Wry Exchange

Disciplinary Contracts
03-14-08, 12:25 am
Filed under: Exchange Program, Exchange Students | Tags: , , ,

  Several years ago, Husband and I decided to formalize our program’s disciplinary procedures.   We needed a standardized approach so that all students were treated equally.  Up until  then, most problems were handled as they came up by different people.   We wanted to bring the program’s inbound student chairman into discussions, not just the student’s counselor.

When a student has serious, chronic problems that are within his control, we expect the problem to go away.  By problem I mean staying out all night, improper pet care, school disruptions, extreme belligerence, or property destruction.  The problem isn’t quite enough to send the student home, but we need him to behave better.  Other problems may be a one time thing like getting caught drinking at a party, or being suspended from school, and we decide to give the student one more chance.   Either way, it’s always more than just being a general pain in the ass.

We have a meeting with the student, a host parent, the student’s counselor, the person who specializes in the student’s country, and the inbound student chairman.   The meeting is somewhere neutral, and out of public view.   Everyone has a chance to speak.  Our goal is to ensure the student stays to complete her year. 

We put the student on ‘probation.’  Probation means the student has one chance to correct her behavior.   We give the student a contract.  The contract clearly states the problem, why it’s a problem, and what has to be done to correct the problem.  Then it states what the penalties are for continuing the bad behavior.   The adults and student all sign the contract, and a copy is emailed to the student’s counselor in her home country.    Example:   Clara has been smoking in school.  Smoking on school grounds is not permitted.  Clara is 17, and it’s illegal for minors to purchase cigarettes.  The school has caught Clara smoking 3 times in the last 2 weeks.  Clara has been asking to use the restroom during class periods, and returns smelling like smoke at least a few days per week even though she denies smoking.     Clara will cease bringing cigarettes to school or anywhere out of the house.  IF her hostparents permit her to smoke outside of their home, she may.  If they do not permit her to smoke at home, she may not smoke at all.   If Clara is caught smoking at school, or carrying tobacco onto school grounds, she will be suspended.  If she is suspended, she will have broken her contract.  Failure to comply will result in Clara being terminated.  

It’s something about having it in writing that shows the student we’re serious.  It also keeps emotion out of the discussion as much as possible.  Anyway, it works for us.


The 4-D’s, Part 2

 The 4-D’s are NO Drinking, Driving, Dating, or Drugs.  (This post is long, so Part 1 will be later in the week.  I started from the end, and worked backward.  See non-linear to the left.)

Just wait for the howling when the students to find out there may be more D’s added.  You’ll be able to hear it around the world.
5-Decorating or Defacing-no tattoos or piercings. 
6-Downloading- no porn or illegal music.
 Tattoos & piercings-The students are permitted to arrive with piercings and tattoos, but won’t be permitted to get any more while on exchange.  So how’s that going to work?  Will they strip down each kid upon arrival, and call out all ‘defacings’ to some guy holding a body outline on a clipboard?   I won’t ever give permission for a tongue piercing (Sparky wanted one so much, too.) because the kids are learning a new language, and they move their mouths in new ways.  It’s hard to enunciate clearly with a tongue ring, plus the dangers of cracking a tooth and stretching the hole.   Tattoos have been a right of passage probably since the first exchange student went abroad.  I prefer to pretend I didn’t see anything new.   Once students are 18, they’re legal adults, and I don’t feel I can stop them.  I certainly wouldn’t ship someone home early because of a new tattoo or piercing.  I would make sure mom and dad back home give their written permission for a minor for any body modification.
Downloads-More of the students are taking laptops with them on exchange, so this may not not be able to be monitored.  We tell the students that they can’t download ‘free’ music here in the states, that the host family may be sued.  I gave Sparky an Itunes card so he could download songs ‘free’ to him.  I hate giving the porn speech.  To my knowledge, no exchange student has ever downloaded porn, it magically appears on the computer.  I usually tell them that no matter how cleverly they think they’ve hidden the files, someone found them, so knock it off.  A  friend handled the porn problem really well-he told the kids no one but him was permitted to clear the computer’s history.  Great solution.  I hate porn on my computer, and I really hated all the times Paris Hilton’s sex tape appeared somehow.

Alternate version:
Do it
Don’t get caught
Do it again
Deny it/Don’t leave evidence
‘Don’t leave evidence’ means no photos.  A girl was terminated for serious dating a few years ago because someone saw her and her boyfriend ‘sharing their culture’ on her camera’s memory card. 

