The start of a new school year brings in a new group of exchange students

By Tonya Duncan, Mountain States Regional Director

The start of a new school year brings in a new group of exchange students. This year, at our welcome orientation in Utah, students, host families, and coordinators were all able to meet.

As I got up in front of the group to go over the orientation material, I looked around the room admiring what a diverse group it was. Not only did we have kids from Germany, Spain, Italy, Thailand, Vietnam, Romania, China, and Denmark, we also have such diverse host families. Our host families come from all walks of life - older couples with grown children, couples with young kids, couples with teens, single parents, wealthy, working class, and all kids of backgrounds and lives. But, there is one thing they all have in common....kind hearts. Kind hearts, willing to volunteer to house an international teen, and not just house them, but love them.

At orientation we discuss a lot of topics. Discussing everything from school registration, cell phone plans, insurance, homesickness, rules and expectations. Even though it is a lot of important information to go over, my favorite part of orientation is that I can see relationships starting to blossom.

You can see the students starting to turn to their host parents for guidance, because their parents are a world away. Watching the students turn to their host family for comfort and support, because they can go through some homesickness and culture shock. Seeing the seed being planted in what will blossom into a wonderful friendship, and even more!

Let the adventure begin...

2018 Welcome Photo Contest!

2018 Welcome Photo Contest!

The SHARE! 2018/19' students are planning their arrivals and we cannot wait to see how our host families welcome them to the US! Put your thinking caps on and submit a photo of your welcome to our annual welcome photo contest. You could win a $200 Amex card! 

How the contest works: Send us up to three photos from your special "Airport Welcome" when you greet your SHARE! exchange students.  Will your photo be the funniest, the most memorable or most colorful?  Don't forget to include a short description of you and your family welcoming your exchange student(s). Submissions without photos or images that cannot be opened will be disqualified. Recommended File Formats (.pdf, .jpg, .jpeg, .tiff, .gif, .psd, .png) 

Submit your photos at 

Prizes!: 1st Place ($200 American Express Gift Card), 2nd Place ($100 American Express Gift Card), 3rd Place ($50 American Express Gift Card)

Eligibility: Must be a current SHARE! host family hosting during the 2018 - 2019 Academic Year Program.  

Important dates: Contest opens on Wednesday, August 1st.  Submit your photos by the deadline of Friday, September 28th at 11:59 pm PDT. 

Finalist Selection: SHARE! staff will select contest finalists based on image quality and creativity, and one winner for each category will then be posted on our SHARE! Facebook page.  The winners will also be notified by email.

NOTE: All materials submitted become property of ERDT/SHARE!. By submitting your photographs, you also permit ERDT/SHARE! to use your name in conjunction with any media used to promote ERDT/SHARE! programs. ERDT/SHARE! has the sole right to determine the future use of photos. 

The Art of Possibilities

By Patty Chung, SHARE! National Office

Orchestra conductor Benjamin Zander was known to be a stern and demanding leader but twenty years into his career he experienced a turning point.  He realized that the conductor is the only person in the orchestra that doesn’t make a sound but he/she has great power. This power can either be controlling and threatening which results in fear and anxiety in a musician, or be life-giving by making the musician powerful.  This powerful musician has the ability to release the beauty, energy and passion of the music within him/her. This awakening of possibilities in the artist breaks through the barriers within themselves and between one another.

When our exchange students arrive, they will experience a gamut of emotions--from excitement and anticipation to worry and loneliness--especially during the first month or so.  We cannot control their feelings but we can affirm them and open them to the possibility of life in an American home, the passion of school activities or the beauty of the American landscape.  We can encourage our students by reminding them there are positive possibilities in most any situation, even the negative ones. They will be empowered to break through barriers and build lasting relationships and fully experience an extraordinary cultural exchange year.


Real "Social Work"

By Lisa Laber, Regional Assistant

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I am new at ERDT. My back ground is in social work. So, as I stepped away from social work and started into the new world of student exchange, I wondered if I could find the satisfaction that I needed to stay engaged and interested in a whole new world of "dealing with people" and hopefully, helping people. Well, I must say, so far I am humbled and tickled to work with the caliber of people that I have dealt with during my short time at ERDT. From the Regional directors to the over seas partners to the EPC's. Issues regarding flights or allergies, or student diet. I must say, students, there is an army of folks who really care about you and are working to create the best possible experience for you.  Which leads me to host families, I can see that  they are the true foundation of this program. I cannot tell you how many host applications I have read that have brought tears to my eyes. The excitement and eagerness associated with hosting is so intoxicating, so full of love and belief in our future. These folks are willing and ready to take on a stranger and wrap them into their own family in a seamless way, WOW, true kindness and generosity. My new experience with ERDT-SHARE!, has me feeling excited and proud to be apart of this amazing team of good people coming together for the hope of the future, where we can maybe have a little more tolerance and acceptance for each other and our individual cultures and ways of being in this world. This is the stuff that makes this work resemble "real" Social Work. I appreciate being a part of this big, beautiful world of student exchange.

Mindful Goodbyes

By Lisa Laber, Regional Assistant

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Recently, after saying a last goodbye to a dying friend, I began to consider the importance of really being present while saying our goodbyes.

As this year comes to an end, it is time for students, host families, friends, teachers and coaches to say goodbye. I thought it might be helpful to consider a couple of ideas from the study of Mindfulness. Mindfulness is the practice of being here now, and staying in the present moment as much as possible. "A mindful goodbye allows you to fully absorb your experience so that it can become part of your learning.” — Gretchen Schmelzer, a psychologist and the author of “Journey Through Trauma.”

As the time comes to say your goodbyes, practice (they call it practice because it takes PRACTICE), first taking a deep breath, noticing your own feelings, looking into the person's eyes and listening deeply to what they are saying. Use the goodbye as a moment of gratitude and a moment of reflection. What are you grateful for from the interactions that you have had with this person? What are you taking with you because of this person? Take a breath or two to reflect on this gratitude.

Goodbyes also give us opportunities to consider the impermanence of our constantly changing lives. Saying everyday goodbyes to friends and family, helps us practice for when we have more substantial losses that come with being human.

So, enjoy the end of your time together, and practice with a mindful goodbye. Also, remember none of us is perfect at this... it takes practice.