Wry Exchange

Mandatory Hosting Sucks
10-13-07, 10:46 pm
Filed under: Culture, Exchange Students, hosting | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Some people just shouldn’t host. So why do they? 
Most often, because they are required to host if their son or daughter is going out as an exchange student.   Some cultures don’t have a tradition of hosting strangers.  They’ll do anything for family or friends, but not ‘charity.’  Here in the US, we host high school, college, sports teams, and religious exchanges for varying amounts of time.   I know several people who love to host, including Husband and me. 
My program doesn’t have mandatory hosting in the US, but most of our overseas partners employ mandatory hosting.  I think mandatory hosting in the US is just laziness.  I placed over 30 students (mostly) myself two years ago, while a group had difficulty placing 20 kids this year.  Just ask…and ask…and ask….
Some organizations have mandatory hosting while the family’s child is gone, others wait until the student is back home, then they host.  Sparky’s family must host, but only part of the year is a must, they may choose to host all year.  The family isn’t looking at it as an obligation, but an adventure.  Sparky’s family is hosting Jon.  The boys may kill each other, but it’s a good placement.  Sparky has 2 younger brothers, they can see what it’s like to live in a new culture.  I hope Sparky2 will decide to come up here when he’s 16.  It’s especially nice since Sparky and Jon have a shared history.  I spoke to one of last year’s inbounds from Chile yesterday.  His family is enjoying their hosting of a young German girl.  
 M’s experience with Psycho Host-mommy isn’t uncommon.  Several of my students have been told ‘The only reason you’re here is because Precious is an exchange student.’  It NEVER occurs to these selfish clods that perhaps karma may bite Precious on the ass, and he could be a burden to someone.  Some of the mandatory hosting families treat the student like an intruder, as if the student had no right to be in their home.  They go on vacation without the kids, and tell them to ‘find a place to stay.’  They put the kids in a lesser quality school than the one their children attend.   If you are in a situation like this, MOVE.  IT WILL NOT IMPROVE.

ext time-Types of suckage


This Host Family Sucked!
10-09-07, 8:03 pm
Filed under: Culture, Exchange Students, hosting | Tags: , , , ,

 Polish student Michael Gromek spent 6 months with a ‘Host Family from Hell.’  This isn’t all that uncommon.  I know nothing about this particular student except what is written here.  I’m merely using it as an example.  I see several problems with Michael’s experience and my comments are in red.

“When I got out of the plane in Greensboro in the US state of North Carolina, I would never have expected my host family to welcome me at the airport, wielding a Bible, and saying, ‘Child, our Lord sent you half-way around the world to bring you to us.’ At that moment I just wanted to turn round and run back to the plane.  Where was his counselor?  How did the family pass a background check and interview?

Things began to go wrong as soon as I arrived in my new home in Winston-Salem, where I was to spend my year abroad. For example, every Monday my host family would gather around the kitchen table to talk about sex. My host parents hadn’t had sex for the last 17 years because — so they told me — they were devoting their lives to God. They also wanted to know whether I drank alcohol. I admitted that I liked beer and wine. They told me I had the devil in my heart.  Giant red flags-he should have been moved as soon as they started talking about their (lack of) sex lives.

My host parents treated me like a five-year-old. They gave me lollipops. They woke me every Sunday morning at 6:15 a.m., saying ‘Michael, it’s time to go to church.’ I hated that sentence. When I didn’t want to go to church one morning, because I had hardly slept, they didn’t allow me to have any coffee.

One day I was talking to my host parents about my mother, who is separated from my father. They were appalled — my mother’s heart was just as possessed by the devil as mine, they exclaimed. God wanted her to stay with her husband, they said.

Then, seeing as we were already on the topic of God’s will, the religious zealots finally brought up a subject which had clearly been on their minds for a long time: They wanted me to help them set up a Fundamentalist Baptist church in my home country of Poland. It was God’s will, they said. They tried to slip the topic casually into conversation, but it really shocked me — I realized that was the only reason they had welcomed me into their family. They had already started construction work in Krakow — I was to help them with translations and with spreading their faith via the media.  Sneaky bastards.

It was clear to me that there was no way I was going to do that. The family was appalled. It was a weird situation. After all, these people were my only company at the time. If I hadn’t kept in touch with home through e-mail, I might have been sucked into that world.  Why?  Didn’t he go to school? Didn’t he have a counselor or friends?  His parents in Poland should have been screaming to his program sponsors in Poland.

It was only after four months that I decided to change my host family. I had kept hoping that things might improve, but it was futile. Telling them that I wanted to go was the most unpleasant moment I experienced in that half year. The student shouldn’t tell the family he wants to move.  The counselor should tell the family.  Of course they didn’t understand — how could they? They had grown up with their faith and were convinced of it, and then suddenly I turned up and refused to fit in.

From that moment on, I counted the days. The two months that followed my decision were hell. Two months?  Um, just no.  No more than a week should go past, and with freaks like this he should have  been moved the same night.  My host parents detested me. There were constant rows. I could sense that they just wanted to get rid of me. They didn’t know what to do with me any more.

67 days later, I was finally in a new family. They were young, actually more friends than host parents, and I was very happy there. Because my new family was only 50 kilometers away from the other one, I was distrustful at first and afraid that things wouldn’t be any better.  Why so far? He should have been in the same community.  But the change was worth it.

Despite everything, I still haven’t come to terms with my experience. I want to write to the religious family soon and explain to them, clearly and calmly, why things went so wrong. It shouldn’t just end this way.”  Stories like Michael’s make us all look bad.  His host family and program let him down.  I also think Michael should have done something to help himself.  TELL SOMEONE IF YOU ARE MISERABLE!

From Spiegel Online

My Host Family Sucks!
10-08-07, 11:39 pm
Filed under: Culture, Exchange Program, Exchange Students, hosting | Tags: , , , , , ,

I hear ‘My host family sucks.’ often from both inbound and outbound students.   For this post, we’ll assume the host family does suck, and the student’s name is Sinéad.

First-Sinéad MUST tell someone outside of the family that she’s unhappy.  Edited to add:  The student needs an advocate.  The situation will not improve by itself.
Second-Sinéad has to decide the seriousness of the problem.  Is she in danger?  Is she afraid?  If the answer is ‘yes’, she must move immediately. End of discussion.  Edited to add:  If the student feels in danger or sexually uncomfortable, the decision to move is out of his/her control.  The program MUST remove the child from the home immediately.
Third-Sinéad must decide what she wants.  This is HER year.  Edited to add:  She shouldn’t feel guilty.  The counselors and host family should put Sin well-being above all else.

She should go to her counselor.  I understand she doesn’t want to be perceived as a ‘problem student.’  I understand that sometimes the counselor and host family are friends.  The counselor’s responsibility is to the student.  If the student is afraid to tell the counselor, she should contact the person above her counselor.  Sinéad should also tell her counselor in her home country about the problems.  If she can’t contact someone from her program, she should contact her parents.  To be frank, Sin’s parents have purchased an experience for their daughter, and they should be satisfied customers.  Some exchange programs cost a ridiculous amount of money.
 What should a student do?  I think there are 3 choices.  The student stays in the home, the student moves immediately, or the student moves as soon as practical.   She moves immediately if she feels in danger.  If she just doesn’t get along, she discreetly asks for a new family, and moves in 3-5 weeks.  Generally to avoid hurt feelings, the family is told a white lie.  Or she decides to suck it up, and stay put.  The unknown is scary, and sometimes the kids would rather stay with the freaks they know instead of breaking in a new family.

Next post: Why your family sucks.