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.

 

 

Special Interest News Story on Local Area Representative

Cybele Owen, an area representative in the Capital Region outside the Washington D.C. area recently had a special interest article written about her in a professional business online magazine. Here is what the magazine had to say about Cybele:

Travel was in Cybele Owen’s blood; she was a tour guide for several years and loved learning about different cultures. But when the hours and the demands of her position became too much, Owen knew she needed a new job with the same stimulation as her old one.Becoming a liasion for International Student Exchange was the perfect solution.“What I enjoy the most is meeting new people and finding out their interests,” Owen says of her new position, matching students from around the world with couples interested in hosting an exchange student for an extended period of time. “I thought of the tours I really enjoyed, and remembered a tour of nineteen exchange students in Florida. I really enjoyed learning about them and their culture.”

The host families provide room, board,and a caring atmosphere, but they receive a lot in return,” They don’t get any financial incentive; it’s about being connected to the global environment. The host families get to learn, on a first hand level, about other countries with no expense. Traveling to these countries is very pricey, especially for a family of four,” explains Owen.

Working for a student exchange seemed a natural choice for Owen, who was an exchange student herself for a year and a half in China. She now works with students from China, as well as from Germany, Vietnam, and Spain.

ISE Presents Plaque to High School In Michigan

ISE’s representative, Denise Rose, recently presented Mr. Baese of Ovid-Elsie High School in Elsie, Michigan with a plaque to thank the school for its continued dedication to the goal of student exchange. At ISE we are impressed by the support and commitment that schools have shown us year after year. Without individuals like Mr. Baese, student exchange would not have the strong foundation it does today. Thank you, Mr. Baese!

Area Representative Peggy Griggs Spotlights One of Her Shining Stars

It is not uncommon for ISE Area Representatives to become mentors to students. As a matter of fact, it is more often the rule than the exception. As an Area Rep, you find a family for your student to live with, monitor his or her progress while living in the U.S. and are there for many of the important milestones that happen during the crucial young adult stage that ISE students occupy. Watching a student grow, learn, and mature as a person forms a kind of bond that is difficult to dissolve and impossible to forget.

That is why International Student Exchange loves to read stories like the one below, submitted by Peggy Griggs, an ISE Representative from El Paso, TX. Her student, Simon Grung, seems destined for many great things, and ISE is proud to hear of his accomplishments. Please read on:

Simen Grung, an exchange student from Norway, attends Faith Christian Academy in El Paso, Texas. He is an excellent student. His host mother, Norma Zacherl, and I are very proud of him for all of his achievements.

Simen will be attending the 2013 TCAL (Texas Christian Athletic League) State Fine Arts and Academics Competition on April 17 – 20, 2013 in San Antonio, Texas. The competition includes categories in Music, Dance, Fine Arts and Mathematics. He will have an entry in three categories: Sculpture, Photography, and Choir.

Faith Christian Academy, established in 1981, offers the total package in education, as well as an excellent educational opportunity for students ranging from K-3 through 12th grade. FCA is fully accredited by the International Christian Accrediting Association and recognized as an accredited school by the Texas Education Association. Committed to providing their students and their parents with as many tools as possible, FCA strives to ensure success in education. All of their students achieve a higher level academically, spiritually, and physically.
Best wishes to Simen in the 2013 TCAL State Fine Arts and Academics competition.

Northwest Region Excels During Annual Homecoming

Homecoming festivities are a time honored tradition in America, dating back to college celebrations in the late 1800s in which students and faculty welcomed back returning alumni. The week long revelry generally included dances, rallies, picnics, and football games during which school teams would face off against their athletic and academic rivals.

Today these celebrations take place all over America, but there may be some districts hard pressed to find a region that does it with the gusto and fervor shown in the Northwest. In states like Washington and Oregon, homecoming is the event of the year for students and citizens. Parades, games, dances, and all manner of festivities take place the whole week long, and at the end the King and Queen chosen by the student body will stand preeminently with their classmates and neighbors to celebrate another year and the return of their local heroes.

In Ephrata, Washington, for example, homecoming includes a week of rallies, themed dress up days, dances, and games in which students and teachers compete against one another for various prizes. This year was especially notable, as Ephrata took home their first football victory in several years against their long standing rivals.

In the Northwest region as a whole, nine exchange students were named king and queen of homecoming at their respective high schools, and the exchange students had a chance to meet neighbors and former alumni from all over the country.

We at ISE wish the Northwest region and all regions across the U.S. a successful and productive year, and congratulate Ephrata on their recent victory.

Local Representative Honored By Northern Illinois Food Bank

Regional Advisor Sally Hoesel was honored Saturday September, 1st with the Northern Illinois Food Bank Youth Group of the Year Award for 2012. Accepting the award on behalf of International Student Exchange, Sally and her team gratefully showed Northern Illinois what a team of bright young students and caring advocates can do when they work together. Working diligently side by side with other volunteers from the area, students help to colelct, pack, and shiop food to distribution sites across the state.

