Wry Exchange

Introducing Mia, Ian, Eli, & Che
07-31-07, 10:22 pm
Filed under: Exchange Students, Inbounds Inbounds | Tags: ,

The descriptions below are from their applications.  We’ll see how accurate they are later in the year.   I can’t wait to meet them.  Che, Ian, and Mia will be here August 12.  Poor Ian was at the US consulate today for his Visa interview, but his 2019 papers were in his home city.  So much for 2 day service.  I’m not certain if he’ll arrive on time.
They all have the same English skills.  HAH!  They all chose the option right below ‘fluent.’  Probably wishful thinking for a couple of them.   None of the students have any pre-existing health issues, and no one has any food allergies.  I believe 3 of them are from upper-middle class homes, and the fourth student is wealthy.  The school report on the one with money says, nicely of course, that’s he’s lazy. Usually, school reports are glowing.

  • CHE-16, top 10% of his class, athletic, doesn’t like dirt, cats, spiders, or spicy food   He states he is clean and tidy, happy, enthusiastic, and likeable. He doesn’t like when people bother him.  He wants to be an exchange student to be able to write and speak English.  Other reasons for coming include to grow and mature, learn our culture, and have a good time.
  • ELI, 18, average student, likes golf and tennis. He wrote that he is nice, polite, clean, organized, self-reliant, with a low tolerance for frustration. He doesn’t like personal mistreatment. Eli wants to be an exchange student to learn English, the people, and culture of the US.
  • IAN-almost 17, top 15% of his class, runner.  He wrote that he is open, educated, modest, funny, a dreamer, and always gets what he wants. His weaknesses are he always likes to be the best, and not show emotion. He wants to learn to think in English, he wants to learn and adapt to our culture, and become independant.
  • MIA-16, average student, likes to help others, enjoys volunteering, is a good person, with a  good heart, likes to help people, and is responsible and dedicated.  Mia wanted to be an exchange student to ‘open my world.’  She wants to share all she learns here when she returns home.  She wants to contribute to her country and help with all the new ideas she learns in the states.   She doesn’t like it when people lie repeatedly, and when people are arrogant. 

I have good impressions of  Che and Eli.  They comply with all requests, and are friendly and curious.  Ian is hardly on line, and doesn’t have strong English skills.  One of my other students told me that Ian is “really funny, a dumbass, but happy. He’ll be fine.”   Mia doesn’t understand anything in English or Spanish.  She may not be the brightest Crayon in the box, bless her heart.


What is this?
07-30-07, 5:04 pm
Filed under: Home | Tags: ,

What is this?  Any guesses?  I like it.  I received it as a gift, and don’t know what to write in my ‘Thank you’ note.  It’s handmade from pewter. It is fairly flat, but will hold a few business cards.  I put the quarter on it to hide the name of the country, and also to give an idea of the size.

dscf1502.jpgdscf1496.jpg  dscf1479.jpg

Introducing This Year’s Students
07-29-07, 11:20 pm
Filed under: Exchange Program, Inbounds Inbounds, Outbounds Outbounds | Tags: ,

globe I’m responsible for students going to and from 2 South American countries this year.  It’s a big change from the last several years.  I had responsibility for my countries as well as all the inbound students.  Another person is the new inbound student coordinator.   Stepping back was the right thing to do, but I miss it dearly.  I devoted two to three hours daily to my program. On the other hand, I won’t be as boring at parties.  I typically talk about exchange students way too much. 
I will care for four students here in the states this year, and  2 others going to another country.  I have 3 additional students going out, but they apparently know everything, and don’t need me a bit. Meh.
I’ll be writing about these six students all year, so let’s give them names.

  • Outbound boy-Jon
  • Outbound girl-Jen
  • Inbound girl-Mia
  • Inbound boy-Ian
  • Inbound boy-Eli
  • Inbound boy-Che
  • Jon and Jen are both from my small town.  They are Sparky’s friends.  They  graduated high school this year, and are paying for their exchanges themselves. They are sweet kids, and I hope they have a wonderful year.  Jen wants to be a math teacher, and Jon will go into restaurant managment.   Jon will live with Sparky’s family, while Jen will live with Ian’s family. 
    We have 3 students coming from the other country.  Mia, Eli, and Che.  Che will be living in my town, Eli will be about an hour away, and Mia will be about 2 hours away.  She and I live on opposite corners of our area’s boundaries.  
    Che’s written English is fluent.  Mia’s is non-existent, Eli can type short sentences, and Ian can give one word answers.   Jen and Jon have decent Spanish skills. They’ve been trying hard to learn the slang, and pick up speed. 
    Edit: I changed Ann’s name to Jen.  No reason, it just goes better with Jon.

