Wry Exchange

Advanced Money Skills
02-26-09, 4:35 am
Filed under: Culture, Inbounds Inbounds | Tags: , ,

 I’m collecting money from the students.  Some of the money is for outgoing students fees, and the rest is for a trip.   The outgoing students send their payment in a sealed envelope with return address.  They fold a piece of notebook paper around the check with a note to me.

The trip payments are evenly divided between inbounds and outbounds.  I can tell if the payment is from an American  or foreign student by the back of the envelope.  Inbounds will use odd size envelopes, taped the flap closed, staple the envelope closed, or just not seal it at all.    The return address is either missing or on the back.   My name and address is typically spelled wrong, placed oddly, or missing words.

Most of the inbound students don’t have checking accounts.  I recommend they either buy a money order at the post office or 7-11.    They can give their hostparents money, and have them write a check.  Sounds  reasonable?  More like rare. They refuse to buy money orders.  They just don’t understand them.   I get cash stuffed in an unsealed envelope with no note.  If I’m lucky, I’ll get a return address on the envelope.  No name.   Today I received $100.00 stuffed in a flimsy envelope with no name.   I think 700 or 800 was the most cash one of them ever mailed to me.    

 I can’t believe the money arrives here safely.  One good think about living in the boonies.    The postal carriers all know us,   Wry nolastname,  no street address, Town, and  State get to us.

One of the inbounds was paying online for the big bus trip.  3 emails back and forth about ‘What is my expiration date of my card?’  ‘Where is it?’  ‘What and where is the 3 digit verification code on the back?’  I felt like a human Google.

ETA:  It’s not just them.  Once kids gave checks and cash at an event.  I stuffed them all in my back pocket.  Threw the jeans in the wash without emptying the pockets.  They were packed so tightly that they didn’t shred or fade.


Exchange Students cost Money?
02-04-08, 2:27 am
Filed under: Exchange Students, Home, hosting | Tags: , ,

 Husband likes keeping track of our finances online.  He checks daily, which is good.  Last week, he found he was charged for opening a Juno.com account.  He’s already been a victim of identity theft twice in the last 9 months.
He told me something interesting last week, and I’ve been thinking about it since.  He said that he can tell when we are hosting.  (We hosted a FES while the host parents went away for a week recently, and a few weeks over the holidays.)  Husband told me he was tracking household spending, and I spend more when we have a kid in the house.  
At first, I thought it was just food.   FES’s eat a lot.  They can chow down an entire package of Oreos in a day, they eat a lot of fresh fruit and meat, and they drink lots of soda.  I don’t buy soda or Oreos for the two of us.  So I do spend more money on junk food and snacks.  Oh, then I eat more when a student is around.  If I’m by myself, I’ll eat an apple and cheese or cereal to hold me till dinner.  When I have a student, I’ll use leftovers, make sandwiches, or go grab fast food for both of us.  Hmm, so now I’ve added fast food to the list. 
I have to add gas since I’m going to the grocery and fast food stores more often.   Since I’m already out, I might as well stop at Target or Walmart and grab a few things.  A Starbucks stop would be nice.  Oh, look, TJ Maxx is having a sale.  Sometimes, I’ll pay for something FES wants, too.  Five or ten dollars adds up. 
I was quietly defensivewhen Husband pointed the expenses out to me, but damn, he was right.  What should you do?  If the student lives with you,  you should treat him like your own child.  If you would pay for your own child’s razor blades, socks, or notebooks, then you should pay for FES’s.  Perhaps FES could receive an allowance from you to pay for extras like school dances, Itunes cards, or movies.  You could come up with a budgeted amount each month.   FES’s parents should pay for the “P’s” photos, prescriptions, phone calls, and postage.  As for me, we only have FES’s as guests, so  I’m going to be more aware of what I’m spending in the future, and I’ll probably be cooking more.

EDIT:  There is a big difference to me between hosting an exchange student, and inviting a student to live with you and be a permanent part of the family.  The above post is about hosting a kid.  I know we spend money on the people we love, but I wrote about the creeping spending that I didn’t notice for a student. 

Deciding on an Exchange Program
09-05-07, 6:44 pm
Filed under: Exchange Program | Tags: , , , ,

