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. 🙂


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!

08-26-07, 6:18 pm
Filed under: Exchange Program, Inbounds Inbounds | Tags: , , , , ,

Orientation is over.  Everyone lived.  The program’s adults outnumbered the kids by over 2-1.  By now, you realize I live love to bitch.  However, since the adults are all volunteers, and I gave up my position of ‘Queen of the Universe’, I’ll play nice.  The t-shirts were nicely folded.  
I had a great time with the new kids.  I had them all to myself for over an hour at the beginning.  I missed the parent-counselor orientation meeting to chaperone the kids.  Someone had to chaperone them, you can’t just leave 15 students who just met each other standing in a parking lot. That’s not a very hospitable welcome.  I passed out squirtguns, and that broke the ice.  They had fun, and got to know each other a bit.  This is the smallest group we’ve ever had, and they all seem like good kids. 
Husband and I got to spend time with some of our former outbound students.  We love catching up.  Three of our favorites were at Orientation; one just returned from an interview at Harvard, the second graduated magna cum laude with a double major, and the third is donating a kidney next month.  Impressive!  (The organ donation deserves it’s own posting.)
We got Sparky’s gift finally.  My own fault for not being able to meet Ian before yesterday.  I opened it in the car, and started crying.  The damn kid sprayed his cologne all over everything, and it smelled like him.  He sent us his flag, because he just hated seeing large flags of other countries in his room, in his house.  I’m supposed to use his to cover one of the others.   He wrote a wonderful letter, too.  We miss Sparky.