Welcome to our new member – Grit Cultural Exchange
Interview with Troy Yang, Executive Director
Tell us your story. How did Grit Cultural Exchange get started?
My life was changed by a cultural exchange program whilst I was at university. I think if I hadn’t had had such an experience, I would probably have become an IT guy, since I majored in Computer Science. The life-changing moment came during two Summer Work and Travel USA programs that I undertook in 2014 and 2015.
In 2014, I worked as a summer camp assistant in New York. I had never been abroad. There were students from over 40 countries at the camp, and I found that even though we were all a similar age, they were more independent than me and eager to try something new. This really impressed me, driving me to think more about my future, and I realised that I was passionate about travelling and learning new cultures. I therefore decided to participate in another WAT program the following year, after which I rented a car and spent 28 days travelling Route 66, from Washington to New York, Chicago, and finally Santa Monica in Los Angeles. This was a very emotional experience because I had achieved one of my dreams.
When I returned to China, I shared my program experience online. The story unexpectedly received more than a million views and thousands of messages from young students. The common theme was, ‘How can I apply for a cultural exchange program like yours?’.
From here, the seed of an idea formed. Why not set up a business for young students interested in participating in a cultural exchange program and help Chinese youths to live the experiences I had? And so, Grit Cultural Exchange was born. We started offering volunteer and Summer WAT programs to young students. Over four years, we have developed International Volunteer Programs in 11 countries around the world, Global Internship Programs in the US and Australia and Short-term Cultural Exchange Programs and Academic Exchange Programs with national universities. We have sent more than 3,000 Chinese students to realise their dreams of experiencing a different culture.
What makes Grit Cultural Exchange different from your competitors?
Firstly, all our team have lived or studied abroad, so we not only have a deep understanding of Chinese young but also are equipped with professional knowledge and first-hand experience of overseas cultural exchange programs.
Grit Cultural Exchange is an online cultural exchange company, in comparison to our competitors’ more traditional strategies. As Chinese youths are relying more and more heavily on the internet, we have built our online presence on Wechat, Weibo, Tiktok and other popular social platforms in China. Through this we have accumulated around 500,000 followers, mainly university students, and shown that ground-based promotion in universities is not the only way to recruit students.
Although we are concentrating most of our efforts online now, we are still reaching out offline to increase student enrollment. We believe that by expanding both online and offline channels, we can help more applicants and provide more high-quality programs to Chinese students.
What is your favourite success story from your organisation?
Two WAT stories come to mind. The first involves Lucy, who worked in an ice-cream shop in South California. She enjoyed the program and the lifestyle so much that she subsequently applied for a postgraduate degree at a business college in South California. During the college admission interview, the interviewer was touched by her work experience and independent personality and awarded her an offer. Before participating in our WAT program, Lucy would never have imagined that she could go abroad alone to embark upon a postgraduate degree.
The other story is about a boy named Jack. He majored in Chinese teaching overseas and took part in a WAT program in the US. After graduating, he applied for a teaching position in Confucius Institute in the UK, and thanks to the level of English he acquired whilst in the US, he got the job. He is still working as a Chinese teacher in the UK to this day.
Stories aside, our statistics indicate that 12% of our students decide to seek overseas postgraduate studies and work when they finish one of our programs. Nearly 5% of students receive job offers from overseas departments of Chinese listed companies because of their outstanding spoken English and problem-solving skills. We couldn’t be prouder of how our programs has help students to prepare for their future.
What can we expect to see from Grit Cultural Exchange in the future?
We hope to develop many more cultural exchange programs around the world and became the prevailing cultural exchange organisation in China, helping more youths to broaden their horizons and embrace a larger world.
How do you work to ensure the health and safety of young travellers involved with Grit Cultural Exchange?
We conduct several detailed training sessions to ensure that students understand all the details of the programs themselves and the culture of the host destination. We also provide global insurance for every student as well as a local coordinator and 24/7 hotline with support in Chinese.
What was your motivation to join WYSE Travel Confederation?
We hope to have the chance to cooperate with global cultural exchange firms/ organisations, in order to provide Chinese youths with more diverse and high-quality cultural exchange programs and services.
What is an industry challenge your organisation is facing currently?
Our first challenge is how make more university students’ aware of the significance of getting an understanding of different cultures and stepping out of their comfort zone. We also are looking for more overseas partnerships to broaden the cultural exchange programs that we offer.
Grit Cultural Exchange is committed to promoting international understanding and mutual respect through cultural exchange. We specialize in Work Abroad, Intern/Trainee Programmes, Short-term homestay, Au Pair and Study abroad programmes. For some of them we worked with designated Sponsors of the United States of America.
Membership: WYSE Travel Confederation Buyer Member
Join WYSE Travel Confederation
If you’d like to join WYSE Travel Confederation and benefit from new connections, free access to industry research, informative webinar sessions, discounts on industry events and brand exposure within the youth and student travel industry, click below to view our membership options and find out more.