Graduation Season Underway: International Student Exchange Celebrates Student Achievements

For many American families, one of the most rewarding aspects of the International Student Exchange’s J-1 program is being able to assist a student with big dreams realize his or her goals. Providing opportunities, offering guidance, and being there for the important milestones in a foreign son or daughter’s life is what draws people to the J-1 program, and the reward of watching that son or daughter succeed is what inspires these families to continue hosting year after year.


At no time is this more important or relevant than during graduation season, a traditional American epoch that brings families, communities and educators together in celebration. It is a time for commendation, recollection, and togetherness, and a proud moment in any parent’s life. Without undermining the achievements of our American students, what sets the exchange program apart is the journey undertaken by the parents and students who participate. Imagine the stories that will be shared once the student returns home to tell his or her friends and family about all the wonderful things that were experienced while living in the U.S., and imagine the happy memories that will be shared by the hosts that made it possible.GraduationPhoto123

In this year alone, International Student Exchange has seen students inducted into the National Honor Society, has helped students contribute thousands upon thousands of service hours to their respective communities, and has has witnessed students advance the cultural capital of our nation by providing insight into the ways that the differing nations of the world live, work, and learn. These efforts not only advance diplomacy and the image of the U.S. in the international community, they prove a immutable fact of human existence: we want to learn from one another, we want to help as many people as we can, and we want peace in our lifetimes for all nations of the world.

Departure may loom in the foreseeable future, but the families and students of ISE are in high spirits, sharing their stories, enjoying their time together, and planning for a future where each will be a part of the other’s life. With each student who takes that promising walk through commencement, who works to achieve his or her academic goals, and who brings a eclectic and engaging culture to the classroom, America becomes a stronger nation.


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.


Steve Sobierajski

International Student Exchange: Educating Tomorrow’s Leaders

Since its inception over thirty years ago, International Student Exchange has been organized and operated with the goal of “Educating Tomorrow’s Leaders.” This oft appearing maxim is the defining philosophy that drives student exchange—the idea that anyone, anywhere, from any background, belief system, or demographic has the potential to achieve greatness, and that education is the means through which they will realize such a dream. Great minds become great leaders, and what ISE does is supply those minds with a chance to grown, learn, and lead.

Long before they apply for the visa, our students have already come to understand that education is more than what you can learn in a book. Education is also life experience, learning to rely on oneself, and realizing value of learning something new each and every day; it is learning to think critically, to ask questions, and to find patterns in the chaos. In essence, that is why students seek us out in the first place. The program is a chance for expansive life experience, a trip that challenges a student in ways both foreign and new, but is valuable later in life in ways that may never have been apparent had these students never taken the first step by entering the exchange program.

And isn’t that what leadership is about? In many ways being a leader means being a pioneer, having the courage to venture into the unknown, and finding a way to give what you have learned in that intellectual wilderness back to the rest of the world. A student who comes to the U.S. to study goes back with a broader understanding of life as well as a new educational understanding, and with these tools tries to instill in his or her countrymen the idea that maybe the world is not as big and scary and different as they think, but that the people on the other side of the world are a lot like them, and that culture is a thing to be shared instead of rejected or held subject to speculation.

Educating tomorrow’s leaders is about showing the global community that it is possible to find common ground, despite a separation of miles, or a disparity in cultural ideals. The famous poet and literary critic T. S. Eliot once said, “The process of advancement is interesting. It isn’t that you get bigger to fit the world; the world gets smaller to fit you.” Your reach improves, your vision sharpens, and at some point you realize that the further away you get from home, the closer you get to yourself and those around you. Advancement is bridging the gap, and education is learning to build that bridge.

Join International Student exchange today. A trip around the world is waiting for you.

Chinese Exchange Student Raises the Bar

Foreign exchange student Lejing Xu has received a wealth of honors from her host school over the course of the past year, and has most recently walked away with a few accolades that have the teachers and families of Grandville, MI beaming over her accomplishments.

Over the course of the last ten months, Lejing has reinvented the standard for academic excellence at host high school, scoring not only a perfect 1600 hundred on her SAT, but becoming the first female student in the history of Grandville High to score a perfect 100% in her AP Calculus class and come in first out of 453 students with a stunning 4.6 GPA. A well disciplined and extremely outgoing student, teachers at Grandville have been quoted saying that Lejing is not only one of the most advanced students in the school, but has also come to be known and loved for her kindness, friendliness, and outgoing personality.

When asked about her experience as a host mother, Sheryl Blair was happy to say that it was one of the best experiences her family has ever had, and that the time they spent with Lejing is something that her family will treasure for many years. “Having Lejing was just phenomenal,” said Blair. “Everyone loves her. She has impacted our lives greatly. She has taught our grandkids to speak Chinese and even to use chopsticks. I know they will never forget her.”

Sheryl said that they were inspired to become host parents when they met Dawn Martinson, the Regional Manager for ISE’s Central Mid West region, at an expo where Dawn had set up her annual booth for promoting the program. “We love working with kids,” said Blair, “so we had tried several times to become a foster family, but for one reason or another it never worked out. Then when we saw Dawn’s info, we thought we would give it a chance. It was a great decision, and the program has been positive beyond our wildest expectations.”

Lejing is described as a very studious and regimented student. In her home country, she attends a boarding school and only comes home for visits on the weekends. She is also a diligent piano player, and often gives recitals at her school. In Michigan, Lejing has played at several benefits where she was able to raise over one thousand dollars and sell over fifty copies of her CD. “She is a tremendous musician. Her playing is more advanced than I have seen for a student her age,” said a local music teacher at Grandville.