Age of Exchange Students, 15-18.5
09-20-07, 12:17 am
Filed under: Exchange Program, Exchange Students | Tags: , , , , ,

 This post isn’t advice, it’s my personal opinion.  I think 15 is too young for most students to go abroad.  

High school exchange students can be age 15-18.5 at program start.  The US State Department will only accept students in that age range.  Most countries reciprocate; however some countries will accept 19 year old graduation Seniors.   I see a huge difference in students between 15 and 16, 16-17, and 17-18.

In my program, we prefer students to go out after graduating from high school.  We position it like the English ‘Gap year.’  The students are ready to leave home anyway, they just delay college for a year.  Their parents are also prepared for their child to leave.   Most colleges will defer grants, loans, scholarships while the student is abroad.  When FES returns, he should be able to test out of language classes through post-grad levels.  Talk to college counselors, they love former exchange students, and not just because they ‘have all their partying out of their system.’   High school graduates from the US will find their foreign classes tougher than here at home.  EVERY inbound student in my twenty years has said that US high schools are easier than at home.  Students who are 18 are given more freedom by their host families.  That alone will make a huge difference in the experience.   The graduates are mentally and emotionally ready to leave home.  They have stronger problem solving skills.  Talk to returning students.

The middle ages of 16 and 17 are grey areas.  What are your goals?  Do you want to go out twice as a FES?  Do you want to graduate with your class?  (It’s up to each individual Board of Education to accept credits from foreign schools, at least in my state. Find out if your credits count before you go.)
The 15 year olds are the ones who get homesick most often.  They typically just don’t have the maturity or life experience to handle the loneliness or ‘foreign-ness.’  Many times, they aren’t tough enough to stand up for themselves when problems arise.  The host families don’t give them the same freedoms the older kids enjoy.  Even if a 15 year old makes it through the year, she’ll still have to return to high school for one or 2 years.  Being an exchange student is like living 5 years compressed into one year.  It’s very difficult to go back home and fit in with friends, and obey house rules.  The kids are worldly, and think differently.  They won’t be happy being treated like a kid.

Think about why you want to be an exchange student.  Are you searching for something or running away from something?  Your experience may be improved by waiting a year.   Being an exchange student is the toughest thing most people will ever do.  We do send out younger students, we do advise them to wait.  This is just my opinion.

09-18-07, 11:48 am
Filed under: Exchange Students, hosting | Tags: , , , , , ,

A big problem that no one warns families about is jealousy.  We talk about it with our students before they go out, but no one says anything to most of the incoming students.  The inbounds are bewildered when someone in the host family is jealous of them.  The kids want to fit into a family, they need a place where they are accepted and just another kid, not ‘The Exchange Student.’

Who gets jealous and why:

Hostdad-No, not really.  Hostdads are typically easygoing.  They are happy to have a new son or daughter.   If Hostdad had only girls, it’s cool for him to have another guy around.  Hostdads like having someone new to tease.  I really can’t think of any jealous hostfathers.  Edited: Husband reminded me of a few hostfathers who didn’t like to share their hostdaughters with people outside the family.  They wanted the girls to stay home ALL THE TIME with them and hostmom.)

Hostmom-Sometimes-I can think of at least 2 girls who were kicked out of their host family’s house because the hostmoms were so jealous they told hostdad ‘It’s her or me. Get her out NOW.’  The girls were both nice girls, they were not flirting with hostdad.  They were both moved, and had excellent years.  We’ve had hostmoms upset with hostdads because they spent ‘too much boy time’ with the kid.

Host sibling-Yes.  Not all host brothers and sisters have been consulted before a new person moves into the house, and maybe even his/her room.   

  • Be aware of the princess who doesn’t like to share-especially her Senior year when everything is about her.  
  • Be afraid of the 6 year old snot who kicks the exchange student because she dared to change the tv channel while the brat was playing in another room.
  • Hide from the 12 year old who has to share his Playstation or computer time.
  • It’s not pretty when the baby of the family finally gets someone to push around.  Last year, we had a 17 year old boy with several older sisters who enjoyed bullying his hostbrother.
  • Watch out for all the siblings to be angry because the inbound does all his chores, and makes them look lazy.  (or keeps his room clean, has good table manners, etc)

Talk about jealousy and other issues as they arise.   It’s so much easier dealing with small problems immediately, rather than waiting until someone explodes.