    Preparing for Arrival
    07-28-07, 11:43 pm
    Filed under: Exchange Students, hosting | Tags: , ,

    Expect your new student to be different from her application.  Many applications are group efforts, written to be appealing. Duh!   I’ve known students with applications written by fathers, mothers, older siblings, or just copied off an old application.   No exchange student smokes, drinks, has a bf/gf, or hates school.  Try to chat online with your student, write letters, or even call if his English is strong enough.
     The fibs are easy to work around.  I expect it.  What’s dangerous is if the medical reports are inaccurate.  Too many students have asthma, depression, or are bi-polar, and we don’t know about it from the beginning.  Parents send their children without medication or counselling off for the most stressful year of their lives.  We host and sponsor students with depression and other physical illnesses. It’s not a problem as long as the student is stable, and continues treatment as needed.  Another problem with lying about health issues is insurance.  Their student health insurance won’t cover pre-existing conditions.  Honesty is much preferred for everything.
    Ask your student what his favorite fruits, vegetables, and beverages are, so you can have a selection on hand before he arrives. 
    Give the student at least a few drawers and some closet space.  We had a boy who didn’t unpack for over 2 weeks, because he ‘wasn’t comfortable yet.’  They unpack when they’re ready, probably when they’re tired of tripping over luggage.
    If your student plans on joining the band or a sports team, see what your local requirements are before arrival.  The student should be signed up as quickly as possible.  In my school district, a student has to complete 10 practices before participating in a game.
    Have you thought of a welcome gift?  I like to buy a few plain, neutral Old Navy t-shirts, travel toothbrush and toothpaste, small sizes of shampoo, soap, bath gel, razor, deodorant, and sunscreen.  She may be too shy the first few days to use the family’s products.  I get an assortment of gum, chocolate, and gummi candy, as well as a few school supplies.  And of course, a small-as-possible dictionary to carry in his pocket.
    Buy a phone card so your student can call to let her family know she arrived safely.  I like buying these online. www.nobelcom.com 

    Family Hosting Rules-Part 3

    ES Advisor/Counselor The advisor is the student’s guardian in the US. The advisor will enroll the student in school, speak regularly with the guidance office, and monitor grades. The ES advisor is an experienced volunteer The advisor helps you and the student to become a family. Please talk with the ES advisor often, at least weekly for the first month that the student lives with your family. Discuss the student’s progress and behavior. Don’t wait for small problems to grow larger. The ES may honestly not know why you are unhappy with him/her. The only thing many students know about living in America comes from TV and the movies, or previous exchange students. Please judge each student as an individual.
    Food/Cooking Don’t assume the student knows how to cook or can even make a sandwich. Show your student where the food is kept and how to work the microwave, stove, toaster, etc. Ask the student what they typically have for each meal. Many countries eat later than us; have lunch as the largest meal, eat lunch-type foods for breakfast, etc. Tell the student what foods he may eat, and which are being saved for a later meal. Respect cultural differences-some foods we eat are not eaten in the ES’s home country. The student may not know the “American’ name for some foods. A cookbook with plenty of photos is a big help in the beginning. So is a trip to a large grocery store, so the student can choose familiar foods. Many students are used to most meals being made from scratch with fresh ingredients. Many have never eaten in a car
    Early Return The student will be sent home immediately for several reasons. The student is not permitted to use or be around drugs. If someone is using drugs where the ES is, the student is expected to leave immediately leave or call for a ride home. The exchange students are not permitted to drive. Ever. The students cannot ride in a vehicle with someone that has been drinking. (But don’t scare the student. We had a student stay with us who would not get in the car if my husband had a beer with dinner when we dined out, unless I drove.) The student can’t be at a party where there is underage drinking. The ES is supposed to leave or call for a ride. The student is representing our program, his /her country, and your family. The ES is not to embarrass any of us. The decision to send a student home is a very serious one.
    Changing Families If you’re happy, and the student is happy, we are  happy. We strongly recommend leaving a student in place if the student and family wish to stay together. Everyone should have a ‘back-up’ family, just in case of problems. If you want the student to move, or the student wants to move, it’s also fine. We understand the student is here for one year, and we all want it to be the best year possible. Most counselors try to remain fluid. If the student moves, the Counselor must report the new family’s address and phone number within 10 days to the program Chairman, along with the reason why the student has moved. We must send the information to the State Department. The new host family’s Criminal Records check must be completed before the student moves. 
    Contact with Authorities If a student has any contact with legal authorities, including truancy officers, police, and juvenile court officials, you must notify the Assistant Chairman and Inbound Chairman immediately. This includes citations, summonses, and arrests.
    Language Most students say ‘to learn English’ when we ask why they chose to come to the USA. Please assist your student in that goal. Don’t permit them to watch native language TV. Try to keep native language phone calls and IM chats to a minimum. Please don’t speak to them in their native language; it’s not a kindness. Please require them to speak English after the first month at all times. When other students visit, please remind them to speak English. We can tell the difference between students who speak English all the time, and students who continue to speak their native language.
    Natural Family We have no rules for students communicating with their family. (Other than the phone call saying I arrived, and I’m fine). Some ES’s will feel comfortable calling home twice a year; others will talk almost daily. Some students become less homesick when they talk to their family or friends, the opposite is also true. Talk with your student if you detect a problem. The student’s family may wish to visit. We strongly recommend they wait until after 1/1. The student should have a chance to adjust to living here, and become proficient in English.
    Termination Students may be terminated for a violation of the “4-D’s” Drinking, Drugs, Driving, and (serious) Dating. Students using drugs will be immediately terminated. Students may be terminated for other reasons, such as shoplifting, running away, physical violence, and school disciplinary problems.
    Identification and Passports Please assist your student in obtaining a state ID card. The Ids are less than ten dollars, and may be purchased at a any Driver’s License Bureau. The student will need their Passport, DS-2019, and I-901.They should use the state ID card for identification purposes, and leave the passport and papers in a SAFE location. The only reason students need the passport during the year is if they travel outside the US.

