Wry Exchange


Homesick, Depressed, or Bored?
09-27-07, 10:06 pm
Filed under: Culture, Depression, Exchange Students | Tags: , , , , ,

The students have been in their new countries, including the US, for 6-7 weeks now.  They are over the initial culture shock, and they are able to communicate in their new languages.  They should feel comfortable within their host families, and have new friends.   Everything should be wonderful.  This is supposed to be “The Best Year of Their Lives”  But sometimes, it’s not.
 It’s the second wave of culture shock.  Their lives have become routine.  What the students are doing now is what they’ll be doing for the next 8-11 months.  The realization that they are living in a family with rules, the family sometimes annoys them, school is boring, and their lives are almost what it would be if they didn’t go on exchange.  Except they’d be back home with their friends, families, and pets.
Solution?  Keep them busy!  The kids should have all sorts of activities going on.  They should be playing some type of sports, or getting exercise of some type daily.  The students should join clubs-Drama, Language, 4-H, Scouts, Chess, Swim team, etc.  Most of the kids should not come home from school and stay  all night.  (Sparky, P, and Cle were all content to stay home often, but they were happy.  They weren’t homesick or bored. Husband and I also didn’t expect them to be our little friends and stay to keep us company.  Some host families want to keep the students all to themselves. That’s not healthy for anyone.) They are exchange students to learn the culture of their country.   Let them visit with another exchange student, or invite one overnight.  The student should see his counselor regularly.  The exchange program should have activities at least once a month for the kids.  The host family should plan activities with the student; they don’t have to be expensive-go for a hike, go fishing,  or yard sale shopping.  Take the student to a football or volleyball game, and permit (shove) them to sit with friends and go out with the others after the game.   Take the student to help volunteer-She can coach younger kids, he can visit senior citizens.  Anything to take their minds off of themselves.

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Sweet Note from Former Inbound
09-26-07, 11:48 pm
Filed under: Culture, Exchange Students | Tags: , , , ,

 “Thank you for this wonderful year that you have given to us. I look back and I’m just not the same girl who when to the US scared and crying. during this year  I change a lot.  I was a the little daddy girl and now I’m a young lady thanks for every thing i will go back to visit and see you.”

This sweet girl did grow a lot last year.  She has so much more self-confidence.  A big part of the fun for Husband and me is to watch the kids grow, mature, and change throughout the year.  Some of their arcs are amazing to see.



Outbound Application Advice
09-25-07, 3:17 pm
Filed under: Culture, Exchange Program, Exchange Students | Tags: , , , ,

Essay responses- Think ‘Small words, short sentences.’  You are writing this for people in other countries.  You will be interviewed here, but you will be competing in another country for a good club and host family.  Your goal is to look attractive, so your application is chosen first, not assigned last.   People who read this will speak English as a second or third language.   They will read and reread these essays.  Please be concise.  Don’t try to impress us with your vocabulary.  (I know 2 or 3 sentences aren’t an essay.  Work with me.)

  • Religion is important to some of our students, but we are a secular program.  It’s acceptable to mention your religion, but only in one, maybe 2 answers.  Please don’t include religious icons or books in your photos.
  • Don’t use acronyms or shorthand.  ‘POD,’ ‘Youth Group, or ‘Pep band’ don’t really mean anything to someone in another country.
  • Your essay answers should be no more than 3 pages, single spaced, but at least 2 pages. Use a normal font size.  Don’t try to hide short responses with a large font.  No one wants to read a tiny font because you can’t condense your answers, either.
  • Don’t write the questions out, but do number your answers.  All students worldwide complete the same application, we know the questions.  If you include the questions, we just think you’re trying to take up space.

Some typical essay answers.