Edited to Add:  Treat FES like your own son or daughter.  Don’t treat FES as a guest in your home.  It causes friction when FES doesn’t have to scrub the toilet, when her hostsibling does.  Rotate chores, so there are no favorites or whining about ‘FES always gets the easy ones.’   Don’t have different curfews for kids the same age.  The house rules should be fair to all children.

Family Hosting Rules-part 1

 These are MY suggestions only. You are reading a blog from a volunteer, please use common sense when contemplating using my advice.
Requirements-The host family must provide meals and a bed.  The student may share a bedroom, but must have his/her own bed.  Give the student a bedroom with a door.  I’ve seen people try to put students in a walk-in closet, storage rooms, attics, and in the basement next to the washing machine.  All unacceptable.   Treat the student as a family member.
Area Rules-Our guidelines are a combination of  our program, State Department, and host family rules.   We recognize each counselor, community, and family has different values and priorities.   The state department has a rule if you take the student out of the country the Program  Chairman has to sign the 2019 form.  Our national program rules include no drinking, driving, drugs, or serious dating.   The US State Department has other rules as well.  They are included in a separate pamphlet printed by the State Department.
Family Rules ES is living under your roof. You set the curfew. Your set the rules for the ES, same as you would for your own children. The student may go on school field trips, to away games, shopping, riding around, or stay overnight with friends from town with your permission. You may take the student on overnight trips or out of school for family vacations. The student is not permitted to travel overnight unaccompanied without an approved adult. The student is expected to ask your permission to attend an event. The student is not to say, “I’m going to the mall, and I need a ride.” You have a right to know where, when, who just as you would with your own kids; and to say ‘no” if you don’t approve. The student is not allowed to drink. But drinking customs vary by country and household. For example, your student may have wine with dinner with the rest of the family. Don’t encourage it. If you do not approve of alcohol use, end of discussion. The student must abide by the house rules. If it is not working out, the student will be moved as soon as you ask. Don’t feel guilty, sometimes nice people just don’t get along. The advisor is there to work with both of you. Please respect the student’s privacy. Do not read the student’s e-mail, diary, or other papers without their permission.
Telephone and Computers-discuss with the student the price of phone calls, cell phones, and phone cards. onsider having the student buy a microphone or webcam for the computer to talk with family back home.   Discuss computer usage rules in your family. May the student download music? Files?  Please monitor computer time.  Some students will try to spend several hours daily online chatting in their native language.  An hour daily should be sufficient.  Please don’t forbid the student from using the internet.  It’s an important way to stay connected to family back home.
Personal Webpages-The program monitors such sites as MySpace, Skyblog, Facebook, and Fotoblog.  Any photos, comments, or journal entries describing or depicting illegal or immoral activity (such as admissions of smoking, drinking) may be cause for termination.
Chores-Chores are an excellent way for the ES to feel like part of the family. The ES will feel like he/she is contributing to the family. Give the ES daily and weekly chores to accomplish. You probably will have to show the ES how to do them more than once or twice. We may do chores differently in the states than in the ES’s home country. If you pay your children to do large chores (i.e.-mowing, shoveling snow, babysitting), please pay the ES. Some regular chores for the ES may include setting and clearing the table, washing the dishes, feeding the family pets, doing his/her own laundry, taking out the garbage, cleaning his/her own room, vacuuming, and light yard work. The ES may occasionally baby-sit for the family, but not regularly, or for long periods. The student is not an Au Pair.
Cultural Differences-he student is probably used to living his/her daily life quite differently than we do in the US. When the student does something you consider to be wrong, please discuss it with him/her. You may be surprised at the answer the student gives. Try to explain that this isn’t a matter of ‘right or wrong”, it’s “how we do it in America. If we were in your country, we’d do it another way.” Almost everything can be done differently. For example, dishwashing, hygiene, fragrance amounts, nudity, drinking of alcohol, chores, and gender roles may all be different. Some students may be used to having servants in their homes. What we consider rude, they may consider polite, and vice versa. Talk about differences as they come up, don’t wait until they get to be big problems.

