Eastern European students flock to US seaside resort for
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Eastern European students flock to US seaside resort for summer jobs http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_kmafp/is_200606/ai_n16551305 Posted on 06/16/2006 10:34:16 AM PDT (AFP) OCEAN CITY, MD The summer season has kicked off in this resort city on the US Atlantic coast and thousands of eastern European college students are flocking here to fill seasonal jobs snubbed by their American counterparts. Along a 16-kilometer (10-mile) concrete jungle of hotels, amusement parks, fast-food outlets, restaurants and mini-malls, one can hear snatches of Russian, Serbo-Croat, Bulgarian or Polish being spoken among clusters of students strolling on the streets. The town, located some 240 kilometers (150 miles) southeast of the US capital, has acquired a decidedly European accent in the last decade as college students from Eastern Bloc countries converge here annually in the summer wanting a taste of the American Dream. The 75 students manning the stalls at Jolly Roger's amusement park are mainly from Russia, Bulgaria and Poland. At Phillip's Crab House restaurant, the hostess is from Croatia and the two young men shucking oysters and clams are from Russia and Bulgaria. The clerk at a jewelry stand on the boardwalk is also from Russia while the lifeguard at the nearby beach is from Serbia and the clerk at a tattoo parlour is from Poland. Local officials estimate that between 4,000 and 5,000 foreign students armed with temporary J-1 work visas that allow them three months of work and one month of travel will arrive here by the end of June. The phenomenon, however, is not unique to Ocean City. The State Department said 105,000 foreign students were given J-1 visas to work nationwide last summer and a similar number is expected this year. The young adults, who study law, medicine, engineering or business during the off- season, are paid between six and nine dollars an hour to work as cooks, dishwashers, lifeguards, house-maids, snack-bar attendants, hotel clerks and other odd jobs. A few lucky ones whose English is better than most will land tip-driven jobs such as waitressing that can earn them up to 600 dollars a week. Many choose to work two to three jobs to earn 8,000 or even 10,000 dollars during their stay -- more than they could make in one year at home. Others are more likely to save between 3,000 and 5,000 dollars that they will use to pay tuition, buy a computer or to help their families. Among the new arrivals this month are Olga Fedotova, Anna Aztamonova and Irina Tekotskaya. The three college classmates who are studying public relations and who hail from Siberia, each paid about 2,000 dollars in fees and plane tickets to undertake the four-day journey from their hometown to Ocean City. Olga found a job at a jewelry stand on the boardwalk while Anna and Irina are working at a coffee shop in a mall. "It's my first time abroad and I like it here," says Anna, a soft-spoken 19-year-old whose birthday falls on the 4th of July, Independence Day. "I mainly want to improve my English and I would also like to see New York." Anna Dezhina, 21, an engineering student from the southwest Russian town of Chelyabinsk, wants to see the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and Florida. Mladen Stojanovic, 22, from the central Serbian town of Nis just wants to experience the American way of life. "It's like another planet here," said Stojanovic, who is studying to be a sports teacher and who will be working as a lifeguard this summer. "Everything is big and everyone is polite. "The only thing I miss is the food back home and my girlfriend." Jim Mathias, the town's mayor, said the foreign students have become essential in the last decade to Ocean City's economic survival. "They are a tremendous asset and their contribution is priceless," he told AFP. "They are the heartbeat and backbone of our service industries and our economy." Rick Smith, the manager at Jolly Roger's, said he wouldn't be able to operate in the summer without the foreign employees. "I'd rather have them than American kids because their work ethic is better," he said. "American kids don't want to work anymore." Brian Mushrush, the manager at Phillips Crab House, said 75 of his 350 employees this summer will be foreign students, mainly from eastern Europe. But Smith and other local officials and business owners interviewed said not everyone is happy with the increasing sound of Slavic-tinted English that can be heard about town. "The most common complaint I get from vacationers is why don't I hire American kids," Smith said. "Some even go up to the students and tell them to speak American." There are also unscrupulous business owners eager to take advantage of the cheap labour and landlords who seek to maximize profit by cramming as many tenants as possible into small accommodations. Weekly rents for the students typically run between 65 and 95 dollars. In order to fight abuse, several local organizations have been set up to assist the students and ensure they go home with a favourable impression. "For me, this is about social justice, about people being treated equally, it's the American way," said Anne-Marie Conestabile, a retired teacher who runs a help program through the local church and who has become a sort of patron saint for the students. "By August you see the homesickness and they're all ready to go home," she said. "But once they are there, they all send me e-mails saying they want to come back."