Wry Exchange

This Host Family Sucked!, Part 2
12-30-07, 12:44 pm
Filed under: Culture, Exchange Program, Exchange Students | Tags: ,

I posted an article about a strange host family, called This Host Family Sucked! a while ago.  A friend of the host family left a comment on Christmas Eve about the student and his experience.   Being the mature adult I am, I just couldn’t let it go. 

I just now stumbled on this but I have a bit of first hand knowledge of this situation with this boy because I was involved. The majority of what he writes about is slanted and simply untrue. 1) He was unhappy because it wasn’t a good fit for him: this was entirely his fault (i will explain this) and 2) his career goal (from my understanding after talking to him) is to be a journalist. ;-)    If he wasn’t happy, he should have asked to move.

I was hosting during this same time in the general area with a student he came here with, AND his “host” was at that time (and currently still is) the rep for the organization our students were with. The area rep shouldn’t be hosting.  It’s a conflict.  If the student has a problem, who does he go to?  This is a perfect example.  This family has very good credentials and have been hosting students for a long time. (how many people would do that???)  Many!   She (his rep knows very well the pitfalls, risks and rewards and chose to do it anyway. Also, there was always plenty of people up the chain that were easy to get ahold of and that they all were told and knew about through monthly check-up phone calls, meetings, literature and email (they could also call the higher rep at any time).   Ooooh. A monthly phone call to see how the kid is doing.  It’s better than nothing, but not much.  Does the area rep get paid, either in money or ‘prize points?’ 

I only became acquainted with his host (our rep) through hosting with this organization. I no longer host and I also have not kept in touch with her.

Monthly follow-up calls were taken and documented by a higher rep. and the host and student were each asked privately a series of questions about their situation. I can also say that before any student is placed with a family a detailed profile is completed and signed by their parents. Many questions and choices such as religious preferences are asked on this form. It is not taken lightly. The student has the option of checking the box that states they will not stay with a family that is not of their religous faith or attends church, etc. or that it simply doesn’t matter to them. He quite obviously stated on the form that it didn’t matter. He should not have taken this lightly because he could have been placed with any other faith (jewish, muslim, buddhist, etc. My first choice declined because we weren’t Catholic so I had to choose another. Not a problem.   Checking a ‘doesn’t matter’ box shows tolerance to me.  I don’t think anyone would expect to stay with a family who expected him to be a missionary for them.  It doesn’t come up often.

All students and hosts are respectfully given plenty of choices as to the type of people they want to live with. Mine unfortunately lied on her profile (which was signed by her parents btw) that she didn’t drink or smoke.  Typical for an exchange student application.   They should have a “hard drugs” question on it too btw. Again, no one is going to be honest with these questions because they cut their chances. They are welcome to go back home anytime however. No one is being held prisoner.

My family and I were at the airport and did not notice his hosts “wielding a bible”. However, when he and our student arrived together they were both a bit arrogant acting which would later become quite revealing. Ours barely looked at us and didn’t want us to touch her suitcase.   Could she have been shy? or didn’t understand you?  They are from a different culture.   I don’t know about his friend situation but he could have made plenty at school. I do know he kept in touch with our student as well. He also had his laptop and attended school. His school (different from where ours attended) wasn’t the best but it wasn’t the worst either. His hosts were very faithful Christians who attended a non- denominational church. I also cannot imagine them talking about personal matters with him. However, perhaps some advice was given to him at some point that didn’t sit well with him. He was living with them afterall and 18 year olds do not like being told anything. Families talk, give advice, and you get to know the family and student very well. Most state that they want to stay with a family to learn the family life, language and culture. We eventually came to realize that ours was already very familiar with the language and culture and was here for her own personal selfish motives.   WTF?  It’s a year, of course the kids come for themselves.  That’s normal.  How can someone be familiar with our culture if she’s never lived here?  TV and movies aren’t a substitute for real life experience.