Host Family & Exchange Student First Night
07-15-07, 10:39 pm
Filed under: Exchange Students, hosting | Tags: , , , ,
  •   First Night Questions for Student and Host Family  and my comments
    What do I call you?  Mom/Dad?  Jane/John?   Tia/Tio?  Mami/Papi ? I prefer my first name at the beginning. I think the student already has a mother, and it’s a title to be earned.  I have issues, though.

  • Home-What chores should I do daily?  Weekly? Some students have maids, nannies, and housekeepers.  If you want them to help around the house, please show them step by step. You’ll probably have to show them a few times.  What areas of the house are offlimits?  Where can I store my suitcases?  Will I have a house key? Do you lock the doors? May I have friends over if no adult is home?  Are boys/girls permitted in my bedroom? 
  • My room-Will I share a bedroom?  May I hang photos and posters on the walls? Should I change my own sheets?  May I rearrange my room?  May I invite friends up to my room?  Should I make my bed daily?  Do I have a bedtime on school nights or the weekends?  Do I have a time I have to be awake on weekends?   May I nap?  Many students are used to a nap after school.  The students will have headaches the first few weeks from speaking English, and need some ‘alone’ time.   Should I close my door in the daytime? While I’m sleeping? 
  • Bathroom-How do I use the shower?  When should I take a shower during the school year?  Where should I put my toiletries?  My towel?  Where are the clean towels kept?  May I use the bathroom toiletries, or should I buy my own?   
  • Laundry-Where should I put dirty clothing?  What is the laundry procedure?  Should I do my own laundry?  How often should I wear clothing before washing, including underwear, jeans, t-shirts?  
  • Religion-Does the family attend services regularly?   Should I attend with you?  I would/would not like to go to my own services.  Does the family say ‘Grace’ before meals?  I do/do not believe in God. 
  • Pets-What are the rules concerning the pets?  Food?  Water?  Sleeping? Walking? Letting them in or out when I leave? 
  • Meals and food– Are meals at a regular time daily?  What meals do we eat together as a family? What do I do to assist in the kitchen?  Set the table? Clear the table? Help wash the dishes?  Put the dishes away? Empty the garbage?  May I help myself to food and drink anytime, or must I ask first?  How do I know if I shouldn’t eat something in the fridge? Some students aren’t kitchen savvy, they may need to learn how to make even sandwiches.  Your student may also be used to sitting and chatting with the family after a meal.  Won’t they be surprised when no one eats together, and others are eating in the car?
  • Appliances/Electronics-How do I and may I use the microwave?  The stereo?  DVD?  Computer?  May I download music?  Are there specific times I may and may not use the computer?  Must I ask before using the phone? Most students will get their own cell phone to use during the year.  
  • Going out-What time is my curfew on school nights? On weekends?  What are the rules about calling and leaving notes? Should I call if I’m going to be more than 15 minutes late?  Students may be used to just leaving without telling anyone where they are going or with who.  Let them know it’s common courtesy here with adults as well as children.  What is my address and phone number?  How do I get to school?  Home?  The bank? 
  • Likes/Dislikes-Does my host family have any likes or dislikes?  Is there anything else I should know? 

Host Family: Home, House, or Hotel?
07-09-07, 2:23 pm
Filed under: Exchange Students, Home, hosting | Tags: , , , , , ,

I’ve been writing about how Husband and I are going to miss the Boy, and we love him.  We have been volunteers and sometimes host parents for almost 20 years.  In that time, we’ve loved 4 students that we consider family. We’ve loved a few more students while they were here, but drifted apart once they returned to their home countries.  We’ve really liked most of them.  We’ve loved students who didn’t live with us, and we’ve disliked a few kids who stayed with us.  That’s for another post.    It’s much easier on us if Husband and I don’t care too much.  We enjoy the students, we care about them, but we try to keep some distance.   We aren’t typical host parents, either, since we are longtime volunteers.  We don’t host very often, it’s a conflict.  We should be treat all the students equally.

Many of the students try not to get too close with their new friends and families.   It’s an odd situation; you’re strangers one day, and an instant family the next.  It’s difficult to get through this year alone. 

 Some of the families prefer to keep their distance, too.  One hostmom enjoys hosting, but always keeps her students at arms length.  Her husband is much warmer with the students.   It’s personal preference, and chemistry.  I think most host families host for the first time looking for a new experience, and to meet someone from another country.  Repeat host families say they get more out of hosting than the student.   An exageration, but it’s easy to get hooked.