Getting Ready: Preparing for the Last Few Weeks

In many areas across the US the next few weeks will bring about the end of the third marking period in most schools, and that means that soon it will be time for our students to return to their respective home countries. This can be a stressful time of year. There are exams; school events, like the prom; and lots of preparations to be made for the end of the semester. And, of course, there are all the friends, family members, neighbors and teachers to see before departing. Cramming all of that into the last six to ten weeks can be a challenge, but staying organized will help to make things a little less chaotic as the days roll by.


Start by making a list of all the things you need to do before the semester ends. Below are some tips and common issues that students deal with in the final months that may help you to think your way through your own departure:

Cindy and Na at Fair

1) Do you need to convalidate your grades in your home country? The countries of Ecuador, Brazil, Italy, Spain and Mexico allow students who have studied abroad to submit their official transcripts to their country’s embassy for authentication. This process ensures that students can receive credit for their work abroad upon returning. Each country has a slightly different procedure, and it helps to know what that is before getting started. Visit the country’s embassy page on the web and do some research to find out exactly how it’s done. One thing that is for certain is that transcripts must be stamped with the school seal and signed by a notary in the state in which the school resides. Once all the documentation is gathered it is up to the student to make arrangements for the submission of all paperwork to the embassy.


2) Have you completed your service hours? Each student is required to complete at least five community service hours while residing in the US. With Spring emerging lots of organizations are going to be setting up community events, such as park clean-ups, fund drives, food and clothing drives, and community fairs and parades. Look through the community bulletin for ideas or organizations to join in which projects are being organized. The local free shopping publication is also a good place to look.

Jonathan and Pepe

3) Plan to give back: How will you thank the students, teachers, family members, and friends for all the wonderful experiences you had while living in the US? What would you like people to remember about you after you leave? A simple gesture of thanks can leave an indelible impression on those around you. Maybe you can make your host family a photo album, or write a letter to your school. Perhaps there is someone in your neighborhood who did something nice for you that needs a little help around the house?


4) Returning home: It may be weeks away, but you will be surprised at how quickly time goes by, especially when you are busy with final semester obligations. Start gathering your plan for your return trip. Make sure to give yourself some time. Sit down and think about the next few weeks. Make a “to do” list and give yourself some reasonable goals. What will you hope to accomplish between now and the end of the semester? What will you be sorry to have missed when you return home, or have you made the most of your experience from start to finish?


The J-1 exchange is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Make sure you take advantage of it. To all of our students and families, ISE wishes you all the best in the coming weeks. Be safe, happy, and healthy, and enjoy Spring!

A Student Raves About Exchange Program at Home in Germany

An exchange student that recently returned home from his exchange program in the United States through ISE had his natural parents write a letter of thanks to his local exchange coordinator. Student exchange has the ability to transform lives and provide a wonderful program for students from all over the world:

Dear Barbara,

We now have Philipp back since a week. It seems like he has settled down very well in Germany. Actually we had a welcome party for him on the day he arrived.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank you again for the great support you provided to Philipp and us during his stay in the US. Philipp’s stay was such a great experience for him, he liked Cornwall High School a lot, the teachers, students and all the activities around the school like sports activities and drama club were great. He made a lot of friends in Cornwall and among the exchange students. Last but not least the Heaneys are such a great family that perfectly fit to Philipp, we believe they are the perfect host family that Philipp could have picked.

You and your organization did such a great job in making all this possible.
Keep continuing this great work.

German Exchange Student Shines on the West Coast

This story comes direct from our Pacific Coast region where one of its German exchange students has shined as a tennis prodigy. We are all delighted to see that ISE students have had such a positive impact on the towns in which they live. Congratulations!

*By Zach Urness of the Daily Courier*

Chris Krause has come a very long way to play tennis for Grants Pass High School, so he’s not about to let a few injured ribs and a gimpy wrist keep him out of the Class 6A state tournament. Krause is a foreign exchange student from Frankfurt, Germany, and also happens to be among the best tennis players in the state. The problem is that he’s had some trouble staying at 100 percent.

During the Southwest Conference district championships this past Saturday, Krause reached the semifinals and was playing a hard-fought match against Omeed Balou of South Eugene when something went wrong.

