Wry Exchange

Orientation for Parents, Counselors, and New Kids

Our Orientation was over the weekend.  I love seeing the bright, innocent, hopeful faces on the new host parents and students.  Many of our host parents are older professionals this year, and we have many first-timers.  They were hungry for information.  Husband spent a lot of time talking with the parents after their meeting.  I skipped the meeting and stayed with the kids for 2 hours-like last year, the people in charge didn’t think to chaperone 25 kids who don’t know each other or much English for 2 hours.  Duh.

We have 75% of our kids in country, and hopefully the rest will be here by next week.  So far, we haven’t had any Visa denials like last year’s mess.

EDIT:  Because I hit ‘post’ not ‘save.’

Ooh, were the parents, counselors, and kids PISSED about the CSIET debacle.  Most of them only found out at the weekend meeting.  All of the students wanted to play sports at some point during the year.  I feel bad for everyone except the people who made the decision to drop out of CSIET.

Other than that, Orientation went well.  Most of the kids seem very nice.  (I think I say that annually.)  We have a few potential sluts.  I had to tell one girl to cover up her thong, but I didn’t have to ask any of them to stop touching.  That was encouraging.  Some of the newbies are fluent enough in English to tease already.  This group will have to speak English early, as we have many languages this year.  We have a lot of singles from several countries.  We also have 9 Spanish speakers.  We’ll have to sit on them, but so many people understand Spanish, it’ll be fine. 

We had several extra students this year.  We had former and potential students, as well as host siblings.  Several gay people attended.  By the time the third or fourth one walked by,  Chef asked if we (or me?) attracted gay students.  I hope so.  I told him we welcome everyone, and he finished the thought by saying exchange is a safe, welcoming place for everyone.   Hurray for Chef!


Gay and Lesbian Exchange Students
10-22-07, 10:58 am
Filed under: Culture, Exchange Students | Tags: , , , , , ,

Dear potential Gay FES,

 Please apply to be an exchange student.  I see you’re worried about being accepted in other countries and cultures.  You Google ‘gay exchange student’ ‘gay FES in’ Argentina, Austria, Australia, all through the alphabet.  We’ve sent gay FES’s to all continents, so you won’t be the first.  I hear there are gay people everywhere in the world except Iran.

You may not wish to tell more than one adult in your program.  If it was me,  I don’t think I’d mention my sexual orientation at my interview, as many adults aren’t ready to accept teens have any sexual thoughts at all.  I certainly wouldn’t tell any adult in your host country before I arrived, or put it on my application.  Look for someone sympathetic in your program, s/he can give you advice.   I tell my students they can go anywhere in the world, just be discreet.  (I actually expect all the kids to be discreet.)  Our program’s volunteers like to assume the students are built like Barbie and Ken dolls.

Being gay is fine, but swanning about with a feather boa is not.  I me a potential FES recently who was stereotypically gay.  Everything screamed flamboyant flamer from his mannerisms, way of talking, and behavior. (he probably should lay off the caffeine, too.)  It was like the kid watched an old tv show to learn how to act, or the Fiesta, Fiesta video.  Please don’t be that person.  You don’t have to hide your personality, but you don’t need to express your entire personality, either.  Play the game.  

  I don’t know what I’m writing about. I’m just a well-meaning married, old lady volunteer.  If I’ve offended any of my gay students, I apologize. 

Another gay FES post.

Gay or Lesbian Exchange Students
08-20-07, 9:18 pm
Filed under: Exchange Program, Exchange Students | Tags: , , ,

WordPress lets me know what search words people type in before they click to my blog.  Someone typed ‘gay exchange student’ today.  It wasn’t the first time, so I want to address the question.   My program sponsors and hosts gay exchange students annually.  I think exchange students are strong individuals who know there is more to the world than their small towns.   Many US teens who become exchange students feel ‘different’ or that they don’t fit in.
  We advise gay students that they may be more comfortable in Europe, but the students who have chosen South America have had great experiences as well.  I don’t know about Asian countries.  We advise the students to be discreet, the same as we do with students who are very religious.  We want the kids to blend in to their new homes. 
 I can’t think of any openly gay or lesbian students that we’ve either hosted or sponsored while on exchange.  The students may come out after they go to college.  We keep the student’s secret.  I try to introduce potential outgoing students to older gay students so they can learn about potential difficulties in specific countries.  Note: I previewed this post with a few of my former students.   One suggested that you not mention it to host families who may not be understanding. (This same student’s parents don’t know yet.)  Someone in the country should be trusted, your counselor or other adult.  He also said it’s more difficult to make friends, but it’s also easier to make friends.  If you choose to tell your new friends, you’ll find out if they are your real friends or not. quickly.
Update 8/30: Since this posted,  I’ve had one or two search engine referrals daily for ‘gay exchange student.’  That’s a lot, especially for a blog that averages 75 views a day.  I’m not sure what to tell you. I’m not an expert.  People go on exchange for different reasons.  Most US students go between high school and college for a fun year.  Just make sure you aren’t running away from something, you should be looking for something.