Wry Exchange

Today Was a Success
02-19-09, 2:53 am
Filed under: Exchange Students, Outbounds Outbounds | Tags: , ,

 I rock!  I never say that, I usually bitch and moan.  But today was a great day.   I placed a student in his first choice country.  Sounds like something I do several times a year, no big deal.  

It was special for several reasons.  “Fesland” is super popular, and they typically set their exchanges by January 1.   Fesland isn’t one of my countries;  I don’t know anything about the culture, and have no interest in ever visiting.   Fesland is someone else’s responsibility.   I respected the other volunteer, and trusted her for many years.   She never told me she couldn’t get the kid in, but just assumed the student wouldn’t mind going to Feslandia instead of Fesland.   It’s like if I couldn’t get someone into Mexico, but Canada is still North America, you don’t mind, do you? 

This student is exceptionally well suited for Fesland.   The exchange could’ve been set up in November.  Something seemed ‘off’ to me.  I stepped in to try to place FES.  There are 35 separate programs in Fesland, and I contacted every.single.one.  Today one agreed to host my FES.   I let someone else tell the student. 

Hardly anyone will ever know what I did, or how much work it was.  Husband joked FES better not complain about anything next year.  Hah.  He’s a kid, there will be problems.  But not today.


Ice Cream & FES
05-10-08, 12:47 am
Filed under: Exchange Students, Inbounds Inbounds | Tags: ,

 FES has been here for nine months, and is almost 19 years old. 
Me: Wanna stop for ice cream?
FES: Sure!
Me: What would you like?
FES: A waffle cone.
Me: OK, what ice cream flavor?
~Crickets chirping~ and chirping…
Me: ???
FES: Chocolate.
Me: OK.  (tells the counterperson because FES’s don’t talk to servers.)  I give FES the cone from the server.  (Because FES’s don’t take items from servers, either.)
FES: ???
Me: What’s wrong?
FES:  It doesn’t look like the picture.  😦
Me:  That’s because the picture is a different flavor.  (White-house-vanilla with maraschino cherries.)
FES: Oh. 😦

Maybe you had to be there.  Husband and I just rolled our eyes.  How could you think a chocolate cone is going to come out white and red?  It was just the silliest thing.  Just a typical evening with FES.

EDIT: The cone FES ate had more ice cream than the one pictured.

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. 

Passport? What Passport?
05-04-08, 11:39 pm
Filed under: Exchange Students | Tags: ,

  All FES’s should know where their passport is at all times.  I recommend the students keep it safely with them. For some students, that means locked safely in their luggage or kept in their sock drawer.  For others, the host family keeps it with their important papers or in their safe.   My program strongly recommends the students give their passport to their counselors.  I am not comfortable with this suggestion.   I would never give up my passport.   I don’t ask my kids to hand over their passports to me. 

Students should obtain a government issued ID card in their host country, both here and abroad.  Their passports shouldn’t be used on a regular basis, but kept safely at home.   All students should have color copies of their passport Visa page, ID page, and other travel documents.  For students coming to the US, that includes the DS-2019.  Students should leave one copy with their natural parents, and keep another set with them.

Telling FES to keep his passport safe isn’t the same as knowing the kid understands and obeys.  One of my students didn’t take his passport out of his cargo pants pocket after returning from Canada.  His hostmom washed it.  I’ll check pockets, but would never think to check a leg pocket.  I don’t think many hostmoms even check pockets at all, especially ones with other children in the family, it would take too long.  The washed passport actually came through quite well.  A few of the stamps were faded out, and FES was a little pissy, but it was his own fault.

Another FES packed all of her belongings to return to her country.  Everything was in the car, the flight was in 4 hours, and she couldn’t find her passport!  (Why on earth she left that for the absolute last thing before walking out of the house is beyond me.  She was actually a very bright girl.)    She called me.  I checked online.  These are the steps we took.  1-Call the airline.  Cancel the flight.  If she had just missed her flight, she would’ve lost the ticket.  She didn’t have to rebook immediately, but it gave her breathing room.  2-Call home, and tell the parents.  3-Keep looking.  She never found it.  4-Go online, and find out the requirements for passport replacement.  Each country is different, and rules can change.   FES never found her passport, and had to replace it.  Her parents had to FEDx her birth certificate and other original papers from home.  She had to go to her consulate in New York City in person with her school transcript, and her exchange student papers.  Her return home was delayed for 2 weeks because of her carelessness.


