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Hear from our J1 South American Associates on the Resort, US Culture & More

April 25, 2023
International Staff at French Lick Resort
Andrea Altenhofen (Paraguay), Facundo Paredes (Argentina) and Andrea Cochachi (Peru) were a few of the students from South America who worked at French Lick Resort from December 2022 to March 2023 as part of our annual J1 Program.

Just like our hotels welcome guests from all over the world, some of our associates even come from all corners of the globe.

Our J1 Program has been bringing international students to French Lick Resort for the opportunity to live in the U.S. for 3-4 months while earning experience in the hospitality industry. Traditionally, our J1 crew has come from European countries. Recently, we welcomed students from South America for the first time.

Maybe you had the chance to chat with them over the winter in our restaurants or elsewhere around the resort grounds. They gave up their summer break down in the southern hemisphere to chill with us in French Lick and West Baden from December to March. Before heading back to South America, a few of them shared about their experience – from first French Lick impressions, to a first white Christmas, to first trip to Walmart and more.

Andrea Altenhofen

Andrea works for a resort in her home country of Paraguay, and joined us as a cook at West Baden Springs Hotel, also assisting in some of the restaurants at French Lick Springs Hotel.  

Andrea Altenhofen


Andrea Altenhofen and coworkers

Initial impression arriving at French Lick: “My first impression of French Lick when I come, it was, ‘Whoa! It’s so beautiful.’ I arrive here in December and there are a lot of Christmas decorations, and it was beautiful. The Christmas spirit, it’s contagious. And the hotel, it’s so big and so wonderful. The first impression, it was amazing.”

It was her second time back the USA in this exchange program:
 “I wanted to try to improve my English and know different cultures in other countries, so I wanted to try this program. The first time I came here, I was in Virginia. It was different, because in Virginia it snowed so much. Here, the winter is different. But it was fun.”






Cheese Board

Favorite thing to make in an American kitchen: “My favorite plate, I think, are the cheese boards or salads."

And a Paraguayan specialty she makes back home: “We have plates like chipa guazú – it’s like a sweet cake of corn we eat in the lunchtime with meat or barbecue. And then we have chipa, it’s a type of bread made with cornstarch and cheese.”







Sebastian Mendoza

Also from Paraguay, Sebastian is from the country’s capital of Asunción and worked as a receiving clerk here at French Lick.

Sebastian Mendoza

Sebastian (purple hat) and more of the J1 crew during one of their
adventures outside of work.

On being a 20-year-old college student making the leap to a different country:
 “I have a cousin that’s studying tourism and hotel in college. She heard about the program, and then she told my parents, they encouraged me to do this. Kind of intimidated at first, but since they encouraged me to do it, it’s a great opportunity to visit the States at this young age and to experience it that way. I said, ‘Yes, let’s go for it.’”


On his first white Christmas (well timed, because we didn’t get much snow this winter): “We don’t have snow back home. I knew it was going to snow (during my time here) but actually seeing it was literally magical. You don’t get that experience back home, so it was really nice to appreciate it. That actually exceeded expectations.

In receiving, we had a lot of things to deliver (the week of Christmas and New Year’s). That was a pretty busy week. And usually, I’m a server (at the restaurants) in my extra shifts. That was a lot of people to attend, a lot of busy days. But that was nice because you were always doing something – you were not getting bored. The ambiance was so nice, everyone was in that holiday spirit.”





friends taking picture in elevator mirror

J1 students also had the opportunity to do some travels of their own, including a trip to Chicago: “We always hear Chicago in conversations about big cities, so it was a really nice experience, I had a lot of fun – wish I could have stayed there more. Next year, maybe. We went to the (Willis Tower), we took a picture on a floor made of glass above the clouds. We went to museums, we went to an aquarium. We did a lot of things. We wanted to make that weekend worth it, so we were always moving.”

The Paraguayan dish (which Andrea referenced above) was the taste of home that was missed the most: “Chipa guazú. That’s what I miss most. I already told my mom, you better make chipa guazú when I get back home (laughs).”



Facundo Paredes

A 24-year-old chemistry student, Facundo wins the Farthest Traveled Award, coming to us from Bahía Blanca, a city on the far southern tip of Argentina. He worked in the receiving department and also did stewarding shifts in the restaurants.

Facundo Paredes

On coming to the USA with little prior knowledge about the resort: “I really didn’t know anything about Indiana or French Lick. I had no expectations. I was really happy, because it was a really long trip. We arrived here really late in the night, so we went to the hotel lobby and it was beautiful. Then we went to the dorms and slept, and I got to travel around the city and West Baden for a couple days.”

On experiences gained in the USA: “Many of my friends did the very same program – not here, but in other cities from America. They told me it was great – that you live really well here, the places are beautiful, you make a lot of friends, you learn a lot of English, which (happened in) my case in particular. I wasn’t really used to speaking English before I came here. I made a lot of friends here that are really cool – mostly from Paraguay and some from Peru.”

One difference between Americans and Brazilians, and what he’ll miss most about the USA: “People here are a little bit more serious, but that’s OK! It’s just the way you guys are. When I go back home, I really miss the lifestyle of here. I am really home here. I feel like it’s my place to live, and I could come back here if possible. The lifestyle is really good.”

Andrea Cochachi

Andrea Cochachi

From Lima, Peru, Andrea was among our youngest J1 associates at 18 years old. She worked in housekeeping at West Baden Springs Hotel, and also as a host at Valley Bar & Grill.

On the benefits of her J1 experience for her studies back in Peru: “I study international business, and you have to know more about the cultures of the countries, and also another language – that is really important. I prefer to come here to improve my English, because my family speak Spanish, and I can’t practice with them. It’s helped with this experience for my degree.

I think being a host (at Valley Bar) helped me a lot to speak with the guests – they enter the restaurant and I am the first person that is in contact with them. I like when the guests appreciate that we work because it’s not something easy to do.”


Andrea CochachiOn American experiences outside of work: “The meal with the (resort) coworkers that we have at Christmas, it was a nice experience because we all eat together and we take some photos. Another activity that I did, I went to Walmart! A lot of people say you have to go to Walmart, and we went to Walmart in Jasper. It was nice. Maybe if I will return, maybe I would like to go to Chicago or to Louisville and those cities.”

What she’ll miss about French Lick Resort: “The people, for example our managers in housekeeping at West Baden, also Rebecca that is the host in Valley Bar that I help – she is so kind with me. The people who drive the shuttles at the resort, because they are so kind. And I’m going to miss staying here in this town, because it’s tiny and it’s peaceful compared to my country.”





Last question….favorite American food?

Andrea Altenhofen: “Here, I ate a lot of fast food (laughs). In Ballard’s, I make pizza for my dinner but here in the town my best place to eat pizza is Chicago’s.”

Sebastian: “You guys eat a lot of BBQ – I like BBQ so that was good. Chicken wings, too – they exist back home but we don’t eat them as usual as you do.”

Facundo: “Breakfast here is really good. You guys eat scrambled eggs and bacon and sausage, and we don’t really eat that (in Argentina). And pizza, too. We eat a lot of pizza back home, but here it’s different – the toppings are really different and are really good, like chicken pizza and BBQ pizza."

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