Foreign workers a lifeline for local businesses

Tue, 08/27/2019 - 7:30am

You may have noticed an influx of foreign workers each summer for years now and wondered where they come from each year and how they get here.

Due to a need for help during tourist season, recruiting foreign workers has become a lifeline for businesses in town. Students enrolled in universities in other countries have vacation schedules that let them work here. According to, businesses rely primarily on the Portland agency CIEE, the Council on International Education Exchange, to recruit foreign workers. CIEE offers a work study program called Work & Travel USA to students in other countries around the world. The program is intended to offer a chance to experience American culture.

CIEE works with representatives in various countries to match students with employers for a job offer, the first step toward a J-1 work and travel visa. CIEE’s online presentation guides them through the rest of the process in preparation to live and work in the U.S. The J-1 visa allows travel around the U.S. for 30 days after the student’s job ends.

Students have been coming to the Boothbay peninsula from such countries as Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey, Jamaica, Czech Republic, Belarus and China. Employers help them find housing and Boothbay Harbor Rotary Club loans them bicycles.

Alina Ioana is studying to become a nurse in Romania. When she heard about the program, she was excited to enroll for the cultural experience. She enjoyed it so much, she is back for a second year. Melike Aygunes from Turkey is also here for a second year, after skipping last year to take an internship in Germany. She is studying psychology and will begin graduate school in the fall.

Both are working at Boothbay Lobster Wharf.

For Claudia Kavasden, here from Romania for her fourth year, it has almost become a way of life as she pursues her master's degree in marketing. Kavasden is working at Brown's Wharf.

Ilker Yerlikaya is from Turkey and a business administration major.  Last year, he worked in upstate New York while his friend worked here. After hearing about this place from the friend, Yerlikaya was determined to come here this year and was thrilled it worked out. He is working at MacSeagull’s.