  • Tell us about school and your interests.  This question covers classes.  If you’re taking college classes, explain that you are still in high school, and it’s a special program for advanced students.
  • Tell us about activities. Choose a variety of 3 or 4, then elaborate on 1 or 2 of them.  You want to seem well-rounded with an interest in a wide variety of activities such as dance, drama, a particular sport, debate, computer programming, scuba diving, stamp collecting, 4-H, Scouting, etc.
  • What are your future plans?  “I plan on attending college and study ____.   Because_____.”
  • Why do you want to be an exchange student? Good responses include wanting to learn a new language, meet new people, learn a new way of life, or travel.  Not-I want to teach other people about my culture and the USA.  You’re going to learn, not teach.
  • What are your parents occupations?  Confusing answer: My mother works on the line at Smyrna.  Huh?  Instead-my mother assembles car doors for Nissan.  No-My father is a contractor.  Try-My housing contractor father builds and remodels  houses. 
  • Tell us about trips you’ve taken out of the country.  ‘Several short trips to Canada’ is fine, but not tons of details about you, Grandpa, and cousin Jethro driving the old pickup to Niagara Falls for a few hours.    If you’ve travelled extensively in the US, tell us.  Remember, several other countries are smaller than your state.
  • What don’t you like? typically-spiders, snakes, mushrooms, cats.  not a good idea-smokers, small children, pets.
  • What are your strengths?  Good answers-patient, tolerant, responsible, social, funny, smart, easygoing, brave, willing to try new things.
  • What are your weaknesses?  Good answers-procrastinator, focus until complete, not tidy. 
  • What do you do when you aren’t in school?  Include social activities, not that you stay at home alone on the computer.  If you have a part-time job, and will help pay for your year abroad-tell us here. 
  • Describe a typical school day.  “I wake up at 6:30am, shower, and eat breakfast.    I am taking college preparatory classes.  My school day begins at 8:00am, and ends at 2:20pm.  Each class is 45 minutes long, and we eat lunch in the school cafeteria.  My chosen classes include English 4, Spanish 4, US & World History, and Physics.”  Spell all words completely.  ‘Chosen’ classes lets them know you can pick what you study here, unlike many other countries.  ‘Shower’ lets them know you expect to bathe daily.
  • Describe your house.  “My home is a typical 2 story home.  We have 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, living room, dining, room, kitchen, and family room, along with the basement and attic.  We have a nice yard in the back.  I have my own room.  I do my homework either in my room or at the kitchen table.   My school is 1 mile away, and I drive to it.” Don’t brag about a huge house, or say I am fortunate to have my own room-you may share a room in your new country, and you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.  You also don’t want to seem spoiled. 
  • Tell us about your siblings. One or 2 sentence response.  Name, age, grade in school, college major, or job, and do they live at home?  If you have pets, write about them in one additional sentence.  People want to know if you’ll fit into their family.
  • Tell us about your community.  “I live in XXX, and our nearest large cities are XXX.  My community has XXX residents, and is known for XXX.  We have XXX industries, shopping, college or something here.”  Don’t say anything negative. 
  • What is your favorite book?  Pick a book, any book.  Harry Potter is fine.  “I don’t like to read” “I don’t have time to read” or “I only read comic books” aren’t acceptable.
  • What are the most serious problems affecting teenagers today?  With problems such as war, famine, poverty, AIDs, and global warming, please don’t choose your local school levy, smoking, chastity, or teen drinking.

OTHER SUGGESTIONS: 

  • They will scrutinize your photographs for the smallest details.  Be care about your background and objects laying around.  Label your photos.  Be clear the little girl you’re holding is your Goddaughter, not your daughter.  If you don’t have street clothing on, explain why you are in costume.  People who don’t read English well will judge you by your photos.
  • Front page head-shot-no hats, props, piercings, glamour shots, sports jerseys, large jewelry, cleavage, or t-shirts with graphics.  “Neat, clean, and serious, yet friendly” is the look you need.
  • Your email address should be professional, and easy to remember for people who don’t know English.  I prefer  yourname@hotmail.com or your_name@hotmail.comMrsBradPitt@xyxit.com or BadBoyz69@yermama.com aren’t acceptable.
  • English is not one of the languages you know. 
  • Do you smoke, drink, have a bf/gf?  If you’re smart, these are all ‘no’s.’  If you have a bf/gf, people assume you’ll spend all of your time being homesick or you’ll leave early.  In some cultures, teens don’t date.  People may not want to host a smoker as they may be afraid you’ll burn down the house.
  • Allergies vs. personal preferences.  Are you allergic to dogs or do you just hate them?  People are generally respectful of vegetarians, but most other ‘restrictions’ are looked at as preferences.  If you don’t like cats, but I can’t find another family for you, you may be living with Fluffy.  If you are allergic, I’ll keep looking.

