Exchange Day is Back!

By: Haldis Toppen, Communications Director, Greenheart International

Exchange Day has been around for nearly 10 years. Founded in 2014, it is a celebration of the power of international exchanges and an opportunity to raise awareness about the variety of Exchange Visitor Programs. But as will probably surprise no one, the pandemic dampened events and celebrations for the past 3 years. This year, Greenheart came out in full force to celebrate, and boy are we happy it is back!

Our celebrations took various forms, whether it was used as a recruiting tool for our high school programs or having a large in-person event. Here are some highlights from this year:

Pie-eating Contest, and Cards to the Elderly

Approximately 40-45 participants along with Albertsons team members were engaged and excited to attend! A pizza party was held, stories were shared, volleyball, basketball, badminton was played, and the Bachata was learned! Additionally, we had a lot of fun participating in the planned activities, such as the pie eating contest and a piñata. This is a winning combination, right? They loved it!! Many said they haven’t laughed that hard in while. Laughter is the best gift, in my opinion. We also wrote out sweet and encouraging mentioning’s in cards for the non-profit, Love for our Elders, to send to our lonely seniors. Marisa states, “As my first experience co-hosting Exchange Day, it exceeded my expectations in the host and participants engagement, making it a collaborative, successful, fulfilling, and fun event to meet and better get to know our dedicated hosts and hardworking participants. My favorite part was the connection made in real time!” (written by staff member, Jessica Pennewell)

Pizza, Scavenger Hunt and Cards for Children in the Hospital

I attended an event at the employee housing at Holiday World Theme Park & Splashin’ Safari Water Park. Greenheart has over 30 Work and Travel exchange visitors placed at this host, so we were excited to see the placement in person. Collaborating with another sponsor, LifeTraveled, participants had a chance to share some of the positive experiences they had in the U.S. so far over some pizza. They also had a chance to win up to $10 cash if they were able to find clues hidden around the property and answer trivia questions about the U.S. accurately. Finally, they really got into creating holiday cards for kids who are in hospitals across the U.S. It was true Eat, Play, Give celebration!

Cornhole and Loving Life in America’s Dairyland

The event in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin was so memorable, there is a whole other blog just on it! To read more, check out Tom Stillwell’s blog post here.

Virtual Staff Celebration

Since 2020, Greenheart has been fully remote. While we still have an office in Chicago, staff work from home or wherever is convenient. While we were once almost completely in Chicago, we now are spread across the globe. This shift has been a huge benefit for finding talent and work-life balance, but it has made us feel less connected to each other. So we thought there was no better way to celebrate Exchange Day together than coming together over Zoom. During the call, 18 staff members shared stories ranging from connections to Ukraine, to turning a miscommunication into a fun hang out, to puppies, to love stories, to attending weddings, to changing lives at a rental car company, to dispelling xenophobia. It was a huge success and we have decided that we don’t need Exchange Day as an excuse to share stories together but will start doing it more throughout the year.

Exchange Day 2023 was a true success and a great reminder that the work we do is worth celebrating. As one staff member said, this is a celebration of “the important work we do, and why we do it in the first place.” We can’t wait for 2024!

To learn more about the start of Exchange Day (hint: Greenheart was a founder), check out this blog I wrote for the Alliance for International Exchange.

Interested in Greenheart’s programming? Host an exchange student by visiting or host a Work and Travel participant by visiting

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