“I went up to serve, and I felt something snap,” Krause said. “I couldn’t breathe very well and I knew something was wrong.

“I didn’t want to quit, so I served underhanded for the rest of the match.”

Krause made it through that match, but after a forfeit, he finished in fourth place. He said he’ll be able to play at the Class 6A state championships, which begin Thursday at the Tualatin Hills Tennis Center in Beaverton, but it’ll require a few augmentations to his game.

“I won’t be able to hit it as hard as I normally do,” Krause said. “It will be more about hitting the ball in the (correct) spots. I’ll be thinking before every point, trying to see whether (my opponent) has a weak backhand, or there’s a spot on the court he doesn’t cover well.”

Grants Pass coach Ralph Van Delden said not being 100 percent is fairly frustrating for Krause. “He’s so disappointed” Van Delden said. “I think he’ll still do pretty well, just because he’s such a good player. But I think if he was totally healthy he’d at least make the semi-finals. He beat a lot of the best players this (past) winter.”

Although the injuries have been a frustration — he also nicked up his wrist earlier in the year — Krause has had a memorable time in the United States.

He said the fact that athletes in the United States represent their high schools makes playing sports more enjoyable.

“I love playing sports here,” he said. “In Germany, you play in clubs and there’s no school sports. I love the way, in America, that everyone is behind you. The people in the school are always wishing you luck.

“The first time I went to a football game I couldn’t believe it. There were people with their faces painted the school colors and everyone was going crazy. You would never see that in Germany.”

Another benefit Krause has found in the United States is the ease of getting a driver’s license. In Germany, he said it can cost upward of $2,000 to acquire. In the U.S., however, he can get a license that will work in Germany for a fraction of the price.

“It’s a great opportunity,” he said.

Krause isn’t the only Caveman making the trip to the state tournament.

The doubles team of Robby Hobbs and Trevor Van Delden also finished in fourth place at the district championships, and will face first-round opponents Stephen Schirle and Ryan McAfee of Barlow. Ralph Van Delden said he hopes both can win a couple of matches, in either the championship or consolation bracket, to build their confidence for the upcoming season.

“The younger kids definitely feel the pressure,” Ralph Van Delden said of the atmosphere of the state tournament. “So even if they don’t win a ton of matches, it will still be a good experience.”


The sole player to reach the class 6a state tournament on the girls side was Kelsey Frey, who finished in third place at the SWC district championships.

Frey won one match at this past season’s state tournament before getting knocked into the consolation bracket, and said earlier this month that her main goal is just to win a couple more matches.

Frey will face Krissy Moore of West Walem in her first match, but if she wins, she’ll match up against the overall top seed, Sophia Bott of Southridge, at the Portland Tennis Center.

“It’s a tough draw, no doubt,” Grants Pass Coach Rebecca Clark said. “But she’s played very well lately, and she’s certainly not going to lay down and die. She’s a fighter, and you never know what can happen on any given day.”

A Letter from Home

Periodically ISE will receive letters from natural parents expressing joy and elation over their child’s success on a culture exchange program. This particular letter is from a proud mother who is excited to see her daughter mature on our program with the assistance of some excellent schools in Wisconsin. ISE is proud to represent such wonderful schools and will continue to promote a positive educational environment for its students now and in the future.

To whom it may concern,

My name is Myriam Fuentes and I am the mother of one of your international students, Laura López, who is in the 12th grade. I’m getting in touch with you to thank you for the unique experience my daughter is having in the USA, both in what respects her personal development being in contact with the American culture, meeting new people, experiencing different situations, etc. and also academically through her studies in Spring Valley High School. I am a high school teacher myself and I have been a member of the administration board in a public High School in Spain for the last 16 years. Through my career I had had some contact with the American Educational System, which helped me to make the decision to send my daughter to the USA, in the belief that it would be beneficial for her education.

