Farewell Until August!

Dear students, families, friends, and colleagues,


It has been a great year. Watching our 2013/14 students live, learn, and grow in the U.S. has been a pleasure and a privilege, and I hope you have enjoyed following our progress together throughout the year.


The time has come to say goodbye to our 13/14 students, and as one academic year ends we must prepare for the next. So, our faithful readers, the blog will be going dormant until all of our August arriving students are placed and secure. If our predictions are correct, we will be back with more wonderful stories about the exchange program some time around the third week in August. Thank  you for reading, and for your feedback  during the past year.


There are lots of reasons to be a part of the exchange program, more than I could ever list here. If you or someone you know would like the opportunity to learn more, please visit our website, call our office 800.766.4656, or contact your local representative for more information.


Once again, I would like to say thank you to all the people that make this program possible. Thank you for visiting our blog, and for all of your support throughout the program year. From everyone at ISE headquarters, we wish you a happy and healthy summer, and a safe return for all of our students.


Your Friend in Exchange,

Steve Sobierajski



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!

Bringing Your Holiday to the United States

The holiday season is upon us! Gatherings, gifts, vacations, and voyages are underway for the many end-of-year celebrations that take place in the U.S., and for the numerous diverse groups across the country there is plenty to celebrate.


While Christmas may dominate the landscape of December in the U.S., there are many different celebrations that take place between November and January. Hanukah and Kwanza are some of the more familiar end-of-year traditions, but there are also other celebrations like the Dongzhi Festival, celebrated by Eastern Asian cultures, the Pancha Ganapati festival, celebrated by Hindus, or Bodhi Day, celebrating the enlightenment of Bhudda.

Salvation Army

Most of these festivals share a common thread. They are all concerned with closing the year, welcoming the New Year, or concern an important religious or historical figure to whom an homage is paid. The festival of Pancha Ganapati, for example, honors the lord Pancha Ganapati and the deity Ganesha, and is a time for celebration and spiritual reflection on one’s past. The image of the deity is honored with different colored robes for each of the five days of the celebration, as well as tinsel and colorful flashing lights. Like Christmas, Pancha Ganapati, Hanukah, and the others are all celebrations that call for gatherings and feasting and are occasions for family and friends to spend time together.

Wayne with her exchange students

Some of the greatest aspects of these holiday celebrations are the different traditions that each family enjoys. Even within individual cultures and religions people celebrate the same holidays in different ways. For example, it is a widespread tradition for Christian families in the U.S. to gather for a large dinner on Christmas Eve, but in several areas of the country Christmas Eve is celebrated with fireworks and gift exchanges wait until Christmas morning.

Mingrui - Snow

The diversity in holiday traditions is what makes the season such an exciting time of year. Festivities and fun come in many different forms, and for our foreign visitors that is an important part of living abroad during this time of year. The reason the United States has such varied traditions for end-of-year celebrations is because of the worldwide influx of different cultures that have come to America over the years and shared their history with one another.

Visiting Santa

Exchange visitors are also largely responsible for creating new family traditions when it comes to the holidays, because each student and family impact one another’s’ lives in such a profound way. As an exchange visitor this is a great time to tell host family members and friends what your holiday traditions are and how your family likes to celebrate them. What kind of holiday decoration do you have in your home country? Are there any games your family and friends play that you can show to your host family?


Take this opportunity to learn as much as you can and show others what the holidays mean to you. Have a safe and healthy holiday season!


Thanksgiving, what traditions does your host family have?

Thanksgiving is one the best holidays in the US. It falls on the 4th Thursday of every November and is celebrated by almost everyone in the country.

Blog 2

Several countries have their own version of the holiday. Some even dispute exactly when the first Thanksgiving occurred. Most Americans follow it back to 1621, when the Pilgrims came to the US on the Mayflower. It wasn’t until 1789 did George Washington proclaim the first nation-wide Thanksgiving. Many historians believe it was George Washington that created the “Thursday” tradition as he set it for Thursday, November 26th, 1789. Abraham Lincoln (another great president), decided to follow the trend of Thursday and make Thanksgiving the last of each month. Congress made it an official holiday in 1941, establishing the 4th Thursday of November.

Blog 1

The great part of Thanksgiving is not the history, but the fact every family seems to have their own traditions. Growing up, I would visit my grandparents along with all of my uncles and cousins. We would play a football game in the morning, followed by setting up for a 4:00 PM dinner. By 6:00 PM, dessert was on the table with some of the best homemade pies I ever tasted. After all the dishes were done, my family would head to the bowling alley for friendly competition.

My friend’s family does an Italian Thanksgiving. Instead of turkey and mash potatoes, they serve lasagna and chicken parmesan. After dinner, they have Italian cookies and finish the night with Yahtzee.

