Over the course of a few weeks in December 2022, 16 new employees made their way thousands of miles from their home countries into our neck of the woods. Filing out of airplanes at our tiny airports in Bozeman and Great Falls, they got their first looks at the winter wonderland that is Montana, and many of them got their first real experience with snow as well.
Coming from Chile, Argentina and Peru, these young people were in for the adventure of a lifetime: working and playing for 3 months at Showdown Montana in the gorgeous Little Belt Mountain Range. Not to mention surviving and eventually surmounting the cultural and language barriers that come from speaking a different language in a country so far away from home.
Comment any great stories you have about our J1's!
This map shows the cities where the J1's live in Peru (blue), Chile (pink) and Argentina (yellow).
Now put your hands together for our J1 team! I hope this post honors them as they head home to their countries.
From left to right. Top Row: Paola, Joyce, Melani, Brenda, Agustin, Ariana. Second Row: Jesenia, Catalina. Third Row: Tatiana, Rodrigo, Juan Pedro, Nicolas. Bottom Row: Aylen, Ana Paula, Leon, Bruno.
Lift Operator Nicolás Lévano
Nicolas “Nico” (nee-coh-LAHS), a-two time Shining Star Award recipient, is from Lima, Peru. He is studying International Business, with goals to study abroad in the US next year. He likes swimming, watching Netflix, and reading books. He appreciates how nice, friendly, familiar and helpful people are at Showdown, and he loves the snow.
Rental Shop Technician Brenda Lozano Bautista
Brenda “Bren Bren” (bren-duh), don’t forget the roll the ‘r’!), a Shining Star Award recipient, is from Lima, Peru. She is studying Civil Engineering and wants to build her own company and work with her father. She likes to listen to music, spend time with her dog, go out with her mom, and go out partying. She loves the climate here in Montana, and it's her first time living in US and in the snow. She likes working in Rental at Showdown and thinks that the whole experience is great, especially all the good people she has met, and the sunsets in the mountains.
Kitchen Assistant Paola Romero Alcala
Paola (POW-lah), a Shining Star Award recipient, is from Jauja, Peru. She is studying Business Anthropology, with hopes to undertake intercultural connections in a multinational organization to help vulnerable populations around the world. She likes to play basketball, go out with friends, and watch movies and series. She loves that she has had the opportunity to ski here, to learn about another culture, and to live this new experience full of American traditions. She says it was a pleasure to work here.
Ski Instructor Catalina Mateu Bincaz
Catalina “Cata” (cah-tah-LEE-nah), a Shining Star Award recipient, is from San Antonio de Areco, Argentina. She is changing her course of study to Public Affairs. She loves her job at Showdown because she is teaching something she loves to do, and would like to return next year, if possible. She enjoys going to the bar to play pool, drinking mate (a caffeinated tea, very common in Argentina), and spending time with people. She wants to make big changes in her life for the year, by getting a new job, making new friends, working hard at her new area of study, and she wants to try new sports. She hopes to bring her family up from Argentina to visit Showdown.
Ticket Scanner & Lift Operator Ariana Nurit Neira Parco
Ariana “Ari” (ah-ree-AH-nah, don’t forget the roll the ‘r’!), an Employee of the Week recipient, is from Lima, Peru. She is studying Business Administration in the Universidad de Lima. She likes to bake desserts like brownies, travel the world, and go bicycling. She wants to start her own business because she has a lot of plans that she wants to put into practice, and she is working and studying to be able to accomplish this. She loves the Montana landscapes and the snow covered trees, and she loves how nice, warm and sweet the people at Showdown are.
Lift Operator Agustin Avalos
Agustin (ah-goo-STEEN), a two-time Shining Star Award recipient, is a 21 year old Kinesiology and Physical Therapy student from Mar del Plata, Argentina. He lives with his parents and little brother. In his free time, he likes to play soccer and other sports, listen to music, drink mate, and watch action series. He came here to work, improve his English, get to know American culture outside of movies, watch an NBA game in person, and to meet new people from other countries. He loves the landscapes here in Montana, and when he finishes at Showdown, he’s headed to San Francisco to watch an NBA game with his friends.
Rental Shop Technician Melani Rodriguez Mamani
Melani (mel-ah-NEE), a Shining Star Award recipient, is from Arica, Chile, where she lives with her parents and her brother. She is in her last year of studies to become an Obstetrician and Midwife. She likes to watch romance, comedy and action movies, sing, and dance Salsa and Bachata. She came to Showdown because she wanted to improve her English, she likes learning the language, to get to know the United States better since she had never been here, and to make new friends. She hopes that all of the J1’s have had the same great experience that she has. When she finishes at Showdown, she wants to visit other American attractions like San Francisco, and after returning home, she looks forward to sharing everything she saw and learned in the US with her family.
