How to Develop a Strong Cultural Component

1157579Importance of cultural component

I recently wrote about the importance of a strong cultural component of J-1 visa programs. One of the key goals of the J-1 visa program is to expose J participants to U.S. culture and for them to return home and share their experience with fellow citizens. The U.S. Department of State has stressed the importance of cultural activities by requiring host organizations to include planned cultural activities on Form DS-7002.


How to develop a strong cultural component of the J-1 visa program

So what can host organizations and program sponsors do to strengthen the cultural component of their program? While there are various options, any well-integrated approach should focus on screening of participants, selection of appropriate cultural topics, engaging participants and measuring results of cultural engagement.

Screening of participants

Host organizations and sponsors select participants based on various criteria, including  experience, skill and education. They should also review the candidate’s interest in American culture and expectations for cultural enrichment. Questions to ask:

  • What do you know about U.S. culture?
  • How do you plan to experience U.S. culture?
  • How would you use the 30-day grace period?
Selection of appropriate cultural topics

Host organizations and program sponsors should select a range of cultural topics that they wish to communicate to participants.   Consider the following categories:  national Holidays, Sports, History, Pop culture, national parks, volunteerism.  Content should be both informative and appealing to the target audience.

Engaging participants

Selected cultural topics can be communicated through various social media channels such as Facebook, LinkedIn, blog posts or websites.  The text should provide information about the cultural topic and its role in U.S. culture. More importantly, the information should be engaging and actionable:  it should encourage Exchange Visitors to actively participate in the cultural event and should ask participants to respond to the post and share their experience. How did they experience this particular cultural topic? How is it different from their home country? What do they like about it?

Measuring results of cultural engagement

Finally, it will be important to measure the effectives of efforts to increase the cultural component of the program. Host organizations and sponsors should do this by gauging responses to their cultural topics and through formal program evaluations.


In one example, a host organization or sponsor may highlight professional Football towards the end of January. Information can be provided about Football/ the Super Bowl and its role in sports and U.S. culture. Sponsors can engage participants by soliciting feedback on Football  and by encouraging them to watch the Super Bowl with American friends. Finally, participants should be encouraged to share their experience.

In anther example, sponsors may provide information mid November about the history and meaning of the Thanksgiving Holiday. Sponsors should engage participants and ask for feedback on the information; then encourage participants to celebrate the upcoming Holiday with an American family. Finaly, sponsors should ask participants to share their experience with each other, the sponsor and with friends and family in their home country.



One Response to “How to Develop a Strong Cultural Component

  • Francesca
    5 years ago

    Great ideas Mario. Thanks always for your insight.