Top Ten Reasons Hosting an Exchange Student Might Not Be For You

Youth Exchange | Midlife Sentence

This weekend we welcomed our latest Rotary exchange student into our family. Eighteen year-old Marine is from Belgium, and I can’t pronounce her name right (that darn French r), but she says I’m in the ballpark.

We’ve shown Marine the basement bedroom we’ve tried to make as comfy as possible, and introduced her to the dog and to Colin’s various and assorted fish and flora. She hasn’t asked about bus routes back to her previous host family just yet, which I’m going to take as a promising sign.

In fact, when Colin was introducing Marine to his lizard, Speedy (which at 10 has lived way longer than the pet store told me when we bought her for the kids back when I didn’t realize handling lizards is a good way to contract salmonella, which is how Speedy has since led a life of sad confinement, making me feel guilty and horrible, but that’s another story), Marine asked about her diet, so Colin revealed the stash of mealworms we keep in the refrigerator.

This is, of course, the same refrigerator in which we keep the people food, which prompted me to assure Marine that the worms are kept separate from the people food and neither is in any danger of coming into contact with the other.

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The benefits of a year abroad stick with returning exchange students

Around here, autumn means a welcome return of the back to school routine, and maybe a little chill in the morning air. For our family, it also means a couple of weeks of repeated trips to the airport to welcome foreign exchange students.

 

Participating in the Rotary Youth Exchange program is one of the most rewarding aspects of being a Rotarian. It gives us an opportunity to get to know students from across the globe, inviting them into our homes and clubs, learning about their cultures and traditions.

The Rotary program is a true one-on-one exchange: for every student we welcome here, we send a student on exchange. With their service, our host families and clubs, counselors, committee members, and other volunteers make life-changing opportunities available to local students every year.

By staying involved with the program, our returning students (we call them rebounds) enhance the exchange program. Their involvement is critical. They know first-hand what it means to be an exchange student, and provide insight into our interview, training, and orientation processes.

They’re also just plain fun to be around.

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8 Reasons your kid should travel (without you)

Midlife Sentence - Youth Exchange

The first time we sent our children on a trip without us (or any other relative), it was to a weeklong camp near a mountain lake. Our sons were ten and seven years old.

Some were surprised we’d let our younger kid go, but he was ready for an age-appropriate camp program like this. Both boys had the times of their lives, and returned to us scabbed, sunburned and smiling, the younger one with a suitcase full of clean clothes. He hadn’t changed the entire week.

I know. Yuck.

We learned about both boys that week, that they were resilient, behaved well without us around, and could keep track of their own things. And they learned about themselves, experiencing the world on their own, trying new things, making friends, and enjoying plenty of unfettered kid time (in the care, of course, of trained camp counselors). They’ve returned to camp nearly every year since.

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Youth exchange and a much-needed optimism refresher

Midlife Sentence | Youth Exchange

Early last week, Anna, our Danish daughter, asked how it feels to know, as a nation, that the whole world is paying close attention to your every move.

To be honest, right now it feels rather like getting caught by the neighbors, having passed out on the lawn in a puddle of … well of something not left there by the sprinklers, lets say.

And for the record, no, I haven’t ever been caught passed out on the lawn. I’m just guessing how that might feel, you guys. Jeez.

I was working last week on a post I’ve since scrapped because I’m still trying to figure out how screaming into my pillow could be a productive part of any discussion. I’ll admit it was cathartic to give folks a piece of my mind though, even if that piece never leaves my desktop, or is only witnessed by those who happen to pass as I’m having a very heated discussion in my empty car.

One thing’s for sure: for a humor blogger, I have precious little to say that’s very funny right now. Hence the gap in my regular posts.

There was one thing recently that felt productive, though.