The Blair family and Lejing are trying to prepare for her departure, which will take place within the next three weeks. “We are hoping that she will come back and see us again,” said Blair. “She was the best there ever could be.”

Congratulations to Lejing for her accomplishments We at ISE would like to wish the Blairs a happy and safe holiday weekend, and Lejing a safe trip home.

Italian Student Perfects English With Tennis

Silvia-Galimberti-Tennis-PlayerItalian student, Silvia Galimberti, was highlighted in the Virginia Gazette last week for her impressive role in the success of the Jamestown High School tennis team. She is quoted saying that although she enjoys playing tennis, it is not common to find team sports such as tennis offered in Italian schools, and that she enjoys the fact that she can be part of the team in Jamestown.

For Galimberti, playing tennis was a way for her to integrate into her school and improve her English skills. “It was hard in the beginning…they couldn’t understand me, “says Galimberti, “but being on the team helped me get to know people and them to know me.”

Since the initial obstacles, Galimberti has become an indispensible member of the team, becoming proficient in her strokes and boosting morale for the team overall. Her American teammates have been quoted as saying that it gives them great pride “when [they] hear her Italian voice cheering” them on.

Galimerti says that she plans to keep playing when she gets back to Italy, but that there is still a lot she wants to see before she returns home.


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.


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.


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.

Warm Wishes from Your Humble Blogger: ISE in the New Year

One year has ended and another begins. At such an interstitial time of year it seems dually appropriate both to recollect and to imagine, to leaf through the memories, looking back on what has been accomplished, while simultaneously looking at the days ahead and wondering what the coming year has in store for us.


In retrospect we have the student accomplishments, family bonds, academic achievements and friendships made in the past twelve months, and before us we have an exciting influx of new minds and personalities, new events and occasions, new surprises and expectations. I can only speculate what lies ahead, but if this upcoming year is to be anything like the one that has just come to a close we can all prepare to be continually amazed at what student exchange offers and what it produces when students and families are brought together.


Though I am relatively new at ISE, your humble editor has seen some amazing sights in the past few months. I have seen students come to this country and flourish academically. I have seen young people who make their countries proud, and honor ours with their achievements. I have seen young people adapt, grow, learn, and become involved. And I have seen them leave, hearts a bit heavy, eyes a bit misty, knowing that they leave a bit of themselves here and that their families send a bit of themselves along.


I have seen our Regional Coordinators, Managers and Representatives, who work around the clock to attend to our students, come together to share tips and stories, all of whom have said goodbye to at least one student with whom they will never lose contact. I have even seen their children working up the courage to say goodbye to their new brother or sister, knowing full well that they will meet again, but each unsure as when or how it will be.

In our collective future I see the continuation of an ever reaching presence in the global community. I see students and teachers and parents and friends who understand the value of cultural and academic exchange and the present and future possibilities of one day reaching our goal of global understanding and world peace. I see people who refuse to sit idly by as others go hungry, or make war with one another, or refuse empathy.


And through all this International Student Exchange believe we can make tomorrow a little bit better for the generations to come. Each great movement starts with a single idea, a small step, and a commitment. If you have hosted before, our global network thanks you. If you are interested, do not hesitate to contact us and find out how you can be a host family for a student that wishes to see America and everything our country has to offer. And if you are a student, the world is waiting to hear what you have to say.


We at ISE wish everyone a safe, happy,and healthy New Year, all the best to your families, friends and students, and hope for a better future through global unity.

Study Abroad as an American High School Student!

American high school students think about proms, football games, pep rallies, and homework on an almost daily basis, but the thought of traveling abroad to study in another country is hardly ever considered. As we move forward in the 21st century the world is becoming smaller, cultures are intersecting, and the need for greater understanding between countries is even greater. International Student Exchange(ISE) believes in the need for more Outbound programs, which is why we have developed multiple programs to suit the needs of different students. ISE now offers an academic year program, which typically lasts 10 months, a semester program, which lasts 5 months, and a summer program, lasting 2-3 weeks in either Italy or France.

ISE is also proud of its home teacher program which allows interested applicants to live in either Italy, France or Belgium for a select period of time where they will teach a host family English while the host family provides room, board, and a cultural exchange program.

Please visit ISE’s Outbound site to learn more!

BBC Reporter Visits Host Family in FL, Shows the Power of High School Exchange

Franz Strasser, a digital reporter for BBC World News America and originally from Germany files a video report about his return to Mayo, Florida, where he spent the 2001-02 school year as a high school exchange student living with the Gresham family. For the Greshams, hosting an exchange student was not only about broadening their horizons, but also about adding another member to their family.

 “When you moved into the house and you were straight from Germany,” Aaron Gresham, Strasser’s host brother, reminisced, “it was a big culture shock because, you know, you did things a lot differently than we do things here in the States. But it was a good experience for me, because you were probably the first person from another country that I’ve met.”

 Added Strasser’s other host brother, Alex, about hearing his family would take in an exchange student: “I was excited because I was thinking, ‘Oo, another brother!’”

 For Strasser, his experience as an exchange student with the Greshams directly led to his current career: “My path to ultimately living and working in the [U.S.] started right here [in Mayo]

Strasser points out, however, that the importance of his time as a high school exchange student ultimately did not lie in school or language studies or the chance to travel to a new place. Rather,
it lay in gaining a new family and experiencing the real people and places that make up the United States. As Strasser concludes:

“What made it so special was [the Greshams] didn’t treat me as a foreigner; they took me in as one of their own.

 “…It’s one thing to be lucky enough to spend a year in an American high school as an exchange student. But my idea about this country— its hospitality and the character of its people—was shaped in this small town and by this family.”