Wry Exchange

Age of Exchange Students & School Attendance
09-21-07, 9:01 pm
Filed under: Exchange Program | Tags: , , , , ,

 Colorblind Cupid from one of my favorite blogs asked a question about graduated students attending a 5th year of high school.
It’s a high school exchange program, so they are SUPPOSED to go to high school. 
Inbound Students: In the US, students don’t have a choice.  Their J-1 Visa is dependant on them attending school.  We track their attendance through their report cards.  We prefer to host students who have NOT graduated so they can play sports.  The students who join sports teams make friends much earlier than students who don’t.  Graduated students aren’t eligible to play.   All Belgian students have graduated before they arrive.  Many of the German, French, and Slovak students have 2 years of high school left when they return.  German and French schools do not recognize US school credits.  Most of the South Americans come here halfway through their Senior year.  Their year in the US will count towards their graduation requirements.  Some of the lucky students receive US high school diplomas.  It’s up to each school board to decide if the FES’s are eligible.  The students can take any classes they want if they don’t need credits for their home school.  We do want the kids to take US government or economics so they understand our culture, and see our point of view.
 Outbounds-Students from US:  Younger students attend high school all year.  Graduated students seem to have flexibility.  We try to position this as a ‘gap year’ or ‘finishing year.’  It’s a pretty tough year, our local high schools aren’t as tough as the foreign ones. Also, the other countries don’t seem to let students choose classes too much. (It’s tough to generalize. We exchange with about 20 different countries.) If they’re in a college prep track, they take the same as everyone else. In South America, the kids usually go to high school until Winter break in late November/early December, then audit college classes, travel, or take music or art lessons. It depends in Asia, if they go to Taiwan, they have high school and exchange student classes. In India, it’s mostly cultural classes.   Many times, the students abroad attend private schools paid by the host parents.  I think the hostparents are fine with the students learning in uh, nontraditional ways.


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.

Visa Denial, part 198
08-29-07, 11:39 am
Filed under: Inbounds Inbounds | Tags: , ,

We have progress!  The consulate sent an email to 2 Congressman, and CALLED Eli.  A third congressional office called the consulate, and received the same information.  Of course, it’s not the consulate’s fault, but I don’t care what their story is as long as the kid gets here.
 Please be advised that Eli was interviewed on August 2.  During his interview he stated twice – first to the interviewing officer and then a native-speaking colleague to make sure he had graduated from high school.  He did not bring any documentation to support otherwise.  Therefore, under FAM 9 FAM 41.62 N4.10-1, this student was refused. Today we have contacted Eli and have requested that he obtain and present proof from his high school that he is still enrolled and in fact, not graduated.  
I hope they schedule his new Visa interview this week, and he arrives in time for the beginning of school.  I’m just never satisfied.

“Soft Denial”
08-24-07, 7:23 pm
Filed under: Exchange Program, Inbounds Inbounds | Tags: , , , ,

 Doesn’t ‘Soft Denial’ sound like a romance novel? Or girly porn movie?  Nope, just part of Eli’s Visa saga.  For the last 3 weeks, it’s been ‘administratively delayed.’  My Congressman’s immigration specialist has been very helpful.  This morning, she called and said ‘It’s a soft denial.’  She said she’s never heard that term used before.  I googled ‘soft denial.’  It “is a simple refusal to issue a visa based on the paperwork submitted. These denials can be overcome by submission of additional documentation at a subsequent consulate interview.”  I think it’s code for ‘I hope you just give up and quit asking.’
 Momma needs a drink. maybe 2. 
Tomorrow is our orientation.  All of the students, host parents, and counselors must attend as mandated by the State department.  Let’s see how many families and counselors don’t show.  I’m guessing over a third.  Last year we had almost perfect attendance.  The people who don’t attend tomorrow’s orientation session still must be trained.  Someone (not me!) has to go to their homes and train them individually.  It’s a pain.
I’ve been trying to see advantages in not being in charge.  A big plus is I get to be myself, not ‘Queen Bitch.’  It’s difficult getting students who only get together once a month to be quiet, pay attention, or move in a timely way.  It’s like herding cats.  I yelled a LOT.  The adults milled around, and didn’t want to be mean chaperones.  We always had a lot to accomplish in a small amount of time.  I bought squirt guns for tomorrow.  I’ll have fun, and it’s a great ice breaker for non English speaking kids. Maybe I’ll squirt a few adults who piss me off.
Edited to add: Ohmygawd.  The people in charge have never emailed the hostparents.  I emailed my 4 hostparents a ‘save the date’ 3 weeks ago, and reminders.  The kids weren’t told to bring  passports,  landing cards, money to reimburse their SEVIS fees, or their cameras.

Visa Denied! First 07-08 Crisis
08-03-07, 11:55 pm
Filed under: Inbounds Inbounds | Tags: , ,

One of my students, Eli, was denied his Visa.  It’s rare that a student is denied a Visa through our program.  The only other time I can remember a student denied in my area was because he failed his interview when he said he intended to stay in the states.  That’s not the situation here.  I expect to have the decision reversed.   The poor boy expected to receive his Visa yesterday.  He’s devastated.  The reasons given to him are not valid. 

  Excerpt from my counterpart: This is the first time something like that happen with one of our students.  The reason that the official gives to him was that he is 18 years old  (his birthday was 5 days ago) and they say that he already is  graduated from high school.  

Straight from the State Department website:  Eligible participants are between the age of 15 and 18-and-a-half years at the time of initial school enrollment (by the first day of school), or have not completed more than 11 years of primary and secondary school (excluding kindergarten). Students who have previously participated in an exchange program are ineligible for participation in the high school program. http://exchanges.state.gov/education/jexchanges/academic/hsstudent.htm

We have calls in to our Senator and the State Department.  I hope this is resolved early next week.  Eli’s plane tickets are for August 12th.  I am furious.