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A job and an American experience

These are eight of the 15 international students working at Arrowwood Resort and Conference Center this summer. Pictured are (left to right) Simeika Folkes, Monique Noble, Nyzinca Wright, Zoe Tong, Tanpitcha Matharabhandhu, housekeeping supervisor Kadesha Richardson, Sukanya Pintong, Pattapon Chomyim and Song Xyanrun. Not pictured: Supawit Wipak, Natcha Siripanich, Joanne Stewart, Kerion Cheese, Nawasin Monsumrit, Felipe Lara and Katherine Icaza. (Amy Chaffins/Echo Press)

By Carly Snell

This summer, a group of international students is experiencing a Minnesota summer while working their summer job.

Fifteen students from Thailand, China, Jamaica and Ecuador are working at Arrowwood Resort and Conference Center in Alexandria through the United Work and Travel program, a division of American Pool Enterprises, Inc.

The program allows students at colleges and universities abroad to work and travel in the U.S. for three to four months during their summer break.

This is the first year Arrowwood has taken part in the program. Students are paired with Arrowwood employees to work in housekeeping, banquets or in the waterpark.

Kathy Nelson of Alexandria, a housekeeping supervisor, said she loves working with the students. “It has been so fun to work with them. I want them to stay forever.”

Kadesha Richardson, also a housekeeping supervisor, said they’re learning from each other. “It was very difficult with [the language barrier] at first,” she said. “We had to teach a handful of words like hand towel and bath towel. It’s been a good experience for me too because I’ve never taught someone before, so it’s been really different, but fun at the same time. They’re all really good workers and I appreciate that.”

Jeff Wild, general manager of Arrowwood, said the students were interviewed and hired based on skill sets and their level of English for the positions they worked. For example, he said, lifeguards need to pass required tests and have a high level of English.

By the end of the summer, Wild said, “I hope they accomplish their goals, learn to speak English a little better and learn something from our culture. Most importantly, I hope they have a good time and a great experience.”

The students are working locally mid-May through mid-August. While here, they are staying in the dorms at Alexandria Technical and Community College.