My college roommate was from Detroit. His family went to the annual football game every year. They had dinner at the stadium.

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My brother’s wife, her family had a late Thanksgiving dinner. After dinner, they would go wait in line at Best Buy for “Black Friday” deals. Black Friday is the unofficial kickoff to the holiday season. Many stores will offer great deals as people will wait in line for a 12:00 AM open.

When Thanksgiving comes, the important thing is to spend time with your host family. Learn about their traditions and how they celebrate it. You might meet some of your extended host family (cousins, uncles, aunts). This is a good chance to ask your aunts, uncles and even grandparents family history questions. Ask about how they grew up and where some the family traditions started.

Blog 3

Either way, be sure to eat a lot of food, watch a football game and help clean up!

Student Departures: ISE Students Begin to Head for Home

Over the course of the next few weeks, the majority of International Student Exchange’s students will be departing for home. After living in the U.S. for five or ten months they are eager to return to their families and friends but the bonds that students and families form are impossible to forget. As wonderful as it feels to be welcomed home, leaving behind the experience of living abroad is no easy task.


If you are an exchange student, your host family members become your mother, father, sisters and brothers, and the day-to-day family life becomes the most important part of the exchange program, because this is the point at which cultures and ideas truly intersect.


As a student, it is expected that you will share your life and culture with the family in which you are placed, and as a host family, it is expected that you will introduce the student to your community and the special brand of cultural immersion that only your family can offer. And if both parties are willing to learn from one another, the result is often a tearful, albeit positive, goodbye when the program comes to an end.


This year ISE has been gratefully bestowed the honor of having a tremendously accomplished set of students, whose achievements have made it possible for more and more students to find homes in the U.S. than ever before. And now that they are beginning their respective journeys home, host families can really see how much the program has changed their lives and enriched their relationships.


But the perspective gained from the program is the type that lasts long after a student departs. The greatest accomplishment is when you realize that the world may not be as big as you thought. With each year that goes by we are bringing the different nations of the world closer and closer together. By finding common ground between these cultures we may one day find a way to peacefully coexist, and ultimately bring understanding to a global scale. With each family and student that participates these goals come closer and closer.


12 Year Old Host Sister Loves Student Exchange

Student exchange touches the lives of all that are involved. Take for instance a 12 year old who is a host sister to an exchange student. She wrote a poem about how much she loves having an exchange student live with her.

You came here on a

the thought sometimes
gave you a chill.

Just a wink until you
were there,

but now you love and

Studied hard in
school with tests,

and sometimes had
your regrets,

came through
though,came out strong,

and up on stage on
Graduation Day is where you belong.

Sometimes we argued
and fought,

then strength in each
other is what we sought.

Because we were
sisters, we didn’t always agree,

but you’ll always be
on top for me.

You were here,

here just one year.

Changing me and
changing you,

making friends, it’s
what we do.

I’ll miss you when
you’re gone,

but back home is
where you belong.

I know I’ll cry, but
thank you anyways,

I promise I’ll
remember you always.

again for all the cool stuff!


We can always look positively upon the impact that student exchange has not only host families, but on the children that live with these exchange students.

Why Hosting Can Change Your Life

Hosting a foreign exchange student is a life changing activity that can only bring positive energy to you and your household. The reasons for hosting are many and the experience lasts a lifetime. ISE is proud of its mission and the representatives that work throughout the United States to make this lofty dream a reality. So why should anyone host an exchange student?

Exchange students enrich your life by sharing their foreign culture and experiences.

Have you thought about hosting an exchange student recently?

Open your heart and mind to a life changing experience by contacting a local ISE representative today.

International German Student Takes the Plunge for the Special Olympics

International Student Exchange has long been a supporter of volunteerism and efforts to strengthen communities through service. With the implementation of Project H.E.L.P., ISE has been able to serve both large scale causes, such as the Hurricane Katrina disaster relief effort, to small yet important community outreach programs, such as food pantries and soup kitchens. Some students have even taken the initiative to go out into the community shoveling snow or raking leaves for their neighbors, a task which might not make a global impact, but does improve someone’s quality of life and put a smile on his or her face.

As a requirement for ISE’s exchange program, each student must complete a minimum of five hours of community service while visiting the United States. While that may not seem like much, five hours can make a huge difference in someone else’s life, and the fact is that most students choose to do much, much more. These hours are often completed in between juggling sports competitions, homework, studying, family events, and standardized testing, each student giving as much as they can with the experience and time they have.

Recently one of ISE’s students went above and beyond the requirements of his program to raise money for a national organization known as the Special Olympics, which helps athletes with disabilities realize their dreams by organizing some of the largest coordinated sporting events in the country. Participating in Kansas’s statewide Polar Plunge, an event that promotes and raises funds for the Kansas Special Olympics, exchange student Martin Honscha from Germany was able to raise a seventy five dollar donation that was gladly handed over to the organization.