    Family Hosting Rules-Part 2

    Money Matters-Some schools give the students free passes to athletic events and free lunches. The student’s family is responsible for making sure he/she has access to money at all times. Most of the students arrive with a Visa/Mastercard. If the student doesn’t have a credit/debit card, he must give his counselor $300.00  to hold as an emergency fund. This $300.00 is refunded at the end of the year if it is unused.
    Health Insurance-The students purchase health insurance through our program within 30 days of arrival. The price this year is $595.00. The students know they are responsible for this amount. The insurance covers the students from the time they get on the plane in their home country to the time they get on the plane to leave this country. Check with the counselor for suggestions.  We do have doctors, dentists, and optometrists willing to see the students at no charge.
     Religion-The student may not wish to attend church services; the student should attend church with your family at least once, as a cultural experience. If going to weekly services is important to your family, and you want the student to attend with you, he/she must go. If the student wishes to attend a different church, we will find someone to take the student if it is not within walking distance, but it has to be in your community. Please respect each other’s beliefs or lack of belief. 
    School-Students are in the US on a J-1 Student Visa. School attendance is a requirement. Disrespect, disruption, and F’s are not tolerated. The advisor will be in contact with the school frequently to check on the ES’s progress. It is usual to make at least a few schedule changes to accommodate the student’s English skills and prior schooling. The school wants the student to have a successful experience here, and the teachers are very good about tailoring classes to fit the student’s abilities. The ES is encouraged to take part in student activities and sports while here A copy of the student’s report cards must be sent to the Inbound Student Coordinator each 9 weeks. Students cannot terminate school early unless they are going home early for entrance exams or another valid reason.   If the student drops out of school, he/she will be sent home for violating Visa requirements.
    Smoking-Almost all of our students are non-smokers according to their applications and will not smoke during their stay. It’s also illegal for minors to purchase cigarettes.
    Dating-is neither encouraged nor forbidden. If the student starts dating seriously, please tell the advisor so we can have a talk about risks and responsibilities.
    Exchange Student MeetingsWe welcome all host siblings, friends, classmates, and students from other exchange programs to our meetings. Host parents are welcome to stay and interact with the students. Your exchange student will have monthly meetings with other students in our district.  It is helpful for the students to discuss their experiences with other foreigners. No one else understands exactly what the exchange year is like. They also speak with the program advisors at these meetings. All of our program’s meetings are overnighters. This is to have time to discuss problems and solutions. They are very helpful to the students. The students are strongly encouraged to make friends with the other students in their high schools, but no one but the other exchange students can completely understand what it’s like to be young and away from your culture, country, friends, family. They need peers to talk over their experiences here in the states. The students should bring a pillow, sleeping bag, toiletries, and gym clothes to each overnighter. We will tell them if they have to bring additional items, i.e. swimsuit.
     Depression-All ES become depressed. There is even a cycle to it. The first will usually be about 8 weeks after arrival.  The student will be getting into a routine and may be thinking, “This is it? This is what I’ll be doing for a year? This is where I’ll be?’ Then comes Christmas.  That’s usually the worst one, of course. Then about the end of winter is the last one. The student still has a long way to go, and misses his home. The student usually gets sad when he/she is about ready to leave the states, too. Because of depression and homesickness, the ES’s tend to sleep a lot and eat quite a lot throughout the year.  It’s a way of coping.  Let the student take a short nap after school.  They may have grown up taking naps after class.  Thinking in another language is very stressful at the beginning.  Expect your student to have headaches.