CSIET-Not Important? Grr
04-18-08, 8:28 pm
Filed under: Exchange Program, Inbounds Inbounds | Tags: ,

 We’ve dropped out of CSIET.  (Council on Standards for International Educational Travel) CSIET is a nonprofit program that oversees exchange student programs.   My program won’t be listed as an approved program next year.  To me, CSIET is a seal of approval that we meet the standards of a well-run program.  I’m not happy about it.  
In this state, FES programs must be a member of CSIET for FESs to play varsity sports.  The kids almost all play varsity sports in the Fall, it’s a fantastic way for them to make friends.  Sports help our students get exercise, find friends, and give them something to do in the beginning.
Even better, we didn’t discuss the decision.  A few of the older men made the decision, then told the rest of us at a meeting.  It’s too late to do anything about it.  They explained it would cost too much money and time in order to comply.  I realize it’s a lot of work to compile all the information CSIET requests, but we’ve always thought it was very important for our students.   No wonder we argue all the time, we don’t work together as a committee focused on the kids.
This decision will impact our future exchanges.  We’ll lose some exchanges because the kids can’t play varsity sports.  The argument that the kids can play JV or just practice isn’t strong.
 Please see my previous CSIET post.

Skin Color-Pale is Preferable?
04-07-08, 10:11 pm
Filed under: Culture, Exchange Students, Inbounds Inbounds | Tags: , ,

 I read a horrible story today about a man sentenced to two years for driving wife to suicide over her dark skin.  It reminded me of how many of my former South American and Asian exchange students prize pale complexions.  The students grow up learning that ‘pale is best.’  They come here to the states for a year where boys tan for the prom, and students vie to see who can develop the darkest tan.  Within a short period of time, the FESs join in, and are proud of their darker skin.  They all compare arms to see who ‘wins.’
Then, they return home.  Their friends laugh at them.  Their moms are horrified.  More than a few of the girls have been forced to take skin bleaching pills.  I had heard of skin lightening/brightening/bleaching creams, but PILLS?  ew!  There are complete product lines, including soap and cosmetics.
This is from the website ‘Race and Gender‘ about why women want to lighten their skin. There are so many things at work here: an ancient idea that says that women with very pale skin are not laborers; that those with darker skin have native blood, and that those who are dark are low-class.
Read this New York Times article from last May about skin lightening products.  It’s interesting for many reasons including Unilever selling lightening products.  You know Unilever, they own Dove-the brand that uses ‘real women’ in their advertising.  Hypocritical much?  “Fair & Lovely” is for women, while “Fair & Handsome” is the men’s line.
 I also recommend a blog post from Sapna Magazine online written by a Bangladeshi woman.  Check out this Pakistani website for ‘Fair & Lovely.’  

Trouble in Feslandia Update
04-07-08, 12:01 am
Filed under: Exchange Program, Exchange Students, Outbounds Outbounds | Tags: ,

 Today was our Spring meeting with all the students and their parents.  It wasn’t the way Wry the anal  would’ve run it; several of the students and parents told me they didn’t receive information about the meeting.  Of course, anal Wry sent an email reminder out to ‘my’ kids.   I’m not certain how much to believe though;  I asked my students if they shared particular country information with their parents.  The kids all said ‘yes’, and the parents all looked lost.  I just rolled my eyes, and passed out my business card to the parents.  (I didn’t meet the parents at interviews since I was out of the country.)
My parents had great questions this year.  They asked a lot of questions I’ve answered here on ‘Wry Exchange.’  They asked about traveling without chaperones, money, prejudice, safety, traveler’s checks, clothing, and host families.  Many of the parents are planning to visit their child next Spring, and told me they wished they had this opportunity when they were young.
Husband found a country for the student, and that’s not an easy feat in April!  Most exchange agreements are made in December/January or are long-term agreements.  It’s not FES’s original language group, but it’s the same continent.  Agatha tried to fib her way out of it.  Husband kept calling her on each one.   She seemed to think magic fairies were going to solve the problem and we were interfering.  Husband and I were so stressed when we came home that we had a junkfood fest (after agreeing we weren’t hungry so we weren’t going to make dinner.)  FES’s first country choice hasn’t responded to our final plea, there is still a small chance they’ll take pity on him.  I doubt it, but strange is the norm in Feslandia.
I really like my new word ‘Feslandia’.  I am so easily amused.