Wry Exchange

Orientation Speech
08-28-08, 1:16 am
Filed under: Exchange Program, Inbounds Inbounds | Tags: ,

 I was asked to give ‘The Speech’ to the newbies at Orientation this past weekend.  I had about 15 minutes to prepare.  That tells you a lot about the way our program doesn’t works for the last few years.  My mind went blank except for hygiene.  Hygiene issues were brought up by host parents earlier.  (Husband and I asked what problems, if any, they were experiencing with their students.)

I left my laptop and totebag at home.  Husband didn’t have any materials, neither did Friend.  We weren’t involved in planning the weekend, and we didn’t have a committee meeting scheduled.  We didn’t think we needed anything.  Never assume.

Between the three of us, we scrawled out a list.  I showed it to the person who asked me to speak, and asked him to scratch out anything he didn’t want me to cover.  He wanted to cover the sexual harassment and big no-no’s.  No driving, drinking, dating, or drugs.  The “4-D’s”

Crap.  I just remembered now I forgot to cover piercings and tattoos.  Just as well, because I don’t care.  I always pretend that I don’t see any new body modifications, but they’re against the rules.  I remembered because ‘decoration’ or ‘desecration’ is another ‘D.’

In an hour, I covered: Travel, travel policy, visits from parents, no visits from bf/gf, emergency funds, J-1 Visa means you attend school, pay attention, do homework, and try to obtain decent grades. Speak English.  If arrested, you go home, don’t drink alcohol at parties, don’t stay with people who are drinking, be nice to your host family, work out small problems before they grow, don’t put stupid photos on MySpace or Facebook, say ‘please’, ‘thank you’, and ‘you’re welcome.’  Mom is the boss in the US, you may have problems with sibling jealousy, going to church, don’t kick the cat-they WILL know, let the dog back in, close the doors when you leave the house, you will have a curfew-quit whining about it.  Kids here don’t really dance, we don’t have pubs for you.  If someone asks you to do something or go somewhere, try it at least once.  Even if you think it’s stupid or juvenile because they may not ask again.  Learn to have fun in a new way. Become ‘one of us.’ Don’t wear the same clothes back-to-back at school, people will notice.  Wash clothing often.  Homesickness.  You represent your country.  Hygiene.  Americans are shallow, and may say ‘Hi’ one day and ignore you the next.  Don’t mistake ‘friendly’ for ‘friendship.’  When we say ‘American’ we mean citizens of the US, and don’t intend to insult other Americans.  We don’t know what else to call ourselves.  Americans don’t know geography.  Try not to be insulted when asked “Do you have birds in Italy?” and “Do you have a pet monkey?”

I tried to keep them interested, and be humorous. I thought it was a good discussion.  Chef participated, as well as several of my former students.  I know I talked for an hour because when I sat down, a student asked me how long we had been in the meeting.    He said he was very bored.   I thought I did well until I was instantly humbled. 🙂


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