TBar Barista & Ski Instructor Aylen Juarez Ocampo
Aylen (ai-LEN) is from La Plata, Argentina. She is in Law School, studying International Law. She loves to travel anywhere with mountains, and hitchhiking. Other people think she is a granola-hippie-girl, but she wouldn’t call herself one. She likes to take care of the environment by being a vegetarian and recycling, loves to teach, and volunteers for an NGO that does educational debate simulations.
Ski Instructor & Administrative Assistant Leon Sztycberg
Leon “Lion” (lay-OWN), a two-time Shining Star Award recipient, is an Audio Engineering and Music Production student from Buenos Aires, Argentina. He loves playing the drums and bass, and skiing, which is the main reason he came to the US. Showdown has the best snow he’s ever seen in his life, and he is impressed by how welcoming and open everyone here is. He loves that Showdown is a small ski area where everyone is super close and if he has a problem he can speak directly with the owner who listens and works with her employees. He likes that in Montana everyone seems nice, and that he is able to save money, and buy things to progress his career and improve his life, which is very difficult in Argentina. He feels super lucky to have ended up working here.
Lift Operator Juan Pedro Antonacci
Juan Pedro “JP” (huan-pay-dro, don’t forget the roll the ‘r’!), a two-time Shining Star Award recipient, is from Mar del Plata, Argentina, where he studies Law. He likes to spend time with his friends and family drinking mate and playing soccer and basketball. At Showdown, he is having a great time meeting new people and improving his English, and he hopes next year he can come back to the US to work for another ski area.
Ski Instructor Bruno Bonaldo
Bruno (broo-no, don’t forget the roll the ‘r’!), a Business Student from Mar del Plata, Argentina, is an Employee of the Week and a two-time Shining Star Award recipient. He loves to spend time with the people he loves, including his family, friends and girlfriend, and likes to drink mate everyday, go to the gym (he thinks he should go back as soon as possible), and read. After all this time at Showdown, he would like to ski every year (read: every day). He has fallen in love with Montana: one of the most gorgeous places he’s ever been to. Even though he can’t wait to head back to his country, he will miss Showdown and everyone here a lot.
Lodge Staff Ana Paula Balarezo Reyes
Ana Paula “Ana” (ah-na-POW-lah) is from Lima, Peru. She studies Architecture and wants to work as an architect designing sport complexes. She likes to go out with her friends, travel, go to the beach, and have alone time to think. After the season, she wants to go to Chile, Argentina or the US to practice snowboarding with her new board. She is in love with Montana and the experience has gone beyond her expectations. She likes the cozy, close knit work environment at Showdown, and hopes to come back in the future!
Ski Instructor & Lodge Staff Rodrigo Andrés Guerra Somos
Rodrigo “Rorro” (row-DREE-go , don’t forget the roll the ‘r’s!), a Shining Star Award recipient, is from Antofagasta, Chile. He is studying English Pedagogy (a fancy word for studying to become an English Teacher). He chose Showdown Montana because he thought that the people here wouldn’t speak Spanish, so he would have the opportunity to improve his language skills. He really likes to watch anime and K-Dramas, loves cats, is extroverted and likes to go out and meet new people. Showdown is one of the best places he has ever worked in his life.
Kitchen Staff Joyce Villar Nuñez
Joyce (joice), a Shining Star Award recipient, is from Huancayo, Peru. She wants to be an Artistic Director of Movies (designing the props and the scenes), and is studying Audiovisual Communication in Lima. She loves photography, listening to music, and spending time with her dog and two cats. Her favorite part of her time here is learning English, making new friends, and she likes how kind everyone is. She will miss everyone here when she leaves.
Kitchen Staff Tatiana Rojas Canchocaja
Tatiana “Tatt” (taut-ee-AH-nah), a Shining Star Award recipient, is from Lima, Peru. She is studying Audiovisual Communication and would like to be a Movie Script Writer. She loves to watch sitcoms, series and movies, hang out with her friends while bowling or at the movies, and she loves drawing on her iPad. She likes the freedom she has in the US to walk, talk and do whatever she wants without judgment. She is going to miss Showdown and the people and the memories she made here.
