International Student Exchange Launches Survey and iPad Contest

In an effort to gain insight from it’s foreign student body, ISE recently launched a mid-semester evaluation survey in which students could offer feedback on the kinds of experiences they were having and how the services offered by the organization could be improved. The survey was an extension of an initiative suggested by the Department of State to get more information and input from exchange students about how often they are in contact with their local representatives, what kinds of challenges they have face during the program, and whether or not they feel supported during their stay in the US.

The response has been overwhelming, to say the least. With nearly with over 2,500 students enrolled in the J-1 program, approximately 90% of the recipients returned the survey forms to ISE headquarters in Babylon, New York. Reminiscent of the iconic scene in Miracle on 34th Street (bags upon bags of envelopes being poured on the judge’s desk) ISE employees have begun the task of opening, sorting, reading, and addressing the content of the letters. They are happy to report that students have submitted a nearly unanimous favorable opinion of the program, the host families, the representatives, and the experiences they have had. The positive feedback shows that despite being spread across the country and in a vast array of different cities, students overall feel a strong connection to the program and their local communities.

Among the most positive responses are those related to a student’s relationship with his or her family. Responses such as, “They are like family to me,” “We have a lot of fun,” and “They are great.  Whenever I have a problem I always talk with my host family and they helped me a lot,” seem to suggest that students have little trouble integrating into their families and maintaining that relationship throughout the program.

The survey also shows that students are active and involved in community and school activities, suggesting that students feel comfortable becoming part of their locality and making an effort to integrate into social events. The most popular activities listed and enjoyed by students are football, cheerleading, and community service organizations, with some students raving about being able to join school sports when they did not expect to be allowed because they were from another country.

In order to show appreciation for those students who participated, ISE entered each student who returned a completed survey into a raffle for a brand new iPad Mini. The winner was chosen at random before the letters were opened.

JuanCedilloTheWinnerThe winner of the contest was a Mexican student named Juan, who lives in ISE’s Crossroads region. Congratulations, Juan, and thanks to Crossroads Region for your help in bringing this project home.

Exchange Students Give Thanks to the Red Cross

Exchange Students from International Student Exchange’s Smokey Mountain Region (Tennessee and Kentucky) met on a warm spring day in April to show their appreciation for one of the largest charitable organizations in the world, the American Red Cross.

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By washing vehicles, planting flowers, and landscaping the grounds of the Red Cross facility in Tennessee, students aimed to give back to the Red Cross organization, which works during times of international crises to bring care to injured soldiers, feed the hungry, and coordinate one of the largest blood banks in the world. It was a moment of international solidarity for both organizations, and though the two groups share a somewhat different approach to volunteerism, both groups firmly belief in service and outreach, ideals which serve not only the locality, but the public at large, setting an example for the global community.

AmRedCross11The international students and the members of the Red Cross share a kinship in that they are both dedicated to service. The American Red Cross, formed in 1881, has been at the forefront of volunteerism and service to those in need for over 100 years, bringing medicine, food, and care to people around the world, while the students from ISE have taken the initiative to participate in Project H.E.L.P., a volunteer group associated with their visa sponsor that works with local and international organizations to coordinate service projects around the country.

AmRedCross5In addition to offering a simple “sprucing up” to the Red Cross facility in Tennessee, ISE’s Project H.E.L.P. has worked with the victims of hurricane Katrina, aided in cleanups from national disasters, and volunteered to assist children at St. Jude’s Hospital, just to name a few of the more expansive projects.

 

 

Host Family Honored, Exchange Student Meets Congressman

Exchange student, Gabriel Lopez, attending a reception at which his host father, Todd Hiday, was honored for his continual service to the local Republican Party, had a chance to meet with Congressman Luke Messer, who made it a special point to congratulate Lopez on all of his success on the exchange program.

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Described by his host mother, Melissa Hiday, as “member of the family” and “[our] third child”, Gabriel has managed to become a well known part of the community in which he was placed. In addition to being honored by Congressman Messer and earning the respect of his classmates and community, he has also been asked to return on a new visa in the fall to play college basketball.

Congratulations to Gabriel and the Hiday Family. We wish you all happy and healthy remainder of the program, and that Gabriel can fulfill his wishes and return this fall.