Join the Campaign to Support Exchanges

Message from Executive Director of The Alliance for International Exchange

Join the Campaign to Support Exchanges

Dear Colleagues,

The Trump administration released its FY2018 budget, which calls for an unprecedented cut of 28 percent to the Department of State. While we don’t know by what amount, it is clear that the administration will soon propose steep cuts to the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). If enacted into law, these cuts would greatly harm our nation’s public diplomacy efforts and, ultimately, our national security and economy.
We need to support our friend, Congressman Hank Johnson, who is leading a “Dear Colleague” letter to the House State, Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee in support of exchange programs. The letter calls for the highest possible funding level for State Department exchanges in FY2018.

The deadline for members of Congress to join the “Dear Colleague” letter is Wednesday, March 22

Please take action today in the following two ways:

1) Send a letter to your representative, asking him/her to sign the Johnson “Dear Colleague” letterThe letter is pre-written and it only takes a minute or two to send. If you would like, you can also personalize your letter for more impact. Click below to write your congressional representative today.

Write To Your Representative

2) Ask your host institutions, families, Board, and other stakeholders in the United States to send a letter as well. You can use this link to access a draft email message.

Write to Your Stakeholders

By working together, we can ensure that members of Congress appreciate the wide support exchange programs have throughout the United States.
Ilir Zherka
Executive Director, The Alliance of International Exchange

An unexpected surprise!

Notes from a previous host family about how the joys of hosting go beyond their exchange year!

Subject: Lovely surprise today

Michael and Katherine from Belgium stopped by today. Michael was our exchange student in 2004- 2005 he went to Hesperia High school and graduated with a 4.0. He's now a pilot in Belgium and he flies a 320 air bus. His girlfriend of 8 years is Katherine, she is a foot doctor. They are traveling the West coast for 20 days. He was an ERDT / Share Student. Lovely boy. We were shocked and happy to see them. Now Belgium is on our plans to travel!
We are always happy to welcome students of the past to see them and see what they did after leaving our house. So nice to be remembered. 

Just Exactly How Do You Choose an Exchange Student to Host?

By Brenda Hornberger, Regional Director

You and your family have decided you would love to invite an exchange student to share life with you for the upcoming academic year. Now what? Just exactly how do you decide which one will be the perfect student for you? Good question!

My family has been hosting exchange students for many years. I’ve been working in foreign exchange for many years. I have been asked for advice on selecting a student by many prospective host families. And I still don’t have a definitive answer! So I decided to put the question out to several of our host families who have hosted numerous times to compare notes and share some collective advice shared by those who have “been there, done that”!

One of the most prevalent answers I received was “common or similar interests”. Makes sense! If your family loves sports, pick a student who also loves sports. With everything else each side is going to have to get used to/adapt to, having that one thing in common to talk about, do together, and enjoy, will make the other adjustments much easier!

Another popular answer was “flexibility”. One family told me “no one will be a 100% perfect fit, but if the perspective student is open and flexible, that tells me he/she can most likely adapt”. Another family shared what they look for to determine that flexibility: does the student say things like “I really would like to…if at all possible” or do they instead say “I want to...”? That was actually something I had not consciously thought about but probably subconsciously put into action every time I looked for a student as well. Again, makes sense!

Two  things that were mentioned to keep in mind if the student is being added to a larger, busy, on-the-go-most-of-the-time family, were “I look for students that are used to pitching in with chores” and “family-oriented students – because most Sundays we go to Grammy and Grampy’s for a meal with extended family where we total 19”. Again, good points!

A “no-kids-in-the-household family”, who frequently has hosted 2 students for us, said that they thought it was fun to look for students who were only children at home – “so they can see what it is like to have a sibling”. Brilliant! They don’t have to put up with each other forever, but a year might be nice.

A mom shared “I enjoy seeing a personality come through on paper”. I can relate to that! I’ve read many student applications and have to say that when something they write puts a smile on my face, I tend to look at their whole application in a new light. The clincher for our choice one year was when I read that a young lady was afraid of bees. That was it! I am allergic, can spot them from 50 yards away and tend to head rapidly in the opposite direction. We had a great time that year running away from yellow jackets in the height of their aggressive Fall season!