    Family Hosting Rules-part 1

     These are MY suggestions only. You are reading a blog from a volunteer, please use common sense when contemplating using my advice.
    Requirements-The host family must provide meals and a bed.  The student may share a bedroom, but must have his/her own bed.  Give the student a bedroom with a door.  I’ve seen people try to put students in a walk-in closet, storage rooms, attics, and in the basement next to the washing machine.  All unacceptable.   Treat the student as a family member.
    Area Rules-Our guidelines are a combination of  our program, State Department, and host family rules.   We recognize each counselor, community, and family has different values and priorities.   The state department has a rule if you take the student out of the country the Program  Chairman has to sign the 2019 form.  Our national program rules include no drinking, driving, drugs, or serious dating.   The US State Department has other rules as well.  They are included in a separate pamphlet printed by the State Department.
    Family Rules ES is living under your roof. You set the curfew. Your set the rules for the ES, same as you would for your own children. The student may go on school field trips, to away games, shopping, riding around, or stay overnight with friends from town with your permission. You may take the student on overnight trips or out of school for family vacations. The student is not permitted to travel overnight unaccompanied without an approved adult. The student is expected to ask your permission to attend an event. The student is not to say, “I’m going to the mall, and I need a ride.” You have a right to know where, when, who just as you would with your own kids; and to say ‘no” if you don’t approve. The student is not allowed to drink. But drinking customs vary by country and household. For example, your student may have wine with dinner with the rest of the family. Don’t encourage it. If you do not approve of alcohol use, end of discussion. The student must abide by the house rules. If it is not working out, the student will be moved as soon as you ask. Don’t feel guilty, sometimes nice people just don’t get along. The advisor is there to work with both of you. Please respect the student’s privacy. Do not read the student’s e-mail, diary, or other papers without their permission.
    Telephone and Computers-discuss with the student the price of phone calls, cell phones, and phone cards. onsider having the student buy a microphone or webcam for the computer to talk with family back home.   Discuss computer usage rules in your family. May the student download music? Files?  Please monitor computer time.  Some students will try to spend several hours daily online chatting in their native language.  An hour daily should be sufficient.  Please don’t forbid the student from using the internet.  It’s an important way to stay connected to family back home.
    Personal Webpages-The program monitors such sites as MySpace, Skyblog, Facebook, and Fotoblog.  Any photos, comments, or journal entries describing or depicting illegal or immoral activity (such as admissions of smoking, drinking) may be cause for termination.
    Chores-Chores are an excellent way for the ES to feel like part of the family. The ES will feel like he/she is contributing to the family. Give the ES daily and weekly chores to accomplish. You probably will have to show the ES how to do them more than once or twice. We may do chores differently in the states than in the ES’s home country. If you pay your children to do large chores (i.e.-mowing, shoveling snow, babysitting), please pay the ES. Some regular chores for the ES may include setting and clearing the table, washing the dishes, feeding the family pets, doing his/her own laundry, taking out the garbage, cleaning his/her own room, vacuuming, and light yard work. The ES may occasionally baby-sit for the family, but not regularly, or for long periods. The student is not an Au Pair.
    Cultural Differences-he student is probably used to living his/her daily life quite differently than we do in the US. When the student does something you consider to be wrong, please discuss it with him/her. You may be surprised at the answer the student gives. Try to explain that this isn’t a matter of ‘right or wrong”, it’s “how we do it in America. If we were in your country, we’d do it another way.” Almost everything can be done differently. For example, dishwashing, hygiene, fragrance amounts, nudity, drinking of alcohol, chores, and gender roles may all be different. Some students may be used to having servants in their homes. What we consider rude, they may consider polite, and vice versa. Talk about differences as they come up, don’t wait until they get to be big problems.