Sally Hoesel has been a member of the ISE team for over six years running, and in that time she has placed nearly one hundred students in great homes in the Illinois region. When asked about her contributions to the food bank, Sally responded saying that “We volunteer the second Saturday of every month for over two hours…this marks the beginning of our third year with the food bank.”

In a coordinated effort to feed the homeless, the elderly, and the young hungry of Illinois, The Northern Illinois Food Bank helps to serve over 60,000 hungry people each week through partnerships with pantries, soup kitchens, and local distribution sites all over the state. They are happy to have students and other volunteers from the ISE program with them during the school year, and look forward to their visits on the weekends.

Sally admits that she is “very proud to be recognized,” and so is ISE. It is people like Sally and her great team of students that keep this program going. Congratulations Sally! Keep up the good work.

Strategies: Set Up a Booth To Bolster Your Placements

BoothPhotoThe finish line grows closer by the day. In two weeks the season for August placements will be over, and we will be turning our sights toward January and the next wave of students. But before the season closes the headquarters thought it might be helpful to impart some tried and true wisdom on the field. So in the interest of making the most out of your regions, how about a little friendly advice from the north, where School Lunch Hour Booths have become one of the most successful paths to quality placements since the telethon and word-of-mouth advertising.

Our dear friend Rose Hawkins was nice enough to share her strategy with us, and her methods, as she told me earlier today, account for at least a third of the eighty or more placements made by her and her team each year. Her recommendation is that you follow these simple steps:

     1) Contact Your Schools: Establish contact with your schools by finding the first interested family and using their interest to generate more, or simply call and make an appointment to speak with a responsible administrator. Explain who you are and what you do, and then ask if it would be possible to set up an information booth during school lunch hours in which you can display information, hand out pamphlets , and take down the information of any students that want to participate in the program. Many schools will ask that at your booth you include information about ISE’s Outbound Program, and that is just fine, but make sure that you have plenty of supplies and information about the international students as well. By reaching out to the student body in your local high schools, you can find many wonderful families that would love an opportunity for their children to experience a foreign culture.

2)      Use Pictures, Pamphlets, and Plenty of Color: When setting up your booth, use colorful ads and distribute materials that will catch the eye. Your materials are in our office and ready for distribution, and each piece has all the information needed for setting up a placement. Make your booth look fun and use a lot of positive energy. People will respond if they know you are passionate about what you do.

3)      Be Positive, Not Pushy: Remember, you are at the school as a representative of a company that holds education and world peace above all other aspects. You want to show the students in your area that cultural experience and the promise of education is what draws the international community towards this program. Give out as much information as you can, but don’t demand access to the families and friends in your community.  If they know you are there, and they know what you do, they will see your booth and come to you.

4)      Try Alternatives: While most managers will swear by the lunch hour, try to set up during an event as well. Watch the school calendar for a conference night, sporting event, student social event, or Meet the Teacher night. Always ask permission before bring in your supplies, but you may be surprised at the positive response you get from a booth as opposed to cold-calling and passive flyers.

If you would like more information on setting up an information booth or if you think you have a great idea for a booth session and want some advice, do not hesitate to contact your program manager or facilitator at the headquarters. We are standing by ready to help you and we want to see you succeed. All it takes is a chance to generate interest, and you can have the most successful year you have ever seen.

An Open Letter from the Editor of Exchange Blog

Friends in Exchange:

It is a pleasure to be able to address our readers personally at such an important time of year. July and August can be hectic for our field, but they have done a remarkable job thus far, and having watched them in action for the last eleven months I can confidently say that we will be expecting another banner placing season and school year for the students at International Student Exchange.

I started working for ISE in August of 2011, but my novice experience notwithstanding I have seen an incredible array of diversity and culture, and had the opportunity to meet some very capable people. I have had the chance to write about gracious families and talented students, and watched our program flourish under the accomplishments of both students and representatives in the field who know that the inherent value of the exchange program lies in learning, service, and celebrating diversity.

As we prepare for the close of placing season it seems necessary to reflect on the goals of student exchange. When the Exchange Visitor Program was founded Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961 by the US Department of State, their goal was improve both diplomatic and cultural understanding by giving students from nations the world over a chance to see what the US had to offer. In terms of education and social mobility, we are one of the most versatile and advanced nations in the world, and when foreign students come to share in the wealth of opportunities afforded by the structure and collective goals of the United States, they go back to their home country with a better understanding of our nation and a broader understanding of what we contribute to the global community.

But this is only one end of the spectrum, because we cannot forget what accepting these students does for the United States and its citizens’ conception of the world at large. Ask yourself these questions: What do people eat for midday meals in Thailand? What is the education system like in Rio de Janeiro? What type of government is in place in Romania? If you can answer these questions than you are more culturally advanced than the greater population of the U.S., and while to some this kind of information may seem trivial, the reality is that we are predominately uniformed about our neighbors.

The risk of being insulated against cultural understanding is greater than it may seem, for while we lose touch with people with whom we share this planet, we forget our own role in the world as a contributor, and nationalism becomes our collective identity instead of the cultural “melting pot” metaphor that has become so commonplace to the U.S. vernacular. Accepting foreign students gives the United States an opportunity to find a common ground amidst the erratic disparities between one nation and the next. Each student enriches our cultural understanding, and at a younger age students of the United States can learn that people can come from different places and have a different life experience, but collectively we are united by the desire to advance, grow and learn as human beings.