Guest Services Assistant Jesenia Verástegui Roca
Jesenia “Jes” (zshuh-SEHN-yah), a Shining Star Award recipient, is from Lima, Peru. She is studying Translation and Interpreting, and wants to work at a US Embassy somewhere in the world, or to work for a humanitarian aid group. She loves to travel, visit museums, go to concerts, hang out with friends, and dance. She has plans to travel to Europe this summer and wants to work as an English teacher this year. Showdown really helped her learn English and she loves to work here, and loves the people here. The whole state of Montana is very different from the big city where she grew up, but she really likes it and got over the culture-shock pretty quickly.
What the J1’s have to say about the J1 Program:
I sat down with a few of our J1’s, as we lovingly refer to them, and asked them a few questions about their experience with the J1 program.
These are paraphrased quotes from the J1’s, and some of them I translated from Spanish.
(Q) What are the biggest challenges you’ve encountered since beginning the application process in your country?
(A) Jesenia: “The main [challenge] was to get the visa…everyone said it was hard and it scared me a little bit. In the interview they asked me about my college…I didn’t have a clear image about my job. I didn’t know what I was going to do. The rest wasn’t that hard. I had to do a lot of paperwork…Where we live [the Edith] [is also hard]. We don’t have malls or markets where we can buy necessary things for us. That is the thing where we struggle the most. We have to ask for someone to take us to another city or another place to do those things, and it's annoying for other people… [Also,] going to the bank to open an account. We’ve been here for a month and a half and we couldn’t do it earlier. [sic]”
(A) Ariana: “Yo soy una persona que me gusta cocinar. Pero aquí es muy difícil encontrar ingredientes como los de en Perú. Los markets en White Sulphur–no hay suficientes ingredientes para hacer cosas muy simples. Pasar de ingredientes muy frescos a cosas congeladas. El jengibre acá no tiene mucho sabor como el de Perú. Traje ingredientes peruanos pero ya se me ha acabado y no puedo encontrarlos en Amazon. El proceso de la visa es muy difícil, especialmente para los peruanos. [sic]”
(I am a person who likes to cook. But here it is very hard to find ingredients like those in Peru. [In] the markets in White Sulphur—there aren’t sufficient ingredients to make even the most basic things. To change from such fresh ingredients to things that are frozen. The ginger here doesn’t have nearly as much flavor like that in Peru. I brought Peruvian ingredients but I’ve already run out and can’t find them on Amazon…. The process of the visa is [also] very hard, especially for Peruvians.)
(A) Rodrigo: “The biggest challenge was the amount of money: I didn’t know it was $160. I [had] to go to the capital, Santiago, and I had to pay for the flight ticket and it was expensive too. I didn’t know where I could do the interview because I have classes at the university. To find a good date for the interview was also difficult because they were all tomadas (taken). At first I used all of the money I had. Then I asked to my grandparents if they can give me the money and I can return it the next week, but it was challenging because I didn’t eat well the whole week. [sic]”
(A) Joyce: “El mayor desafío fue el cambio de vivir en una ciudad tan grande como Lima [full of cars, a lot of people]….a vivir en White Sulphur, que es tan chiquitito sin transporte público, [so] we have to walk. [Also] the weather, because in Peru the weather is more tropical and here it is so cold. Ni tiendas… Also the language, because when I arrive it was very hard to understand the American accent. Day by day I was learning more and now I can understand better. [sic]”
(The biggest challenge was the change from living in such a big city like Lima, full of cars and a lot of people, to living in White Sulphur, which is so small, without public transportation, [so] we have to walk. [Also] the weather, because in Peru the weather is more tropical and here it is so cold. Nor [are there many] stores. Also the language, because when I arrive it was very hard to understand the American accent. Day by day I was learning more and now I can understand better.)
(Q) What are the best parts of the program?
