Every once in awhile, CETUSA reaches out to an alumnus of the Trainee and Intern program to chat and hear what they have been up to since they were participants on the program. Most recently, we had the chance to speak with Taha Zouhair, a Moroccan participant who completed a computer programming internship in 2013.
Taha was eager to share his story with us. When asked why he decided to participate in this program, Taha told me that there were a number of factors that led him to the US, and the J1 program specifically. He was enrolled in university and about to graduate with his bachelor’s degree in computer science. When considering his options for post-graduate education, one of Taha’s friends in the US suggested taking a gap year to travel. Eventually, Taha learned about the J-1 Exchange Program and thought it fit perfectly. Due to Morocco’s close proximity to continental Europe, Taha knew a lot about Western European culture, but next to nothing about America. “Why not?” he thought.
His arrival in New York city was rough. Instead of taking a taxi, he accepted a ride with an “unauthorized” taxi. It wasn’t a pleasant experience and he ended up paying more for the ride than he should have. And, he was not even taken to his final destination. (Looking back, Taha said this was a mistake and he wishes he had done more research on transportation options.)
On a positive note, once his car broke down and a stranger stopped to help him. That stranger became a friend and to this day they continue to correspond.
Through it all, Taha said that participating in the J-1 program through CETUSA did so much for him, both culturally and professionally. He learned a lot about the US and was surprised at how kind many people are. He also said that he learned a lot about managing a company and how to keep it running well. When asked if he would recommend the program, he exclaimed “Yes! I have already! Any time a friend of mine brings up the idea of studying in the US I mention the J-1 program and CETUSA.”
Taha now works as a freelance programmer in Morocco and says that he applies what he learned during his program every single day.