Working in conjunction with other students from Haysville High School in Kansas, Martin and several others (shown in the photos below) took the plunge to help keep this great event going.

Honscha has been in country now for several months and is quite happy to be attending school in Kansas and making American friends. ISE thanks, Honscha and the New Frontier region for all their hard work and dedication both to the exchange program and to the Kansas Special Olympics. Good luck in the coming months!

Student Arrivals: What to Expect In the First Few Days

Students are arriving from all over the world and will continue to do so steadily for the next few weeks. As a host parent this is an exciting time of year. Receiving a student quells the anticipation of the program’s beginning, and marks the beginning of a new relationship, one that will leave hosts with memories and experiences that they will never forget.

But as exciting as this time can be for the families, it can also be a stressful time for the students. Imagine being transposed from a place that you have known your entire life, and a culture that has helped shape you into the person you are, to a place that is entirely new, a culture that is predominately alien, and where everyone speaks a different language than you are accustomed to hearing on a daily basis. And imagine doing it all after a twelve- to twenty-hour flight. Suffice to say, the first few days can be a bit jarring, but with a little planning and foresight hosts and students can help one another adjust to the program. These simple reminders can help both students and parents in the early weeks:

1)      Travel is Exhausting: Do not be surprised to meet a very tired kid at the airport. Both the student and the parent should take things slow the first few days if at all possible. In many situations time is short as students and families prepare for school, but if there is even a day to relax, show the student around, let him or her become acclimated to the surroundings, and above all do not bombard your student with new faces. Immediate family during the first few days is enough.

2)      Your Student is Your New Son or Daughter. Do Not Treat Your Student Like a Guest: The longer you play the role of a host or hostess, the longer it will take a student to acclimate or adjust to your home. If, however, you assume the role of the parent, and treat your student like the son or daughter he or she should be, then it will be easier to keep from disrupting your home, children, and the student’s academic life. You will both need time to adjust to this change, and it will not happen overnight.

3)      Speaking English Daily Will Be New for Your Student: Thought our students learn English and study it for years before coming to the U.S., speaking it on a daily basis and engaging in conversation is another matter entirely. Most students speak their native language in their home country, especially during informal conversations such as the ones that will take place with friends at school or with host family members. Give the student time to adjust to using English. Be prepared to answer questions. Speak slowly if your student does not understand. If you are patient and helpful your student will be speaking like a native in a matter of weeks.

4)      Relax and Have Fun: This is an occasion for your student and your family to try new things. Your student will want to see as much as possible, and, within reason, why not take the opportunity to see and do the things you have always wanted to do with your family? Go to attractions in your area, plan road trips when school is out, go on a vacation to a new place and bring your student with you. Try to see and do everything you can. Your family and your student will thank you for it. And when the program ends, you will have an international family.

Last but not least, remember that ISE is always here to help the student and the family; someone is always just a phone call away. The exchange program has rewards beyond what you could expect, and communication is the key. Good luck to our families and students. We wish you all a happy and healthy school year.


A Host Mother Shares Her Hosting Experience

When asked “what was the most rewarding aspect of the exchange program?”the majority of host parents will say “the memories,” or “making new friends.” For these fortunate volunteers, the hosting experience was a footbridge to broader and greater experiences, an occasion that enriched their lives while providing an opportunity for educational and cultural exposure to the students they hosted.

It is also popular to hear a host say “I decided to host not really knowing what to expect, but it turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made.” I many cases, their student becomes a part of the family, and after a few months they become so inextricably intertwined in the family’s day-to-day life that the family cannot foresee having to say goodbye at the end of the program.

Susan Cheng and Helene

These instances are not rare, and neither are they overlooked; they are the kinds of relationships we like to hear about at International Student Exchange, and thanks to Susan Cheng of Texas, and her students, Helene and Emilie, we have another to add to what has become a long and brilliant list.

Susan was nice enough to share with us a letter written by one of her students, and a story about a special gift that will ensure she never forgets what hosting a student has done for her and for her family. Please take a moment to read Helene’s letter, in which she thanks Mrs. Cheng for the the year they spent together:


“Miss Emily arrive with a handmade recipe book with decorated cardboard covers and giant rings to hold the pages. She had converted all of her favorite Norwegian recipes to cups and teaspoons…from the metric so that I could enjoy making (or she could make for me) some of her favorite foods.”

We at ISE would like to say thank you to Susan, Helene, and Emilie for sharing their story with all of us. We wish all of you out there reading, hosting, and living a happy and healthy holiday.