HCG-Wisconsin Dells bids farewell to its international workers at end-of-summer luncheon

By Tim Wohlers

Ho-Chunk Gaming Wisconsin Dells held a farewell luncheon in its convention center this month, to say goodbye to over 30 international students who had worked in the hotel area this summer. 

“We had fun,” said 21-year-old Turkish student Irem Akakus.  “Everyone was really good to us, too.” 

The luncheon was held in the casino’s Upper Dells Ballroom, where the departing workers were treated to a buffet-style meal and an abbreviated performance of the Wasira Native Dance Show. 

Students said they enjoyed the food, and were grateful for the unique opportunity to experience a culture that was so much different from their own. 

“I love their dance,” Akakus said.  “If I have time, I will learn how to dance like that.” 

The students were then recognized for all the hard work they had put in during their time there.  Each of them was presented with a beaded keyholder, which would forever serve as a symbol of appreciation for their service. 

“It was special,” said Akakus.  “There’s no word to describe it.” 

Akakus and a few of her coworkers said that they were impressed with not only the day’s events, but by the treatment they had received throughout their entire experience.  Several of them expressed interest in returning to the casino next summer just because of it. 

“Everyone was so nice to us,” Akakus said, “and that’s the reason that we want to come back again.” 

Like Akakus, many of this year’s workers came from a university located in Turkey.  Together, they made up a large portion of the housekeeping and group-sales departments. 

“Sometimes it was difficult,” said 20-year-old Erencan Bulut.  “But if you’re a housekeeper here, you are really lucky because of your supervisors.  They don’t push you, and they’re always kind to you.” 

Bulut said that the respect and understanding his group was shown made work much more fun for everyone.  He admitted it was one of the things that they had been concerned about before coming over. 

“Our supervisors were really kind,” Bulut said.  “And that was really important for us.” 

During their stay, the students were provided housing at one of two Ho-Chunk-owned locations – in the hotel on site, or at the Ho-Chunk RV Resort and Campground in Lyndon Station.  Those who stayed at the hotel found their housing to be quite accommodating and extremely affordable, at a cost of only $50 per week.  

Those who lived at the campground told a different story. 

“The biggest problem for us was transportation,” Bulut said, “because the campground is in Lyndon Station.  And if we wanted a second job, we had to find our own transportation…which was really difficult for us.” 

Transportation proved to be only one of many difficulties that those staying at the campground encountered, though.  Residents had reported having trouble with several of the appliances as well. 

“We had problems with the air conditioners and microwaves,” Bulut said, “and with the internet.” 

So after only a few weeks of staying there, many of the students packed their bags and relocated to Hiawatha Residence Hall in Lake Delton.  There, they were able to bike but a short distance to any nearby grocery or department store.  They were also able to avoid almost all the difficulties they had faced at their previous housing. 

“The campground days were a bit difficult,” Bulut said.  “We even had problems with the showers.  But we could shower at Hiawatha, and I was really happy about that.” 

Some had troubles with things other than housing, such as the simple act of communication.  For students in their second year of the program, though, the English language proved not to be as big of a barrier. 

“I had a lot of chances to communicate with my coworkers,” said 22-year-old returning student Deha Car.  “I talked a lot here.  But my first year, my English was terrible.  I couldn’t speak a lot of English, and it was really stressful.” 

Car considered the casino a good place to work, compared to his previous employer in Florida.  He said that the employees at Ho-Chunk are treated fairly, unlike they were at his last job. 

“This summer was a lot better,” Car said.  “Florida is a good place.  Miami was really close, and we always went somewhere.  But working here is a lot better.” 

He said the summer made for a great end to his work-and-travel experience, and that he’ll be leaving America in a much more positive state of mind than he did last time. 

“Everything was better,” Car said.  “So I’m really happy.  Things were perfect.” 

Twenty-one-year-old Malawian student Rahema Kanamazina said she too was happy with where she ended up, although she admitted that working in a hotel can have its challenges. 

“Housekeeping is a really funny job,” Kanamazina said.  “Now I’m getting used to everything.  But at first, it was really hard for me.” 

After a summer of cleaning every room except her own, Kanamazina said she is looking forward to some personal time and getting the chance to travel with one of her friends.  But she said that, because of the experience she had this summer, she will probably return to the casino after her spring semester. 

“I like it here,” Kanamazina said.  “They make me want to come back next year.” 

The hotel’s administrative assistant, Janella Hopinkah said she would love to see the students return.  She took a moment at the end of their meal to thank each of them once again. 

“I promised myself I wouldn’t cry,” Hopinkah said, “but I couldn’t help it.” 

Hopinkah told the students that it had been a pleasure working with each and every one of them.  She said a tearful goodbye, and wished them all luck in their future endeavors. 

The students would soon part ways with one another to travel the country before returning home.  Many said they will remain in touch with those they met over the summer, at the casino.