The one answer I received from two different families that actually surprised me was “birth order”! That has never, ever entered my mind and I actually went back to the first family that gave me that response with a “Really? You do that?” But when I think about the two families that gave me that answer, it all makes sense that they would think about it. One shared that their entire family (minus 1) are “true firstborn children (AKA know-it-all)”. They are a loving family of adopted children with a firstborn & only child as parents. They select second born of the same gender students because “we don’t need anyone else telling us what to do!” LOVE the humor that came out in that answer! The 2nd family explained that “middle children tend to be adaptable” so it will give them an idea of who the most flexible/adaptable student might be. Again, brilliant!

All of this is great advice, but I’d like to share one more nugget that I think should take precedence over them all – try to keep your mind open to new opportunities. One of our sports minded families found the love of a new sport after they hosted 2 students who love volleyball. Going to watch their students compete led them to a new appreciation for the game. I’ve frequently seen the same thing happen in my family. We’ve become overnight (please don’t shake your heads!) 76ers fans for 2 separate seasons (both losing) when we hosted students who loved the game of basketball. In my defense, I think it was the live action of the game that won me over. Still can’t watch it on TV but love going to a live game! We became season ticket holders at a local live theater for a season while hosting a student who loved theater. And that’s just a small peek into how our lives have been changed because of the influence of a student who came already prepped with a love of music, crafts, or a sport we had never considered.

We’ve also taken quite a few chances on students that seemed to have slipped through the cracks. The little hidden gems that were a student with a seafood & cat allergy – because we could; the halal-practicing Muslim student – because we could; the computer geek – because we could. And they have turned out to be some of our most successful hosting years – because we could.

And I hope that your family finds that you “can” too. Hosting foreign exchange students has produced some of the most rewarding experiences in our lives – and continues to do so.

ERDT enVision's New Homestay Program for Volunteers from China

Zhang Yang and Li Yifan at Tabitha's Way in American Fork, Utah

Zhang Yang and Li Yifan at Tabitha's Way in American Fork, Utah

Moona is the Chinese volunteer giving the V (for volunteer) sign.  She volunteered at NewGate Solutions in Chula Vista, CA.

Moona is the Chinese volunteer giving the V (for volunteer) sign.  She volunteered at NewGate Solutions in Chula Vista, CA.

One of ERDT enVision’s newest short-term programs, "Volunteer Home Stay," provides Chinese university students referred by our long-time representative in China, China Service Center for Educational Exchange, with meaningful hands-on training while volunteering in a dynamic organization, helping students to develop and strengthen professional skills in an environment that enriches their academic experiences.   Professional development opportunities generally involve placement at a local non-profit agency or public service office.  As with all ERDT enVision programs, participants live with American host families, who arrange for their daily transportation to and from the agency where they are engaging in their volunteer work. 

Coordinators, host families, and host organizations in southern California—from San Diego to the High Desert about 2 hours east of Los Angeles, as well as in American Fork, Utah, could not say enough good things about their experiences. We received about 25 participants this winter.  Each student was moved by their individual experiences, which helped them understand and embrace the spirit of giving so abundant in America.  Along with their full days of working hard for their local non-profit organizations, the opportunity to live with an American host family was notably meaningful.   

Our local Volunteer Home Stay coordinator, Rosemary Netzel, placed Xing Jiawei with Jennifer Stidham - an ERDT enVision Area Manager - for a four-week stay this winter.  Below is a letter that Jiawei (English name: William), wrote to Jennifer:

Dear mummy,
I have already arrived in my hometown, Taiyuan, and Sophia has arrived in Xi'an. Our trip was comfortable, and everything is OK. 
I learned so much during this 4 weeks. Before I went to the U.S.  I was a little upset because I can't be with my family during Chinese New Year, and this would be the first time that I ever had to leave my family and live in another country for a long time. Everything was unknown. But when I started to live and work in California, I was really happy everyday. Mummy, you and Sophia really helped me a lot during this 4 weeks, and I didn't even miss home for a moment. Now when I get home, I really miss you and your three dogs, Pork Chop, Lamb Chop and Tuesday. There is always my home.
William, host Jennifer Stidham, and Sophia

