At 5:00am on Thursday I woke up and prepared myself for a road trip that many of my students will take this summer. Not everyone will go to the same final destination but many will arrive in New York very excited, a little sleepy with many hours of travel still ahead before they reach their employer. My journey started in New York, first with a subway ride and then to the bus station (www.Greyhound.com). There I grabbed a cup of coffee and stood in line as I waited for the bus at 7:00am. This is where the experience starts. The station is large but Peter at the information desk is helpful when I ask where to go. I head down the hall on the 1st floor to buy my ticket and then up two escalators to the gate where I will depart. Students should arrive early and leave plenty of time to navigate the station. The bus leaves Port Authority and heads North to Connecticut. I doze and sleep, read and keep a journal and before I know it I have arrived in New Haven, CT. After a 10-minute layover we start the next and last hour of my bus ride to Hartford, CT where Oktan, the owner of Okay Ice Cream will meet me.
At 11:00am I meet Oktan in the parking lot and we drive the last 20 minutes to Manchester, CT where a group of students will work this summer. Oktan who has owned the business for six years has hired International Students for the last three summers. He enjoys providing the opportunity to share his business and culture with students from around the world. Our first stop is the student housing. I visit the extended stay hotel with a full kitchen, living area, exercise room and outdoor pool. I know the students will be happy to grill on the barbeques and shoot hoops on the basketball court after a long day at work. I like the Starbucks across the parking lot and stop for a small cup of hot coffee to fuel me on the remainder of my day. Next we take a walk and I check out all the local stores. I notice a friendly’s Ice Cream Shop (http://www.friendlys.com), Webster Bank (https://www.websteronline.com), Shop Rite Grocery Store (http://www.shoprite.com) and several more bars and restaurants. Everything you would need in walking distance to home. Across the street from the housing at Shop Rite I find a local bus stop 83/85. Perfect for heading into Hartford for an afternoon out or to take a train to travel at the end of the summer.
Once the housing tour is complete we head to the corporate office to see the Ice Cream Trucks where the students will be servicing Snow Cones and Ice Cream Sandwiches this summer. I gaze at the menu and all the yummy treats. It may still be cold but I am ready for the days of summer and sun.
After a final visit to the library and dinner at the local Italian restaurant my first day is over. This summer it will be the beginning of a four-month journey of self-exploration, new people, new customs and culture for the Participants on the LifExchange LLC J1 Work and Travel Program. For me, it is time to go home.