Laura had always lived in Palma de Mallorca, a middle-sized city in an isle in the Mediterran Sea. Life in Spring Valley seems to be very different from life in our city, moreover living with a family she had never met before was challenging, making friends was difficult at first, and she missed her family and friends very much, so I think that she had to make a greater effort to adapt than she had expected. I must say that as parents we are very proud of the effort she has made to adapt, study and do her best in every aspect. On the other hand, I am happy to say that the flexibility of your educational system, the wide offer and quality of your subjects and most of all the helpfulness and dedication of your school teachers and staff, are enabling her to follow her 12th grade studies successfully, and I think it will be for her a good preparation for next year’s university studies in Spain. As you probably know, her objective is to be admitted into engineering university studies which, in Spain, require very high marks from high school and passing a difficult entry exam in june which she is trying to prepare from the USA, which also implies some extra work for her, but I hope everything will come out satisfactorily.

I am also glad that Laura has been able to participate in different school activities and contribute in a positive way to their development. She has explained to us that she has participated in the dance team and other sport activities, she was invited to talk about our culture in the Spanish class and she has represented Spring Valley High School in the Science Olympiad regional team competition.

My husband and I are sure this experience is going to be an essential part of her personal and academic education and we would like you to make extensive our gratefulness to all the teachers and school staff that she has been in contact with.

Yours sincerely,

Myriam Fuentes Milani


Prep Work: Marc Mueller from Germany Shares His Exchange Experience

 How I Became a Foreign Exchange Student

by Marc Müller

First of all I would like to introduce myself. My name is Marc Müller, I was born on the 28th of May in 1996 in Bochum, Germany and I’m currently in Iowa, USA. I have a twin brother who is in Arkansas right now. I came to the United States through a German exchange organization called TREFF and a partner-organization here in the U.S. called ISE.

Everything started a little more than one year ago, when I and my friends came back to school from summer break. In the first few weeks, our teacher gave us handouts about different organizations, which were offering a student exchange program. When I arrived home from school I showed the handouts to my parents and I asked them if I could spend a year abroad. They were skeptic at first, but after we started furnishing information from the internet they started thinking more serious about giving me such an opportunity.

There is a huge variety of different organizations and countries you can choose, so we started thinking about what country I should visit. I have always wanted to be a pilot when I grow-up, so I eliminated all non-English speaking countries. I think the English speaking countries offered were Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Great Britain and the USA. Australia, New Zealand and Canada were about twice as expensive as the USA and Great Britain, so I eliminated those. I don’t know why, but I kind of liked the USA better than Great Britain, so I chose the USA.

The next step was to choose the right organization. We went to several events, where different organizations introduced themselves and I looked up reviews and personal opinions about the different organizations on the internet. This is an important step, because it helps to know how long the company has been around and what kinds of experiences others have had with them in the past.

I applied for a nonbinding interview with other students and their parents. For the interview I had to fill out one or two sheets, identifying which country I preferred and other general information. The interviews were offered in different regions all over the country. I think the main point was to answer questions, introduce the organization to the families, and explain in detail, how the whole thing works. They also had a little English test for us to do, but it wasn’t very hard. I think it was just to see if we had at least some basic English language skills.

After the interview the organization sent an e-mail or a letter to let you know if you are accepted or not, but I think almost everyone gets accepted. Then they sent me a package that they call “the application” with about 30 sheets to fill out. It is also offered online. I didn’t fill it out online, but I think it would have been a better idea because after a while it became difficult to keep track of all the different pieces of paper, and I always had to copy each sheet in case I made a mistake. In the package was lots of stuff to fill out:

The first thing I started with was my host family letter. It was a lot of work, especially because I had to write it English. There were also several pages for my physician, my teachers, my school, for my grades and lots of other sheets to fill out. I had to get new immunizations, get a tuberculosis check and several health checks. It was a lot of work and it took me about three months to complete every section of the application. My German organization offered to choose a state or a region in the U.S. for a charge. I chose Florida, but there were already too many exchange students, so I looked for a different state to choose. After a while I decided not to choose a state, “because,” I thought to myself, “You can’t say that one state is better than another; there are nice places and not so nice places everywhere you go.” Without the state guarantee I also had the chance to get a “better” host family, because they search a bigger area.

After I sent it to my German organization, I had to wait a while, but in the meantime I had to get a new passport. Then I got the information that ISE accepted me, that my application was sent to them, and that I was assigned to the region Midwest. I got a form from ISE called DS2019 and a certificate which declared that I had paid the fee for it. Next I needed to apply for my visa, which is important and very complicated step.

