Wry Exchange

30 Days to Go
06-01-09, 12:12 am
Filed under: Exchange Program | Tags: , , ,

 One month to go until my program has a new leader.   I hope we make it.  That’s not hyperbole, either.   Every time I think we hit rock bottom, we go deeper. 

The latest disaster is losing our program’s State Department certification.   I was too upset to write about it, or blog about anything.  It’s taken care of now, but it was a nerve-wracking few weeks.  

Our current President didn’t send in the re-certification paperwork.  It’s the government; how many reminders do they send out?  She’s been trying to kill this program, and almost succeeded this time.  The State Department employee in charge sent out one final reminder that we lost our certification a month earlier to several people, not just our President.  That’s the only way we found out-by accident.

Can you imagine being so vindictive?  We wouldn’t be able to host the 30 incoming exchange students.  The State Department wouldn’t issue DS-2019’s to those kids if they weren’t coming with a ‘real’ program.

The CSIET paperwork wasn’t completed in time, so the kids can’t play sports again this year.  We haven’t had an audit since she took over, either.   She’s not going out gracefully.  She’s not doing anything, not coming to meetings, but not sharing any information.  30 days to go…


Just Bitching
09-17-07, 3:56 pm
Filed under: Exchange Program | Tags: , ,

Ok, I’ve written previously about giving up my position as queen of the inbound students.  I have a message on my home phone to call my program chair about a trip.  We take three bus trips annually.   We take the kids on a trip during Thanksgiving weekend, either to Washington, DC or Niagara Falls.  
 I’ve planned all of our trips for the last 5 years or so.  I’m a frustrated travel agent.  I enjoy shopping around for the best prices, and have fun planning bus trips.   We’re a 501(C)3, we run a super-tight budget.  We’ve always been very cost-conscious.  The message is “Do you have an allegiance to a particular travel agency? We have someone whose agency is interested.”  Oh hell, no.   I brought that trip in under budget last year.  The kids stayed in a Hyatt, ate dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe, and everything was paid for.  They only needed money for souvenirs. 
Grrr. I’m going to stomp around the house for a while.  Amuse yourselves.

M & Psycho Hostmommy
09-09-07, 10:01 pm
Filed under: Exchange Program, hosting | Tags: , , , ,

 M, 17, is in Europe on exchange.  He’s been there almost a month.  He started coming to the monthly exchange student meetings last Fall and immediately fit in.  He looks like an angel, and is bright and inquisitive.  M has a great personality, he is well liked.  M knew where he wanted to go, and was studying the language.  M wants a new name, but unlike Sparky, didn’t suggest one.  I like ‘M’, like from the 007 movies. 
M’s having problems with his hostfamily.  Hostmom is the dominant person in the house, and she doesn’t like M.  Hostdad and siblings try to reason with Hostmom, but she has ‘issues.’  Mom is a hypochondriac and always in a bad mood.  Hostmom told M she’s hosting only because they have to host, since their son is on exchange to North America.  (Some countries have mandatory hosting for students’ families going out. Some countries don’t have a tradition of hosting for fun.)  Hostmom insists M understands her perfectly well, even though Hostdad and sister tell her that he doesn’t.  Hostmom told him Thursday she’s sick of him, he’s useless, and she wants him to move.  She said he doesn’t have enough friends, isn’t out of the house enough, doesn’t eat breakfast, and has poor table manners.  They live in a small town, so other people know he lives with the ‘weird family.’
Problems always seem to happen on the weekend when they can’t be fixed.  I’m really unhappy.  They kept the phone away from him when he wanted to call his counselor to arrange a new host family.  (He has a cell phone. Hah!)  He has a dinner meeting tomorrow with his counselor.  This will be his first meeting with his counselor. (Grr)  The hostparents are both away for the weekend, and left M with just his hostsiblings who aren’t home much.  Hostbrother doesn’t like him, and Hostsister is a bit slutty.  M didn’t attend his mandatory orientation, the family said they didn’t want to go, and it was too difficult for them to take him. (WTF) I really can’t do anything but advise him at this point.    I am not his counselor or the outbound student coordinator.  Someone from here should be advocating for M.  If they don’t help him, then Husband can step in.  (Politics)

Britney Spears big VMA ‘comeback’ performance was embarassingly bad.

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.’