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All in the J-1 Family

August, 2008

Juan Morales Cifuentes

The Exchange Visitor Program is pleased to announce Juan Morales Cifuentes as August's Exchange Visitor of the Month. Each month, we select an exchange visitor who has made an effort to get involved in his/her community and explore American Culture.

Juan Morales Cifuentes, 36 of Guatemala City, Guatemala, is a J-1 Trainee in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. When Cifuentes came to America to train, he not only brought his cultural experiences and work history to America, but also his wife and children-Diana, Juan (8) and Jose (5). While most J-1 exchange visitors enjoy their time America with friends and colleagues, Cifuentes gets to enjoy his experience with his entire family. And enjoying it they are!

As many of you know, it's not easy to just pick up your life and move to a new country-the paperwork, visas, a different language and cultural expectation, a new home, company, co-workers and friends. But factor in a new schools and the acculturation of your family and it's quite another animal. But thanks to friends and support from his new company, Cifuentes and his family hit the ground running.

"We were definitely excited but a little nervous as well," Cifuentes said, "not knowing what to expect when we got here. But before arriving, my wife and I would sit at night in Guatemala dreaming how special the opportunity would be for us as a family and of all the wonderful places we would like to visit. We received a lot of help from friends and support from my company."

And Cifuentes' children, Juan and Jose, couldn't have been happier about the move. Juan and Jose arrived in Pittsburgh to find snow-something they've never seen before. The Cifuentes keep busy by traveling all over the US to see something they've never seen before. So far, they've made it to Washington, D.C., to see the Smithsonian Museums and monuments; Cleveland, Ohio to see the zoo, Seneca Caverns and Thomas Edison's birthplace, Niagara Falls, New York to see the waterfall and all over Pittsburgh to enjoy Pirates baseball games and scenery.

"The kids have adjusted extremely well to Pittsburgh, Cifuentes said. "They really enjoyed school (although now they're enjoying their vacations even more) and we are pleasantly surprised how quickly they've picked up the language. They enjoy going to the park to play baseball and to ride their bikes. Jose even learned to ride without training wheels! Luckily there is a pool in the apartments and the kids also like splashing around."

Cifuentes and family make the most of their time here by taking advantage of all the opportunities that present themselves. For example, Cifuentes takes his kids to the library every weekend to check out new books and movies. Diana, Cifuentes's wife, checks out recipes books to make new dishes and desserts. "We've been able to better understand American culture through the friends that we've made," Cifuentes said. "We were lucky to attend a family reunion from a friend from work and also attend an American barbecue and even made our own smores! Participating in these activities has given us an inside view to how American families live. So many people dream of being in our situation as J exchange visitors that it'd be a shame to not take advantage of the opportunity."