I had to fill out lots of pages in an online form again. I also had to pay for the visa and for my appointment in Frankfurt to apply for the visa. That is a big disadvantage when you want to go to the USA. My application was much more complicated than the one my friend had to fill out to go to New Zealand. But it is worth it in the end.

I had a preparation meeting in Cologne with lots of other exchange students. It was very nice to hear about experiences from students who had already been abroad. They gave us lots of advice and it was all in all a very nice day.

I hated waiting for my host family because other students already had their host families for several months. But then, finally, when I least expected it, we got a call. My mom answered, and the organization told us that ISE had found a host family. My twin brother and I were not sure if it was my host family or his host family. It turned out to be mine, so I felt a little bad for him.

On the other hand I was happy to finally have my host family. I would be living with two men, one named Friedhelm, one named Jeffrey, and a dog named Alex in West Des Moines, Iowa. I also learned that I would go to Valley High School.

After I got my new bag for the plane there wasn’t much left to do except going to the consulate in Frankfurt for my visa. We had to drive to Frankfurt very early, because visas are only available in the morning. After the usual check for weapons and contraband I got a number and then I had to wait for about one and a half hours. My number was called and I had to hand them my passport and my other documents. After another hour or more the officials asked me some questions in English and told me that they would send me my passport with my visa in about a week. I was still in school, but I had to take a day off. It was about three weeks before I flew when my brother got his host family in Arkansas. He was going to go to Florida with his host family before arriving in Arkansas, so he had to fly two weeks earlier than me. We would both be staying with other exchange students in Washington D.C for a weekend before any other trips took place.

When I called my host family for the first time, I asked them, if they could pick me up at the airport on the 14th of August, after I went to Washington D.C. So my flight date was the 12th of August and I would fly on Friday morning from Frankfurt to Washington and on Sunday from Washington to Chicago and from Chicago to Des Moines.

We drove to Frankfurt two weeks before I flew, because, as I said, my brother would fly two weeks earlier than I. I was very excited too and also a little sad, because I could not waist to fly. I drove back home and had a few more days together with my friends.

Finally, the day came, but I wasn’t very excited because it felt like a regular holiday. Usually I fly with my parents to other countries for a couple of weeks just for vacation, but this was going to be ten months of not vacation, but something similar. Again we drove to Frankfurt early in the morning. I had my big luggage, a backpack, my laptop and my camera-bag. After taking a quick breakfast we went to the security check and I had to say goodbye to my parents. Saying goodbye was not easy, but for me it still felt like vacation.

The students in my group were all from TREFF, my German exchange organization. There were about twenty students, but we met at least sixty exchange students from a different organization, so our plane would be full of exchange students.

We arrived at the gate and after about an hour the boarding began. We had some problems because several students were missing some documents, but in the end they let us all on the plane. I didn’t expect a boring flight, because I usually like flying, but it was a little boring because we flew about eight hours and I cannot sleep when I’m not tired.

I think I talked a lot to other people, listened to music and watched two movies and maybe a slept for a few minutes even though I wasn’t really able to. I was very happy and tired and also totally hot when we stepped out of the plane. The whole summer in Germany was rainy so I wasn’t used to the heat.

We had to go through lots of entry processes and checks but when we finished them we realized that one of the students who forgot the documents wasn’t there. As we found out later on, he was sitting in some office alone and they almost sent him back. After two to three hours we finally took the shuttle bus to our hotel. I was very happy to relax for a few minutes, but then we had to go to dinner. I ordered my first real American burger and it tasted very good, but I couldn’t even finish it half. I didn’t feel good that day.

Afterwards we went to the pool in our hotel and swam a bit. I was very tired and had already up for about twenty-two hours, so we finally went to bed. The next morning was horrible because I was still tired, but we had to get up, take a shower and eat breakfast before we went to the sightseeing tour through Washington D.C.

We went to the Hard-Rock-Cafe, several memorials, the capitol and some museums. After a long sightseeing-day we came back to the hotel and after dinner, swimming and packing we went to bed because we had to get up early on the next morning.

