How to Beat the Lulls: Keeping Busy in the Winter Months

The holidays are behind us and the Spring season has yet to begin. On top of that the constant bad weather has been making everyone miserable. An unexpected snow day can be a lot of fun, but with school cancelled and travel impossible cabin fever sets in pretty quickly. So what is to be done? How can you keep yourself busy during the next few weeks without driving your family nuts?


1) Start a project: Every student must complete at least five hours of community service, and it will take time to plan out a community service project. Take some time to plan instead of trying to find a project or group to join at the last minute. This will not only help you perform a better, more organized project, but it will make it more personal because you thought it up on your own. Planning ahead and exploring your options will also give you a wider variety of projects and more meaningful projects from which to choose. Try to think of what your community needs or something that would improve the quality of life for your neighbors, then put your creative mind to work.


2) Practice your English: Exams will be coming up in a few short months. If you are struggling with the language, there are several different ways you can improve your skills. One fairly simple option is to check a few English language novels out of the library and plow through them with your dictionary in hand. If you need some material that is a little more accessible, go to the young-adult section and find some classics. Many publishers release copies of books with simplified language for a younger audience. While they may not be geared to our age group, they will be easier for a non-native English speaker to understand. When you return home you can impress your friends and family by telling them you read Frankenstein, Moby Dick, or The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.


3) Find a community group to join: In almost every town in the U.S. there are shared interested groups such as Kiwanis, 4H, outdoor clubs, and sporting groups. Groups such as these are places for community members to gather and share in a common interest. Not only will you be able to make friends and meet new people, but very often there is a charitable aspect of such groups, which may help you develop an idea for your service project.


4) Start a blog or journal: Let’s face it, your time here is short. Although it seems daunting in the beginning, five or ten months will whiz by. Before you know it the time will come to return home. Keeping a record of your time in the U.S. will help you remember how important it was to participate in the exchange program and remind you of all the adventures you had. If you are web savvy and have the ability to start a blog, your friends, family, and teachers can see what a great time you are having. Post lots of pictures and try to take in as much of your surroundings as possible to show people what it is like to live in your community. You may also inspire other students to do as you have done. The more we share our cultures with one another the closer we come to global understanding.


5) Make time to talk to your host family: People are busy. Sometimes our busy lives make it difficult to spend time together. Why not plan a family dinner, or a trip to the movies (weather permitting), or a game night, and bring everyone together for some quality time? If you take the initiative your family will appreciate the sentiment. Showing people that you want to spend time with them gives them a good feeling and makes them value the time they spend with you.


6) Relax: It is easy to get caught up in the “rat race”, especially when you are a busy student. Always remember to take some time for yourself. Read, write, exercise, go for a walk, ride a bike, and just enjoy being alone for a little while. Reflecting is a powerful part of memory and concentration. Examining your own life and the choices you make will help you make good decisions in the future. Sometimes if we take a step back from our busy lives it is easier to appreciate all the people we know and the things we have done. Never underestimate the power of a little downtime.


Keep in mind that there are only a few months left of the exchange program, and the last eight weeks will go by very fast. You will be studying for exams, trying to take in some time with friends, and rushing to get all your documentation together before leaving to head for home. You don’t want to waste the time you have available now. Each day an opportunity to go out (or hunker down) and learn something new.


Be safe and warm, everyone. ISE wishes you all a great weekend!

The 2014 Winter Olympics

The Winter Olympic Games have been played in 22 cities around the world since the start of the 20th century. As an athletic competition, the contest assembles the best athletes from every corner of the globe to compete in events such as bobsledding, skiing, speed skating, ice hockey, and luging, with each country competing to bring home the gold medal. Hosting the Olympics is considered a great honor, and many countries vie for the right to host in order to boost political morale amongst their citizens and reap the benefits of increased jobs, inflated revenues, and international exposure for their respective way of life.


Like any event that draws a lot of attention, the Olympics has had a few unfortunate controversies, including the hosting of the games, the use of performance enhancing drugs, and the interference of politically motivated radicals using the worldwide exposure of the games to perpetuate violence. With the exception of several of the games, these brief periods of uncertainty and upheaval have done little to affect the spirited participation of the athletes that make the games. The number of countries participating in the competition has risen steadily throughout the history of the Olympics with very few setbacks, and the overall reception of the games has been generally positive.


Finances and politics aside, what makes the Olympics such an important part of the collective global community is the multiculturalism and diplomacy represented by the olympians. The games are a time to put human differences and political machinations on hold, albeit for a short while. While not every competing country may share the same beliefs, each athlete is connected to the thousands of other contestants through a common goal. Each athlete that competes in the games has trained in his or her respective sport for years, enduring the discipline and arduous effort required to become an olympian.


Another aspect of the games to consider is the number of people that witness the games. Next to the Super Bowl and the World Cup, the Olympics attracts millions of viewers from all over the world, making it one of the most highly viewed events in human history. When one considers the number of people watching the games it becomes clear that the Olympics has the ability to unify the different nations of the world by providing common ground.


This year, 88 countries will compete in the Winter Olympics in Sochi, and despite numerous setbacks the games will begin in a few short hours with the grand spectacle of the opening ceremony. International Student Exchange wishes all of the athletes a safe and successful journey through this year’s games.