William, host Jennifer Stidham, and Sophia

I want to say 'Thank you' to you, mummy. Although I'm kind of shy and I didn't use to say too much in front of other people, I think I need to let you know what are my real thoughts, so I decided to send this email to you. I said to Sophia more than one time, ' I love mummy so much that I want to be a person like her in the future'. You are always kind, cheerful, optimistic and considerate. As Rosemary and Sandy said, you are wonderful! You always said Sophia and me are the best students you've ever had, but I also want to say that you are the best person I have ever met! 
Once Sophia and me made a bet, and she won. I said I can make one of her wishes come true. She thought for a while and said, 'I want you to come back with me to see mummy one day', and I promised her. That is what I wish for as well. So, mummy, we will meet you when we go to study in the U.S. ! You are always our mummy!
I just had dumplings for dinner, but I really miss cheese burger.
Best wished to you, mummy. Hope you recover from back pain as soon as possible. Hope you be happy and healthy everyday. I love America. I love California. I love you from bottom of my heart.
your William

Another email was received from Randy, a participant in the High Desert, whose host was Janelle Pelayo-Denno, an Area Manager for enVision.  Randy's coordinator was Rosalie Garro. 

You can see Randy's new friend, a special needs preschooler, clinging to his leg :)

You can see Randy's new friend, a special needs preschooler, clinging to his leg :)

Hi, I'm Randy from China. I've just finished my four-week volunteering at Apple Valley Christian School. Thanks to the kind help from my host family and teachers of the school, I didn't face a lot of trouble and instead, really enjoyed this experience.
I started my work at 8 a.m. In the morning I helped in elementary school classrooms with group reading, grading, and whatever else the teachers needed. In the afternoon, I came to the library or the high school's P.E. classes. In the library, I helped with organizing and restocking the books. For P.E. classes, I helped with P.E. program assisting the teacher with the class and joined them for games. On several occasions I helped teachers of all grades and subjects to proctor tests and quizzes. I enjoyed my volunteering time!
What impressed me most during my volunteering time was a special needs girl of preschool.  Every time she saw me she rushed to me and gave me a warm hug. I helped her with her writing, painting and reading. She always talked to herself something that I couldn't understand, but she always gave me a big smile and said how much she loved me. I was deeply touched when the time I was leaving at my last day. She held me tightly and never let me go. I patted her shoulder, consoled her with soft words, and her teacher also persuaded her to let me go. But she just held onto me and caught me tightly, without a word, for almost two minutes. That moment I really felt that all my efforts here paid off. I should say thank you to all the kids and teachers there.
Four weeks went by fast, but the experience won't fade with time in my memory. I hope the program can recruit more students and volunteers to help those in need, and I wish a bigger success of the program.
Best regards,

ERDT enVision anticipates bringing about 70 Volunteer Home Stay participants to the U.S. in summer 2017 and expanding beyond CA and UT!  Stay tuned for developments....


Our Day to Day, Their Unique Experience!

-By Tonya Duncan, Regional Director

Some people are drawn to the unknown, and have a yearning to experience something new. International Exchange Students are definitely those kind of people. These teens are looking to broaden their horizons by heading out on an adventure of a lifetime. But what makes it an adventure?  Well, it is simpler than you might think.

As we go about our day to day, we all tend to get so familiar with our usual surroundings that sometimes we forget to stop and appreciate what's around us! Our host families have expressed that when they host an exchange student they are reminded about all the treasures in their own backyard. Often the things and places around us become just “normal”, but these tend to be the things the exchange students enjoy the most. And, most of the time they are the things you would never even imagine. 

If you can believe it, some of our students sit in awe when they first step foot in a Costco warehouse. Yep, Costco!  Most of them have never seen anything like that. Students have also been know to run outside to have a snowflake land on their face for the first time! They've been fascinated to sit down for a Thanksgiving feast with a family that has, an unheard of, 6 children. They've been amazed to walk into their High School to see lockers down the halls like in the movies, or to even take Photography or Dance as an actual class! Watching them experience what is our normal day to day life with a huge smile on their face, you can't help but enjoy the day to day along with them.

Every Exchange Student comes on this program to experience the American culture. But, each one of them has their own UNIQUE experience. Some might get to enjoy the beaches in San Diego, some might get to try the cheese steak in Philly, and some might get to saddle up for a horse ride in Montana.

In the Mountain States Region of the SHARE! program, a lot of students live with wonderful families in Utah. Just like every state, Utah offers it's own unique experiences. Our students have the opportunity to enjoy the mountains with skiing in the winter and hiking, fishing, camping, and more in the spring and fall. Utah also has the wonderful Great Salt Lake and 5 National Parks to see.

Our exchange students are able to have the adventure of a lifetime. And, it is thanks to our wonderful host families just living their day to day lives, and in turn giving our students a truly unique experience!