If you want to host or be an exchange student, the best way to decide on a program is to ask current exchange students if they are pleased with their organization.  Of course, that only works if you can find exchange students…and they are happy…..hmm…
Go online, Google exchange student programs.  Get confused.  I just googled ‘high school exchange’ and read a few of the sites that were on top.  Don’t they sound great? AFS, YFU, and AYUSA all have super looking websites. hmm….
I checked out prices, and had to call husband in disbelief.  One program was over $12,000.00 for a year in Chile.  Holy shit!  Twelve grand!  Chile!  I want my blog to be anonymous, but now I want to tell all of you the name of my program so you can host and go abroad with my group. hmm…
Wanna know what you get with my program?  We have monthly meetings for all students-inbound and potential outbound.  The students learn how to be good global citizens and student ambassadors.  Each student has a counselor living nearby in the same community, they also have an inbound or outbound coordinator, and the person who sets up their country exchange-in both countries. The counselors should see the students weekly.  If the kids or host families have a problem, someone is always available.   They receive their uniform jacket, business cards, trading pins, basic health insurance, monthly stipend, and training.  
Wanna know the price? 
Outbound students pay for their Visas, passports, airfare, and a program fee.  Our program fee is under $1,000.00.  We tell the students how the fee is broken down, too.  Their basic health insurance is included, but a few countries require buying into national healthcare.  Students receive a monthly stipend of approximately seventy-five dollars.
Inbound students are the same except for program fees. The fees may be different, but the students tell us they pay less than their friends who go out with other programs.
We have a website, and we’re legit.  We just run an all-volunteer exchange.  We don’t have a ‘small staff at headquarters.’  We have people who fit volunteering in around their work and family.  We watch our pennies.    If a student needs financial help, we scrounge around for money.  We’re just people trying to make the world a better place.  hmm…
Edited to add: The counselor and monthly meetings are important points because some programs don’t have nearby counselors-counselors can live up to 2 hours or 150 miles away.  Sometimes, kids are just dumped in a family and left to fend for themselves.  If the student isn’t assertive, it can be a long, lonely, miserable year.   Read my post ‘When Shouldn’t I Host.’

09-04-07, 9:52 pm
Filed under: Home | Tags: , ,

Some people shouldn’t eat in restaurants.  If you can’t afford to tip, don’t eat there.   

Family Hosting Rules-Part 2

Money Matters-Some schools give the students free passes to athletic events and free lunches. The student’s family is responsible for making sure he/she has access to money at all times. Most of the students arrive with a Visa/Mastercard. If the student doesn’t have a credit/debit card, he must give his counselor $300.00  to hold as an emergency fund. This $300.00 is refunded at the end of the year if it is unused.
Health Insurance-The students purchase health insurance through our program within 30 days of arrival. The price this year is $595.00. The students know they are responsible for this amount. The insurance covers the students from the time they get on the plane in their home country to the time they get on the plane to leave this country. Check with the counselor for suggestions.  We do have doctors, dentists, and optometrists willing to see the students at no charge.
 Religion-The student may not wish to attend church services; the student should attend church with your family at least once, as a cultural experience. If going to weekly services is important to your family, and you want the student to attend with you, he/she must go. If the student wishes to attend a different church, we will find someone to take the student if it is not within walking distance, but it has to be in your community. Please respect each other’s beliefs or lack of belief. 
School-Students are in the US on a J-1 Student Visa. School attendance is a requirement. Disrespect, disruption, and F’s are not tolerated. The advisor will be in contact with the school frequently to check on the ES’s progress. It is usual to make at least a few schedule changes to accommodate the student’s English skills and prior schooling. The school wants the student to have a successful experience here, and the teachers are very good about tailoring classes to fit the student’s abilities. The ES is encouraged to take part in student activities and sports while here A copy of the student’s report cards must be sent to the Inbound Student Coordinator each 9 weeks. Students cannot terminate school early unless they are going home early for entrance exams or another valid reason.   If the student drops out of school, he/she will be sent home for violating Visa requirements.
Smoking-Almost all of our students are non-smokers according to their applications and will not smoke during their stay. It’s also illegal for minors to purchase cigarettes.
Dating-is neither encouraged nor forbidden. If the student starts dating seriously, please tell the advisor so we can have a talk about risks and responsibilities.
Exchange Student MeetingsWe welcome all host siblings, friends, classmates, and students from other exchange programs to our meetings. Host parents are welcome to stay and interact with the students. Your exchange student will have monthly meetings with other students in our district.  It is helpful for the students to discuss their experiences with other foreigners. No one else understands exactly what the exchange year is like. They also speak with the program advisors at these meetings. All of our program’s meetings are overnighters. This is to have time to discuss problems and solutions. They are very helpful to the students. The students are strongly encouraged to make friends with the other students in their high schools, but no one but the other exchange students can completely understand what it’s like to be young and away from your culture, country, friends, family. They need peers to talk over their experiences here in the states. The students should bring a pillow, sleeping bag, toiletries, and gym clothes to each overnighter. We will tell them if they have to bring additional items, i.e. swimsuit.
 Depression-All ES become depressed. There is even a cycle to it. The first will usually be about 8 weeks after arrival.  The student will be getting into a routine and may be thinking, “This is it? This is what I’ll be doing for a year? This is where I’ll be?’ Then comes Christmas.  That’s usually the worst one, of course. Then about the end of winter is the last one. The student still has a long way to go, and misses his home. The student usually gets sad when he/she is about ready to leave the states, too. Because of depression and homesickness, the ES’s tend to sleep a lot and eat quite a lot throughout the year.  It’s a way of coping.  Let the student take a short nap after school.  They may have grown up taking naps after class.  Thinking in another language is very stressful at the beginning.  Expect your student to have headaches.