to help improve others too by teaching skiing.”

Sánchez mentioned that he finds his experience important. “I am acquiring abilities that will enable me grow as a person,” said Sánchez. “Altogether this experience will build my personality, and help improve my English skills being around native speakers.”

Jay Peak’s Ski and Ride School Children’s Program Supervisor, Matt Dittmer has primarily overseen Quevedo’s work at the resort. “I have noticed nothing but good things,” says Dittmer. Quevedo shows up on time each day he is scheduled, ready and willing to work.”

Dittmer said that having Quevedo in the program has been extremely helpful for the Ski and Ride School. “It helps alleviate a good amount of pressure on some of the staff, and it will allow us to sell more lessons overall” said Dittmer.

For his Visa, Quevedo chose to come to Vermont because he really wanted to experience skiing and snowboarding. “I really like Vermont and I love extreme sports,” said Quevedo. “I am very thankful for everything that I have been able to be a part of here.”

Dittmer noted that Quevedo seems to understand that his situation is a privilege. “Not everyone can get a Visa and come work in America, especially doing something as cool as teaching skiing or snowboarding,” said Dittmer. “I know that Quevedo seems to love it and he makes the most of it.”

On the other hand, Dittmer explained the main downside involved with the program. “Day to day, we hear that Americans don’t have jobs, and seeing someone on a visa potentially taking someone’s job might cause some frustration with the idea of the program,” said Dittmer. “Hopefully, everyone involved in these programs might try harder to stand out more and make it beneficial for everyone like Quevedo has for us.”

Both Quevedo and Sánchez agreed that their favorite part about being in Vermont is being able practice and improve their own skiing. “Before I go back to my country I want to be able to master the most challenging terrain the mountain has,” said Quevedo.

As for dislikes, Quevedo and Sánchez said that the food isn’t as good. “I don’t like some of the foods here, I really miss the foods from my country,” said Quevedo.

Quevedo said that when he goes back to Peru, he is planning on working and continuing his schooling. “I want to try to come back here again in November for the next winter season,” says Quevedo. “When I finish my schooling completely, I am looking into hopefully coming here to work and stay here.”

Sánchez said that he is also planning on finishing up his schooling in Peru, and to hopefully look for opportunities to get an internship possibly in Brazil or Argentina.

Smugglers’ Notch is also playing host to a number of South American students here on the J-1 visa. Julieta Chiledo , Facundo “Fasu” Vecci, and Maria Victoria Artundo a.k.a. Vicki, all Argentinians from the Buenos Aires area in Argentina, are working as lift attendants. They came here in a group of 40, staffing positions all over the mountain.

All three cited similar reasons for wanting to take part in the program. “I wanted to meet new people, travel around the USA, [and] see new places, plus we get to work and make money while we do it,” said Chiledo.

Vecci cited the allure of a less urban environment: “It’s different for us because we are from a big city and up here it is very peaceful, it’s a new view, and it’s a different type of life.”

For Artundo, the educational value of travel trumped her list of reasons for participating in the program. “I like to learn about other cultures, meet new people… and improve my life and my English,” she said. “I don’t know if it’s just Vermont or even just Jeffersonville, but the way everyone here lives their life is very chill, very relaxed, and I like that it’s much more peaceful here than where I’m from, more quiet.”

As far as preconceptions regarding Vermont, all were well informed of the rural, slower lifestyle than what they were used to in the city, but one thing that did surprise them according to Vecci, is how friendly people seem to be. “Everyone here leaves the door open without locking it, we are not used to that at all,” he said. “And it’s amazing how kind and good the people are up here.”

Besides the atmosphere of the community, many are also experiencing a major change in work conditions. Vecci and many others in the cities work nights, as naturally there are more night jobs in a coastal major city. But he says working on a “sick” mountain is pretty nice although switching to speaking English almost all the time has proven difficult.

Chiledo has no regrets about her experiences at Smuggs and emphasized the learning experiences that travel can provide. “I really think that everyone should do this because it makes you grow as a person, to go away from your family and go away for months, travelling, working alone,” she said. “You gain character, you gain new friends, everything. It’s very exciting, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone.”

A J-1 Visa is issued by the United States to research scholars, professors and exchange visitors participating in programs that promote cultural exchange. Applicants must meet an English language requirement, and be sponsored either by a university, private sector or government program.