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. 🙂


The 4-D’s, Part 1
10-19-07, 5:58 pm
Filed under: Exchange Program, Exchange Students | Tags: , , , , , , ,

The 4-D’s are NO drinking, driving, dating, or drugs.  They are supposedly the automatic termination violations.
The 4-D’s are drilled deeply into each exchange student’s head before and during exchange.  FES’s can recite them in their sleep.  The 4-D’s are probably the first words they learn in their new languages after “Where’s the bathroom?” “Thank you”, and “Fuck you.”  (Exchange students can all curse in at least 5 languages.)

  No Dating-The D’s are supposed to be shorthand, so FES’s can easily remember them.  Some adults interpret this strictly.  They don’t think the kids should be dating at all.  Obviously, they are idiots. (my blog, my opinions) The kids are told the rule is so they have a wide range of friends, and don’t spend all of their time with one person.  Others will tell FES it’s so they don’t get their hearts broken when they have to go home.  I think it’s just so no one gets knocked up.  “Be careful, and protect yourself.” is my unofficial advice.
  No Drinking-Somewhat flexible.  No one says anything when hostparents permit a glass of wine with dinner.  If FES is arrested, she’s going home.  FES once was arrested by the Liquor Control agents.  FES2 told FES1 to lie and assert she was 18, that it was better than being a minor.  That caused an even worse mess.  She was drinking a mix of vodka and root beer in a Gatorade bottle, the officer saw her drinking in the parking lot of a college bar.  She didn’t understand why he ‘picked on’ her.  Uh, Gatorade don’t make brown!
 No Driving-No discussion, do not pass ‘Go’, go straight home.  It’s a safety and liability issue.  Many countries don’t permit teens to drive until they’re 18.  We have strict laws in the US, they aren’t merely suggestions like in many parts of the world.  New drivers following new rules would be irresponsible of any program.  No one wants to ever call a parent to say your child has been in an accident.  FES’s don’t have car insurance or valid driver’s licenses.  They are not permitted to take Driver’s Ed, either.
 No Drugs-No discussion, automatic termination.  I’ve heard of students taking drugs across borders.  How stupid do you have to be to go through customs with marijuana, or to think a joint or 2 are great farewell gifts? 
 No Shit-Some of the little darlings look at the 4-D’s as challenges.  Who can break the most in the shortest amount of time?  at the same time?  FES’s get brave at the end of their stays when they think they’re going home soon anyway.

The 4-D’s, Part 2

 The 4-D’s are NO Drinking, Driving, Dating, or Drugs.  (This post is long, so Part 1 will be later in the week.  I started from the end, and worked backward.  See non-linear to the left.)

Just wait for the howling when the students to find out there may be more D’s added.  You’ll be able to hear it around the world.
5-Decorating or Defacing-no tattoos or piercings. 
6-Downloading- no porn or illegal music.
 Tattoos & piercings-The students are permitted to arrive with piercings and tattoos, but won’t be permitted to get any more while on exchange.  So how’s that going to work?  Will they strip down each kid upon arrival, and call out all ‘defacings’ to some guy holding a body outline on a clipboard?   I won’t ever give permission for a tongue piercing (Sparky wanted one so much, too.) because the kids are learning a new language, and they move their mouths in new ways.  It’s hard to enunciate clearly with a tongue ring, plus the dangers of cracking a tooth and stretching the hole.   Tattoos have been a right of passage probably since the first exchange student went abroad.  I prefer to pretend I didn’t see anything new.   Once students are 18, they’re legal adults, and I don’t feel I can stop them.  I certainly wouldn’t ship someone home early because of a new tattoo or piercing.  I would make sure mom and dad back home give their written permission for a minor for any body modification.
Downloads-More of the students are taking laptops with them on exchange, so this may not not be able to be monitored.  We tell the students that they can’t download ‘free’ music here in the states, that the host family may be sued.  I gave Sparky an Itunes card so he could download songs ‘free’ to him.  I hate giving the porn speech.  To my knowledge, no exchange student has ever downloaded porn, it magically appears on the computer.  I usually tell them that no matter how cleverly they think they’ve hidden the files, someone found them, so knock it off.  A  friend handled the porn problem really well-he told the kids no one but him was permitted to clear the computer’s history.  Great solution.  I hate porn on my computer, and I really hated all the times Paris Hilton’s sex tape appeared somehow.

Alternate version:
Do it
Don’t get caught
Do it again
Deny it/Don’t leave evidence
‘Don’t leave evidence’ means no photos.  A girl was terminated for serious dating a few years ago because someone saw her and her boyfriend ‘sharing their culture’ on her camera’s memory card.