Wry Exchange


AFS Starving Exchange Student, part 2
03-01-08, 2:48 am
Filed under: Exchange Program, Exchange Students, Outbounds Outbounds | Tags: ,

  Thanks to the starving AFS student, my blog had it’s two highest traffic days ever on Thursday and Friday.   People seem to be googling ‘exchange student horror stories,’ and Wry Exchange pops up.  Flattering? Not so much.  I love volunteering and helping exchange students.  My husband and I have been involved with exchange students for almost 20 years.  I believe in my program.   I write about problems, and I bitch complain a lot.  I do want  readers, but not because some kid wasn’t bright mature enough to ask for help.  And yes, I’d say the same if he was a girl.
Jonathan McCullum’s story is sad, but it’s not typical.  I have many questions.  How well was he trained before he left home?  Was the host family interviewed, and a background check done?  Were they hosting for money?  Were they hosting because a child of theirs was an exchange student?  Why didn’t Jonathan’s counselor notice he was losing so much weight?  Why didn’t he move? If the proposed second host family’s location wasn’t safe, why didn’t he stay with a school friend, exchange student, teacher, or his counselor?  Why didn’t he just stay with friends on weekends so he’d at least be well fed a few days each week?  Why didn’t he buy street food?  No one at school brought him food or took him home for lunch?  Why didn’t other exchange students help him if he couldn’t help himself?
His parents spent a lot of money with AFS.  They should’ve treated it as any other large purchase, and expressed their dissatisfaction with the program early on.  They did not get what they paid for.   With high speed internet, they should’ve been able to check on him  with a webcam or called using Skype.  Even if the program discouraged parents from calling their underage child, we all know the kid will be on the computer as often as possible.  

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10 Comments so far
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I volunteer with a not for profit exchange student program (completely different organization than AFS)in Northeast Missouri, Southeast Iowa, and parts of Illinois. I MUST agree that this boy had to have some way in which to avoid getting to these extremes. Students have internet, have calling cards, have money, and are able to reach out to counselors, teachers, and friends. I do wonder where his representative was though? Didn’t someone from the organization check on him monthly via government requirements? What did their monthly reports say about him? All in all, I believe if he was mature enough to go into this program, he should have been mature enough to get out when the situation required such measures.

Comment by Samantha

yes BLAME the victim

YOU ASSHOLEs

who have no clue what malnutrtion does to ones faculties!

Comment by nick

I go to school with Jonathan McCullum and his brother. He is a honest, good natured guy. I don’t think people understand the story, unless you know him. He’s great and luckily he is doing better.

Comment by Taylor

I’m glad to hear he’s doing well.
My personal interest in his story is because this is the time of year that next year’s students SHOULD be going through training to prepare for their year abroad. Students and parents should be prepared to ask tough questions, and keep asking until they receive answers. The students’ programs should take care of the kids and keep in close contact both here and abroad. I don’t think parents should be told to back off, and not keep in contact with their child as often as they and the student wish.

Comment by Wry

My son died on a People to People Student Ambassador Trip to Japan last year. He was denied healthcare when he asked for a hospital. People to People to presents themselves as part of the US DOS but they are not even a sponsor. Jonathon was a victim. My son was victim. There are federal laws but no authority to enforce the laws. We are working on the T HILL BILL for Safety Standards to protect youth who travel. Please visit http://www.tylerhill.org and learn more.

Comment by Sheryl Hill

My daughter is currently in Italy with AFS and we have been very frustrated and disappointed with the program. Even though she has a great host family and can communicate with us online, she still often feels isolated and abandoned. AFS discourages families from communicating regularly and only checks in once a month with students. When she complained once, she was told to “gather her courage” and that was weeks after her complaint. These programs have very little oversight and it is amazing that there have not been more major problems. I will never recommend AFS and wish they were more willing to work on their program rather than covering up.

Comment by Anonymous

My daughter is currently in Italy with AFS and we have been very frustrated and disappointed with the program. Even though she has a great host family and can communicate with us online, she still often feels isolated and abandoned. AFS discourages families from communicating regularly and only checks in once a month with students. When she complained once, she was told to “gather her courage” and that was weeks after her complaint. These programs have very little oversight and it is amazing that there have not been more major problems. I will never recommend AFS and wish they were more willing to work on their program rather than covering up.

Comment by Barbara Liles

I am sorry that your family isn’t having a good experience. I feel some programs charge a whole lot of money for not much in return. Contact monthly isn’t enough. What do they say to you when you complain to AFS in the states? Italy is a tough place to be an exchange student with many programs. It’s so popular that they always have kids who want to go no matter how little they are cared for.
Threaten to write to CSIET, that will get their attention. That’s evil and drastic, but how upset are you?

Comment by Wry

I am upset because I know what it could be. I’ve been involved as a host family here in the USA with a college level program for many years. (At least 4 sets of students for 10 months each.) The difference in the programs is painful. My daughter has endured a year where she has been left pretty much alone in a house in a boring suburb. The school has given her little support or attention (no books, no work!) and I’m impressed she still has a sense of humor and has not gone AWOL. It is such a waste. When we complained, all we got was stalling. I think AFS has gone corporate and forgotten the students. They have such a nice website, though. Too bad so much of it is lies.

Comment by Barbara Liles

Our website is pretty crappy. We are a small independant subsidery of a larger parent group. We get a student in for each one we send out. It’s a good way to keep closer contact; we know the families and students on both sides of the exchange. The student is somewhere in our area, most of the time not with the family who sent their child out. Can she ask for a transfer to a different town? Can she move in with friends? Go higher up the food chain until you get someone willing to help you. Write to the State Department, send a letter to the editor. The threat of publicity may make them move and take care of your daughter.

Comment by Wry




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