Last weekend, I was on a team of more than three-dozen volunteers who screened applicants for Rotary youth exchange. If all goes well, by this time next year, many of those teenagers will be on foreign soil, completely out of their element, struggling to understand and make themselves understood, and hopefully having the times of their lives. We’ll accept a few others just like them, here.Youth exchange and the gift of optimism - Manic Mumbling

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Of couches and tchotchkes: pros and cons of hosting an exchange student

Exchange Student Hosting, www.manicmumbling.comAs I’ve mentioned, the term exchange student horror stories is one of the more frequent searches that brings people here. I’m still trying to figure this one out. Are you all considering hosting a student and wondering if it’s crazy? Maybe your own kid’s thinking about exchange, and you want ammunition to talk him out of it?

OR … are you creative industry types trolling for movie fodder?

Because if it’s that last one, I’ve got a great idea {call me}.

If it’s either of the former, I’ll warn you I’m biased. We’re preparing to welcome our sixth exchange student to town. Between Mike and me we’ve also been counselors to another five. Our oldest is going on exchange, and we’re actively hounding him to make good use of the tutorials we bought so he can coherently ask for directions to the bathroom once he gets to his host country later this summer.

Outside of Google searches, I’m asked every once in a while about the pros and cons of hosting exchange students. It’s hard to come up with a list. It’s kind of like quantifying the ups and downs of parenting, really. The downs of parenting are pretty straightforward. You don’t have to practice sleeping in ninety-minute spurts every night, or actively wear spit up on your shirt to know neither is especially your cup of tea.

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Of futons, farewells, and the virtues of meatloaf

boy-1042683_1280Last week’s list of how to annoy teenagers without even trying was something I almost didn’t publish out of guilt.

My kids are okay people, and by that I mean they give us way less trouble than people want to believe of teenagers. I also mean they inspire a whole bunch of gooshy, happy feelings the expression of which would get me kicked out of the snarky parents club.

I didn’t expect that of parenting. What I expected was to be at a point by now where I was counting the days until our oldest was leaving.

When I was on a business trip in December, there was a woman who got really gloomy toward the end of the week. She didn’t want to leave because she’d be returning to a home recently absented by her grown daughter.

I may have lacked the appropriate amount of empty-nester empathy.

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Tips for the outbound exchange student

exchange flagsOne recent Saturday morning I woke early, my brain spinning. Jack had announced the day before his plan to take the bus to the ski hill. He hadn’t asked for help and I hadn’t offered. I hadn’t pulled his boots, gloves, hat, goggles and helmet out of the closet, checked to make sure his ski pass was securely attached to his coat, rifled through our medicine drawer to find the motion sickness medicine I’d have to insist he take. I didn’t make sure he had some cash on him for lunch, load his skis into the truck or roshambo with his father over who would give him a ride to the bus stop an hour before dawn.

I wasn’t going to do any of it, either. I looked at the clock, fluffed my pillow and lay my head back down. If the kid wanted to go skiing, now was about the time he needed to find out whether he could manage all by himself.

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Did I say I was ready? Yeah. Ignore that.

Bliss on the ski hill
Bliss is two parents alone on the ski hill

“Why do you want to go on exchange?” I ask my kid.

“Well, I like to travel, and I’m into learning new things.”

Good answer. Just the night before, Jack had told us he would be interested in going on exchange his junior year in high school. Now, I’m putting him through a mock interview.

We’re in McCall, the opening weekend of the little town’s winter carnival. Mike and I are part of a committee shepherding a gaggle of students in the Rotary exchange program. The group includes ‘inbound’ students from countries across the world, and soon to be ‘outbound’ students from counties across southern Idaho – sort of a foreign exchange cavalcade.

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Eight things I’ve learned hosting a foreign exchange student

guilleAnother teenager came to live with us this week. Given the stories you hear from me about the one we already have, you might think I’m self-medicating. Hold off on the intervention, we know what we’re getting into.

And not second-hand either. When we told people we were going to host our first foreign exchange student, we were regaled with horror stories, similar to what happens when someone finds out you’re pregnant, and feels compelled to share the most hair-raising details from their own labor and delivery.

But we’ve yet to experience any horror, hosting through the Rotary Youth Exchange Program, and the student who just moved in is our fourth.

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