Think of yourself as a product you are selling.  Your application should reflect the best you possible.  These essays are VERY different from college application essays.  Ask someone with your program to review your application before turning it in.  Their advice may differ significantly from your teachers.



Stereotypes
09-25-07, 2:31 pm
Filed under: Culture, Exchange Program, Home | Tags: , , , , ,

US exchange students are stereotyped.  The girls are all slutty fashionista cheerleader airheads, and the guys are all huge dumb horny jocks.  Many of our students actually are band kids, drama rats, and people who know there is an entire world waiting to be explored.   Our students have to overcome Hollywood’s image of them, and prove themselves.   For some people, our students will be the first Americans they’ll meet.
Inbound students are sex-crazed, funny losers.  Sometimes they are depicted as nerdy geniuses with no social skills.   It’s so not true, but look at all the movie depictions of foreign exchange students.  Look at Fez from ‘That 70’s Show.’  The poor kid never even had a name.  ‘Fez’ stood for Foreign Exchange Student.   Many of the South American kids are asked if they live in trees, use money, or wear shoes.  Teachers have argued with students that they can’t possibly have DSL in their homes. 
When people meet exchange students, their perception changes.   They see that exchange students are individuals, not a stereotype. 
Personal note: I just finished cooking for 90 minutes making a ton of food, mostly to freeze.  I left the room for 30 seconds to type a sentence before I forgot it.  I heard a slurping sound, and feet hitting the floor.  The damn dog wolfed down half the contents of an 8×8 pyrex baking dish.  Dinner will now be roasted Doberman Pinscher.



Let’s Move to Iran!
09-24-07, 9:15 pm
Filed under: Home | Tags: , ,

 Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made a host of claims about Iran’s domestic and foreign policy in his appearances in New York Monday. The Associated Press compares his claims to what is independently known about the situation there:
About Women
AHMADINEJAD: “The freest women in the world are the women in Iran.”
REALITY CHECK: Women enjoy more rights in Iran than in some other Middle Eastern countries, but far fewer than those enjoyed in the West. Women can drive, vote, own property and run for any public office except the presidency. However, they have to by law cover their hair, avoid body-hugging clothing on pain of arrest and fine by a court. The court testimony of two women is equal to that of one man and women can’t get a passport for foreign travel without the permission of their father. A woman cannot divorce easily, while a man can divorce his wife whenever he wants.
Girls are considered adults at the age of 9 while boys become adults at 15. If a man and a woman are injured in an accident, the man gets double the punitive damages.
About Homosexuals
AHMADINEJAD: “In Iran, we don’t have homosexuals, like in your country. We don’t have that in our country. In Iran, we do not have this phenomenon. I don’t know who’s told you that we have it.”
REALITY CHECK: Mahmoud Asgari, 16, and Ayaz Marhoni, 18, were hanged publicly in 1995 in the city of Mashhad on charges of raping younger boys. They said before their executions that they were not aware that homosexual acts were punishable by death. In 2003, a 16-year-old girl said to be suffering from a psychological disorder was executed in Neka, a town in northern Iran, on charges of having an illegal sexual relationship.



Visa Denial-End of Story
09-23-07, 7:38 pm
Filed under: Exchange Program, hosting, Inbounds Inbounds | Tags: , ,

ELI ARRIVED TODAY! 
Happy  Dance
I hugged that boy long and hard. 
He had a huge grin, and his hostfamily is so happy. 

Many people contributed to his successful journey, and I am grateful.



Blog Category Update
09-23-07, 10:44 am
Filed under: Home | Tags: ,

Just when I get a little confidant that I understand blogging, something new (to me) comes along.  WordPress has decided that ‘Tags and categories are not the same thing.’   Categories are supposed to be permanent and few, while tags cans be unique and plentiful.  I understand the concept, and will go back through posts over the next several days to add real tags and delete some categories.  Hopefully, it’ll be easier to find posts on particular topics. 

EDIT: I redid September, June and July, but my tag cloud doesn’t reflect the changes. ~sigh~  For example, I have a category ’07 inbounds’, and changed Eli, Ian, Che, and Mia to tags.

EDIT: FINI.