7 Dec 2017

When a dream summer in the US becomes a nightmare 

Have you heard of the Work and Travel program for young people who want to visit the US? Although advertised as such, it doesn’t always turn out to be the best summer of your life.

Ria Gehrerová
Ria Gehrerová Denník N, Slovakia
Source: Denník N
When a dream summer in the US becomes a nightmare  - NewsMavens
Youth. Image from Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

work, violence, women's issues

It was Winston, a popular and good-looking head chef, who started to compliment her and make jokes. After a few days, they got personal and became inappropriate. Finally, he grabbed Veronika by the waist, pulled her body towards his and demanded a kiss.

Veronika was a student from Slovakia who came to the US with the Work and Travel program. When Winston started harassing her, she told her supervisor about the problem. Turned out, she was not the only one who accused him of sexual harassment. Winston got fired.

Surprisingly, some of her colleagues were angry at Veronika because they did not find the situation serious enough to discuss with the supervisor. Veronika no longer knew if did the right thing. 

Another student from Slovakia, Natalia, who worked in another kitchen, claims that she was bullied. On top of that, she didn’t receive her promised salary. The Camp Leaders agency, used by both of the women, confirms that there is more than one complaint about the place where Natalia worked. However, they do not see a reason to interfere because, in general, there has been more positive than negative feedback about the facility.

Incidents of verbal bullying, hate speech or sexual harassment have become a common occurrence in Slovakian Work and Travel programs. It doesn’t help that some of the agencies, like The Camp Leaders, refuse to break contracts with institutions with reported cases of abuse.

Details from the story:

  • This year, 2,600 Slovak students joined the Work and Travel programs and traveled to the USA. 97% of them were content with the experience.
  • Students Veronika and Natalia joined the program and worked in kitchens. The first one experienced sexual harassment, the second one -- bullying. Both of them traveled to the USA with the Camp Leaders agency.
  • There are many more students who had problems with the agencies subscribed to the Work and Travel program.
  • The recommended practice when traveling to the USA is to check the contact details of the Slovak embassy in Washington, in order to know who to ask for help.
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