Wry Exchange


Exchange Students are People too
05-06-08, 11:43 pm
Filed under: Exchange Students, hosting, Inbounds Inbounds | Tags:

  Well, of course they are people, Captain Obvious.  Sometimes I feel that host families and counselors forget that the kids are individuals.  They expect an exchange student, not a person. 

I see it in stereotypes.  Slovak girls are slutty exhibitionists, Slovak boys are nerdy and studious.  French FES are arrogant.  Brasilian girls are gorgeous, while the boys are immature.  Japanese FES are shy.   US girls are dumb, slutty cheerleaders, and the boys are dumb, horny football players.   The students are typecast before anyone reads their applications or meets them.   We try to get people to see it’s silly.  We’ll ask counselors if the student they sponsored was a stereotype from ‘American Pie.’  They’ll say “Of course not!  He’s Valedictorian, works 20 hours a week, volunteers at an animal shelter, and has a Brown deferment.”  “So why do you think the other stereotype is valid then?” 

It really bothers me when an individual student is effected.  Someone was a counselor a few years ago for a girl from Feslandia. (I love my made-up country! I’m easily amused.)  This year she wanted to be a hostmom of a girl from Feslandia.  The first girl was smart, witty, pretty, popular, and arrived with great English skills.  This year’s Feslandette wasn’t too English proficient, kinda dumpy, not too bright, and was scared to death to be away from home.  The family didn’t change their expectations, and took it out on the girl.  They wanted her sent home!  They said she was a bad FES, the school had problems with her, she didn’t make friends, and no one in town wanted to host her.   The poor girl didn’t understand why she was unwanted, she was trying so hard to be a good FES.  She was moved to a different city, and is thriving.  Her English is much improved, her new family adores her, and she has many friends. 

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8 Comments so far
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We’ve had 2 boys from Feslandia Central and 2 from Feslandia East. (Different years of course) The two FESE were similar in many ways that can be attributed to general culture, but obviously unique people. The two from FESC are night and day from each other and our new incoming FESC boy seems again another kind of different from the other two. We’ve had a FESG son who showed some “stereotypical” culture traits but also set many on their ear because he’s more than just a rep from his culture. I was warned by many about hosting a boy from FESI because of a cultural reptuation, but he turned out to be one of the most peaceful, focused, generous young men I’ve ever met. Our first son was from FESlakia and he’s sporty, spirited, red headed and mad about hockey. After all these years, I still hear from him 3 more more times a month, even if it is just a 2 minute IM chat saying hey, I’m thinking of you and miss you. Sometimes it is an online version of the long chatty talks we had about life, the universe, and everything while he was here. We are pushing our cultural comfort envelope with hosting from a country I’d been a bit nervous even considering in the past. The cultural reputation had just been so strong in talking to other host parents and meeting their youth from that country. This year, as always though, we looked for the person not the country. This spring it seemed we are meant to host a boy from that country along with a boy from FESCentral again. I am preparing myself to be extra patient and explain things that I’m sure will be uncommon for the boy from the new country, but so much is uncommon no matter where a youth lives before coming here. 6 months from now I maybe counting more grey hairs than I had before and wonder what was I thinking or I may be pleasantly surprised and pleased with the amazing new son that has joined our family and scoff at my silly anxiety. Each year of hosting brings a totally different dynamic. We as a host family are some different from the year before and our new sons also make it very different. Isn’t that one of the reasons for hosting in the first place? A love of youth, wild sense of adventure and a strong masochistic streak that only having 3 teen boys in a house can satisfy. 🙂

Comment by ARHostmom

FESlakia-I love that! We love hosting, too. I hate July for the farewells, but come August we gear up to meet the new kids.
Some stereotypes are true to a point, but each person is unique-family, education, values, money, neighborhood, religion, personality and more combine with culture to produce a person.

Comment by Wry

The problem with stereotypes is that we stereotype the wrong things. It’s the small stuff that can be generalized, and these wonderful, small tidbits are what make up culture.

Host parents can easily miss out on the best of a student’s culture. I have found that by traveling to visit my students, little quirks that I dismissed as mundane in the U.S. suddenly become important and interesting when viewed within the borders of the student’s native land. It’s like a light bulb suddenly being turned on… “Well, of course they said that!” or “That’s why they reacted that way!” It’s what makes them French (or any nationality) as opposed to Chinese, Brazilian, or Russian. It’s also a deeper level understanding that I wish all host parents could experience.

Comment by Theo

The lightbulb moments are just the best! We love those. It’s another reason for parents to visit their kids when they go out on exchange, too.

Comment by Wry

Why do I get a frowny face?

Comment by Theo

’cause i think the other thing looks girly. 🙂 Thanks for giving me my idea for a post today. I’m refining a post about generalizations and stereotypes, and it wasn’t ready by midnight.

Comment by Wry

So now I am a white space with indeterminate yellow markings?

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just messing with you!!!

Comment by Theo

Nope, now you’re a weird little helicopter. hahaha. That yellow one WAS ugly.

Comment by Wry




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