(A) Joyce: “Making friends. It was the best part of being here. Because we’re from Peru but we didn't know each other before we came here. First we met Argentinians and other Peruvians. When we had more time at work I made more friends like [the Montanans] and they are so kind and we have a lot of fun there and I enjoy teaching them Spanish words and it makes me feel so happy and I learn a lot of English too. And we are learning more Spanish from other countries: from Chile and Argentina. [sic]”
(A) Ariana: “La parte de hacer amigos. Creo que es la experiencia de estar en un lugar nuevo, con nieve. Salir de mi zona de confort. Conocer a gente aquí, hacerme más extrovertida, también el hecho de trabajar con personas que no son de mi país y aprender de su cultura. Son muy amables, están dispuestos a ayudar; nunca ha recibido un maltratado. Cuando no entiendo algo, nunca me gritan. Siempre nos ayudan a aprender…. La seguridad: nosotras en america latina, no podemos andar en la calle con el celular. [Aquí] nunca me siento en peligro. Puedo vivir tranquilo. [sic]”
(The part of making friends. I think that the [best part] is the experience of being in a new place, with snow. Leaving my comfort zone. Meet new people here, making myself more extroverted, and the fact of working with people who aren’t from my country and learning their culture. They are very nice, they’re predisposed to help out; I’ve never been mistreated. When I don’t understand something, they never shout [at me]. They always help us learn…. The security: we in Latin America can’t walk down the street with our phones [out]. I never feel in danger [here]. I can live relaxed.)
A: Rodrigo: “The best part is the food? Just kidding. To make new experiences and meet new people and the fact that this job is one of the best jobs I've ever had in my life. Everyone is so nice and all the time they are asking if they can help you with something or make something for you. In Chile the people are not very nice. It's part of their job so they do it, [but] here everyone helps each other…. To meet people from countries next to mine, we speak the same language but different dialects…. It is so beautiful here. [sic]”
(Q) What advice would you give future J1’s about the program, application process, etc?
(A) Joyce: “Tener mucho cuidado con tu salud porque el sistema es imposible y lento. Yesterday I had to go to the doctor but it is hard to be here alone and have to go to the doctor. It's different from our country [sic].”
(Be very careful with your health because the system is impossible and slow. Yesterday I had to go to the doctor but it is hard to be here alone and have to go to the doctor. It's different from our country.)
Q: What do you think the J1’s gain from, or receive from, the program? (My original question was “what do you get out of the program,” but I realized that that use of “get out” was a form of slang that was difficult to understand for our Spanish speakers.)
(A) Joyce: “I think maybe the language: you can learn a lot of your English. And to know other cultures. And it is very different from our cultures. The culture of living with your parents at my age in Peru: I am just finishing university and living with my parents. Here people our age are married with kids. It's easy for young people to leave the house [here] and get a job but it is harder in Peru. [sic]”
(A) Ariana: “La experiencia de vivir, mantenerse independiente, aprender de su mismo. Te hace pasar por situaciones que te enseña como estar sola en un nuevo lugar. Asumir su responsabilidad. Es muy importante. Valora más lo normal de lo que haces en tu país, como sentarse en la mesa con su familia. Toma más aprecio sobre lo simple de la vida.”
(The experience of living, being independent, learning about yourself. It makes you go through situations that teach you how to be alone in a new place. Assume responsibility. It’s very important. To [make you] value more the normal things that you do in your country, like sitting at a table with your family. You take more appreciation of the simple things in life.)
(A) Rodrigo: “It is good to be outside of your comfort zone, we are used to our culture, our country, our city, but when we are here you are in a totally different place and it is impossible to go to your home. You have to take care of yourself. We are growing up. [sic]”
Q: What do you think the non-J1 employees gain from, or receive from, the program?
(A) Joyce: “Culture. They come to us and ask how to say this word. Sometimes we try to share food with people here, like tallarines rojos. They are curious about the food. Despierta a su curiosidad. [The kitchen staff] les gusta aprender las palabras sobre comida en español. [sic]”
(Culture. They come to us and ask how to say this word. Sometimes we try to share food with people here, like red noodles. They are curious about the food. It wakes up their curiosity. [The kitchen staff] like to learn words about the kitchen in Spanish.)
(A) Ariana: “Los J1 's, a lo menos en Showdown, dan la oportunidad de aprender nuestra cultura. No he visto latinos aquí. I haven’t seen latinos, como no es normal ver a latinos. Aprender la cultura, la comida, olores nuevos. Como no hay latinos, la gente piensa que somos curiosos. Somos muy diferentes a ellos.”
(The J1’s, at least at Showdown, give the opportunity to learn about our culture. I haven’t seen latinos here. I haven’t seen latinos, it's not normal to see latinos [here]. To learn culture, food, new smells. Because there aren’t latinos, the people think we are curious. We are different from them.)
(A) Rodrigo: “Bad words in Spanish. People love to learn those. It is great because they get to learn some Spanish. They are learning new music, Latin music: [they say] “It’s not that bad.” And how to dance like Latinos. [sic]”
Comment any great stories you have about our J1's!
Check out our next post about Showdown Montana's J1 Program!