Another day of being tired started when we drove to the airport. I had struggled with my luggage, because, as I explained, I had so many bags and I was a little nervous, but it worked out well. So after the regular security checks we (I think four other exchange students and me) flew to Chicago. I ate a hot dog in Chicago before I had to fly to Des Moines alone, but it wasn’t a problem because I’ve already flown a few times. After about one and a half hours with really annoying people around me, I finally arrived in Des Moines and got picked up by my host family. It was actually just Jeffrey, because Friedhelm was on a climbing trip in Lima, Peru.

The first days were very nice and relaxing, because school had not yet started. We took some trips around the city. The next fun thing we did was to go to the Iowa State Fair. It is an agricultural outdoor event that takes place every year in Iowa. It is pretty much like a temporary amusement park with lots of different foods. They even had fried butter there, but I didn’t want to try it.

School started, but it was a lot different than in Germany. My favorite class is woodworking, because we built lots of stuff like a cutting board, a goblet and right now I’m building a table.

In Germany we have nearly only academic classes, so it’s a very good alternative.

After a few weeks of school I went with my host family and some friends to my first baseball game. They even had fireworks afterwards. A week later or so we went to Kansas City, Missouri, where we saw the Kansas City Chiefs play. They had a big memorial ceremony because it was on 9/11.

I also went windsurfing at a nearby lake, as you can see above. I think I did well for my first time. Me and lots of other exchange students around went with ISE to a place called Living History Farms. It’s like an open-air museum where they show you how farmers lived 200 years ago. It was nice to meet some other exchange students from all over the world and to share our experiences in the USA.

More schooldays passed till I had my next exciting event. It’s a school event called homecoming. Actually it’s a whole week: During the event everyone dresses up in costume for a topic that was published earlier. After a few parades on the weekend there was a football game. The purpose of homecoming is to welcome back alumni. Sometimes, when it’s attached to a football game, homecoming is to celebrate the football team coming home from the longest road trip of the season. Almost every school has a ballgame on the homecoming weekend, too.

Now we get to the more recent events. I joined the swimming team and we started practice in early November. It’s a lot of fun, but it takes lots of time. I had so much stuff to do for school recently so be prepared if you do a year abroad. It’s not all fun; it can be a lot of work too, but it’s worth it!

About three weeks ago, we had a Thanksgiving Dinner with friends, but we had it a few days earlier than Thanksgiving, because we drove to Florida for the Thanksgiving break. The dinner was very good though.

Florida was awesome; my host family has a condo down there so we will go again for Christmas and spring break. We went to several beaches including my favorite beach, Fort Desoto North Beach, St Petersburg. If you ever have the chance to go there, I would recommend it to you. Over Christmas we will go to Orlando and visit some amusement parks.

School isn’t very hard right now; I just have so much stuff to do. I don’treallyhave a lot of free time anymore because I have swimming every dayexcept Sunday and I usually come home about 8 p.m. and then I still have to do homework, even though I’m usually very tired.

That’s what I experienced so far and I hope I helped you a bit.

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.

Some are Leaving Us, but They are Never Really Gone

In a touching farewell to his host family and friends, Brazilian exchange student, Jose Baiao, admitted that while adapting and adjusting to his life in America was by no means easy, it was an experience he says he will never forget.

Jose’s story is somewhat atypical in the sense that he came for a short stay and managed to take away so much. Despite the shortened time frame of the five-month program he entered, Jose made friends everywhere he went and tried hard to absorb the country around him. When asked to describe his time here, he replied “In the beginning of my placement…it was not all that I was expecting it to be. Small town, five months without soccer…but five months later I really wish that I could stay.”

We always say that students who find a niche, who carve out a little nook for themselves within the community they are placed are the ones who have most success. In order to really become immersed in the program a student has to find ways to apply their skills and cultural understanding to the American way of life, and then they come to fully realize what the country and what ISE have to offer. Though he had to give up soccer, Jose took up football and adopted the hobbies of his fellow classmates and athletes, and his academic and athletic success have provided him with a host of memories to take back home: “I will never forget the…football games. I will never forget all the jokes. I will never forget Moutain Dew! I will never forget anything. And…one day I will come back, and you guys better be here to see me.”

Jose’s host family described him as a “model student” and they are sorry to see him go, but we know that when Jose finally boards his plane and waves goodbye, that it will not be the last time we see him. ISE wishes José and the rest of the returning students a safe trip and happy holidays. We cannot wait to see you again! Bon voyage!

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!