I absolutely do not agree that a student should be in the same community if they choose to leave. It is bad enough while they are living with you that they have the capability (and often do) disparage you to everyone at school and in your community that they talk to.   Students should be discreet about why they moved, and so should the family.   But just because a family didn’t work out, the student shouldn’t be penalized by moving away from his friends and school.  They also (both) were heavy computer users and I found that mine had a secret web page where she had my family’s pictures up, and was regularly reporting (and disparaging) everything regarding what we were doing, eating, the school, the people..and also only putting up “slanted” pics of weird looking things and stating that was the norm.  Most FES’s have a blog or keep a journal on Fotolog, Windows Live, Skyblog, MySpace, etc. They share their experiences with friends and family back home.  She came extremely close to getting kicked out when I discovered all the horrible commentary (with only about 9 weeks left). She got very lucky on that one. We have since realized we made a mistake in keeping her. I also discovered Michael’s little article about two weeks after it went out. Let that simply be commentary to the type of person he is. Even if half of it were true, it is horrible and appalling for him to reveal personal details and betray a couple that sacrificed, kept him in their home for 4 1/2 months or so and gave up their privacy in doing so.   Why should he be loyal to people who were horrid to him?  It’s a cautionary tale.   His article was in a German paper, not the host family’s local paper.  He didn’t mention them by name, or identify them any closer than ‘living in Winston-Salem, NC.’

Also, I met Michael from several out ings and keeping him in our home overnight. Both these two were quite graciously entertained with plenty of travel, dining, field trips and experiences much of which was at the host’s expense (hosts were required to pay for all meals). We personally sacrificed much to keep ours. They were spoiled and nothing we did made them treat us any better. They seemed to be used to getting and doing anything they wanted and did not like being told ANYTHING or having to help around the house or lift a finger. They must see stuff on MTV and they think its going to be like that here…one big party.   So why did you keep entertaining them? Why didn’t you sit them down, and have a chat about cultural differences and expectations?  Maybe your interests and the students were just very far apart.  Why didn’t the area rep talk to them?

I would like to say no one “let Michael down” but Michael. He and anyone else should make sure they state clearly the type of family they will or won’t stay with on their dossiers and profile forms!!! Who expects to live with religious wackos?  It’s not something kids think about.  Uh, let’s see, OK-no religious freaks, pedophiles, porn producers, drug dealers, dog fighters, UFO nuts, survivalists, and oh yeah, no gun runners. But I forgot to list ‘no pirates.’  Damn.  Please do not lie. It isn’t easy to find host families, and I have heard of hosts that aren’t the greatest also, but in this case, I know for a fact he was with good people with good intentions. You didn’t live with the people.  Until you live with someone, you really don’t know how they live.  He lost credibility with me due to some of his statements in the article. 

As soon as he wanted to make a move, I was personally asked if I would “take him in” and that wasn’t until sometime around mid to late Dec.  That’s a no-no, you were already hosting one student, and the other student was female-another bad idea.  If he asked to leave earlier than that, I think I would have known about it since my student was always in touch with him via email. I asked and emailed around and my student asked her friends and teachers if they would take him in and no one obliged. Again, reveals the fact that not many people are willing to open up their hearts and homes in such a huge and sacrificing way.   And he did go back home over the holiday, but wanted to return and finish which was his choice. 

It is unfortunate that when you open up your home to strangers, give up your privacy, offer them your lifestyle, family, friends, school and resources free of charge one would think you would at least receive a little gratitude in return. Instead all we got was betrayal and a bad impression of Germans.  What did the kids get out of it? It sounds like everyone was miserable.

One more thing, my family had hosted previous to this (short term) and had a much better experience. I would most definitely advise anyone to host only short term and if possible in the summer. Also, I do know that alot of churches seem to be involved in exchange student programs and try to get members of their congregations to host. It seems to be a more successful way for the organizations to solicit for host families which are much fewer than the amount of students that want to come here. Studying here means everything to alot of these students (or at least their parents) because getting into a good university means everything to them and studying abroad is the path to it. I hope this helps explain this terribly slanted story.   blah, blah, blah.


3 Comments so far
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I just got to say, Wry I think you are a perfect person to be working with exchange students. You actually listen to us and say that we should be respected. Unlike so many (I’m talking about my program) who act like everything is the student’s fault and when it is time for a student to move, obviously it is because they were not trying hard enough to please there oh-so-perfect-welcoming-nice host family.
I wish I could translate your website into every language and make all the people in exchange programs read it!!!
I’m a little wound up as I am now changing host families(again), but still you comments are so right for us. If only you were the representative for every student!! But that would involve lots of cloning and it probably wouldn’t work out perfectly. >.<
THanks for making and keeping up with this website!!

Comment by Chelsea

Chelsea, Thank you! You made my day.

Comment by Wry

That’s great news! For a while I have been feeling like I am crushing everyone’s day –changing host families sure can suck– but today (I was told it would be my last day in the school I’m in– but nothing for sure) many people said nice things and that my host family is nuts and all of them expected me to leave(that’s great) because no one could see the family having an exchange student. Granted they are getting another one and everyone who knows them(small town=a lot of the school) cannot understand. At least I’m not the only confused one! ^^

Comment by Chelsea

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