These are the true tenets of student exchange, and the reasons why the program was founded and continues to be a success; but this program cannot exist without willing participants, and the volunteers that make it possible for students to come to our country, study, and leave with a greater and more profound understanding of who we are.

On a personal level, working for ISE has been an eye-opening experience. For a person who thought that he had a working knowledge of the world at large, I have been continually surprised by the experiences and knowledge I have gained in the last year. What I thought was a fairly sizeable catalogue of information about the global population turned out to only be the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The only way to really understand another culture is to experience it first hand by interacting with the people who have developed it, and student exchange does that on a daily basis. I am grateful for what I have learned so far, and I look forward to learning more in the years to come.

This kind of experience is available to you if you so wish. It is only a phone call away. If you want to know what it is like to expand your horizons and to help a young person realize their dreams of seeing the world, please call International Student Exchange and ask for more information. Our support staff and field representatives are waiting to hear from you.

Sincerely,

Steve Sobierajski

ISE Spotlight: Area Representative Jamin Henderson

Being an Area Representative at International Student Exchange is a difficult, but rewarding task. It takes dedication, patience, and a love for education and working with teens in order to navigate the placement process and the securing of quality families. In order to truly do the job well, one has to have the wherewithal to make a hundred inquiries for that one positive answer, but when, three months down the road, a representative gets to see a student seamlessly adopted into the family, making friends, and doing well in school, the hours of searching become well worth the effort.

This month, the Student Exchange Blog would like to introduce its readers to Jamin Henderson, an ISE Area Representative in Washington State who in her six years has placed over two hundred thirty students in homes all over the Northwestern United States. Though our conversation was somewhat brief, it was not hard to tell that Jamin is a dedicated member of the ISE team. Her story is filled with humanism, global perspective, and a passion for helping students to realize their dreams.

Jamin began working for ISE in 2006. Before that, she worked for a human aid organization that provided healthcare to the less fortunate in countries across the globe. Her involvement with the organization took her through places such as Russia, Africa, and parts of Europe and Asia. When she returned home from travelling the world, she noticed a Craigslist ad that offered a job with flexible hours, travel incentives, and a chance to work with students from many different nations and backgrounds. The choice seemed obvious.

“I loved the idea of making international connections and travelling,” says Henderson. “It makes the world smaller, and having flexibility lets me do my job when it works best for everyone, including the students.”

Since joining the team, Jamin has made it possible for students from many different nations to come and study in the United States. When asked what her favorite part of the job was, Henderson responded, “seeing the world through my student’s eyes and expanding people’s point of view. We bring the world to other people and then they get to experience things in a new way. I love finding families and being able to give kids this opportunity.”

One of the challenges that faces an Area Representative is dealing with opposing cultures and reconciling the occasional bout of culture shock that some student’s experience. Sometimes these are unavoidable for students, because transporting yourself from one side of the world to the other and living with a family whose customs differ greatly from yours can sometimes be hard to swallow at first. But Jamin has a strategy she likes to employ, and that is to remind the students that expectations and reality rarely meet in the middle. 

“I tell the students to put their expectations aside and just have a great experience,” says Henderson. “If they come here thinking that things are going be a certain way, or if they have a vision of how they want it to be, they will almost always wind up culture shocked or disappointed. If they come expecting to simply share their culture and learn about the U.S. and study, they are more likely to have a positive experience.”

As a representative, Jamin has many goals for the future of student exchange in Washington. Among enjoying her job and meeting more and more new people, she hopes “to increase her placements in Washington State so that students can see what great families we have.”

Jamin deserves our praise and respect as one of our most successful representatives. We at ISE headquarters wish you luck in the future and more happy sunny days.

International Student Exchange Takes Historic Texas Tour

Aside from being a keystone in the American cultural landscape, Texas also represents one of the most populated and culturally diverse states in the union. Home to over 25 million residents, Texas has been and continues to be an important part of the American “melting pot,” boasting a mixture of races and creeds that rivals both New York and California. But what many people do not know is that Texas also contains one of the highest concentrations of foreign exchange students in the United States.

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The Council on Standards for International and Educational Travel (CSIET) reported in their 2011-2012 statistical publication that at 1,826 students, Texas ranked second only to one other state, and by a fairly wide margin at that. The fact is that Texas and its residents welcome the exchange program, and that the students have been able to find a place the supports their mission of cultural immersion and educational travel.

And what is not to like? Because of its expansive landmass and the sheer breadth of its borders, Texas offers a little bit of just about every climate and landscape in the United States. It has rich, tumultuous and interesting history, and played a significant part in the westward expansion that shaped the way the country as a whole appears on the map to this very day. Perhaps these reasons are why Texas is so appealing to the exchange program, and why so many students elect to live there year in and year out.

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The photos listed here are just a few of the students that call Texas their home, and as you can see they are enjoying themselves thoroughly. ISE would like to thank the state of Texas and its residents for helping to make the student exchange program the rich and vibrant experience it is today.