Wry Exchange


Avoiding Early Return

 Students should know as much as possible about their new country.   We’ve had students go to India and be surprised to eat with their hands, and see poor people.   Do your homework.  If you’re going to Taiwan, you should know they study, study, study all the time, and as a result have immature social skills.  Going to Australia doesn’t guarantee you’ll be living near the beach working on your tan all year.  You could be on a sheep ranch in the middle of nowhere.  If you’re a vegetarian, Argentina may not be the best place for you.

Do your own homework.  Don’t go to Fesland because someone else liked it.   What are your goals, hopes, likes, dislikes?  What do you want out of this year?  I interviewed a girl who wanted Australia and nowhere else.  As we got into the interview, her personality didn’t jibe with “Australia” to the interviewers.  She was conservative, religious, serious, wanted to learn a language, didn’t like the beach, and didn’t want a ‘blow-off’ year.  Her reason for wanting Australia?  She watched ‘The Borrowers Down Under’ at age 12, and always wanted to go.   A cartoon influenced her.  We talked to her, gave her time to think, and sent her to Austria.  She loved it, and it was the right choice.  She wouldn’t have lasted a month in Australia.

Parents should watch what they say.  We’ve had too many kids come home early because their parents missed them.  Personally, I think it’s selfish of the parents.  Kids will call home to vent about their new family, school, homesickness, language issues, etc.  It’s the parents job to listen, offer support, and suggestions.  Help them learn how to help themselves.  Please don’t tell FES he can come home if it’s too hard.  I know it’s killing you, but remind FES this is what he wanted, it’s only for 9-12 months and he can do it.   I can’t tell you how many panicked parent phone calls I’ve received over the years only to call FES and they’re fine.   The kids are bewildered until they realize they just tell their parents the bad stuff.  It’s common for the parents and me to have different stories from the kids.

Listen to the exchange volunteers.  We know.  If I tell you Feslandia has no support, and you’ll be on your own, don’t whine that no one is there to help you.  I tried to talk you out of it, but you insisted you were 18, very independent, and fought to go there.   If I tell you Fesica is sexist, don’t whine when people pinch your butt and treat you like a toy.   If I tell you Fesway is homogeneous, and you will stand out because you’re blonde or black, don’t complain because people stare at you all the time.   If you have SAD or depression, know that Northern Europe may make your symptoms worse.  If you’re a free spirit, but insist on going to Japan, don’t complain about all the rules.

Be honest.  I’m not being nosy, I’m trying to help.  Tell me if you have medical restrictions. We’ll work with you.  Depression is fairly common, it doesn’t count against you.  I can tell you which places are easier for gay students.  I want what’s best for you.  If you tell me you want to go to France, tell me why.  I may suggest Belgium to you.  At least consider it.  Belgium placements for our program are more urban with better public transportation, and less hours at school.   If you’ve already graduated high school, you’d probably have more fun in Belgium.

Don’t choose Fesvokia because your friend loved it.  Every exchange student thinks his country is the best.  Do your own research.  Think. Ask questions.

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3 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I agree with everything. That is all I have to say. Once again a wonderful and informational post.

Comment by Nicole

f you tell me you want to go to France, tell me why. I may suggest Belgium to you. At least consider it. Belgium placements for our program are more urban with better public transportation, and less hours at school.

i wish i had you to help me chose a country. i chose france b/c i spoke a little french. i hate it and that one sentence about Belgium sounds so much more fun than what i got myself into.

Comment by sarah wilson

I wish my program had done placement more like this. I’m in Germany, and after being here for 8 months I still feel like it was the wrong country choice.

Comment by Kirsa




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