Exchange Daughters

I had a personal web page more than a few years back, now long extinct, that contained a page devoted to our Slavic daughters. Since then, we have extended our world of daughters to include Pakistan and Yemen, so page titles have changed accordingly. During the summer of 2008, it was our first daughter, Olga, who encouraged me to revive the old web site. Fortunately for me, technology had forged ahead during the interim.

One of the first questions I always get about our exchange students is, “Why do you only host girls?” Initial reasons were straightforward…the bedroom was painted a cheery yellow and the comforter on the bed sported a flower pattern reminiscent of Monet. Then, after the first girl was success, it was easy to choose a second, and by the third it felt just too comfortable to have a daughter in the house and somewhat of a risk to change gender.

We have always hosted through Academic Year USA or AYUSA. All the girls have participated in one of the scholarship programs sponsored by the United States Department of State. The first four girls were part of the Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) Program , established after the fall of the Soviet Union, which offers scholarships to students from Russia and countries of the Newly Independent States (NIS). This program was such a success that the Youth Exchange and Study Program (YES) was established after 9-11 to offer scholarships to students from predominantly Muslim countries. Our last two girls have come from the YES Program. These programs, as well as student exchange in general, help serve the diplomatic needs of the United States government.

It will be obvious as you read the pages of this blog that I have thoroughly enjoyed being a host parent. My wife and I have delighted in being a host family and have been blessed with wonderful daughters. As they have grown older, not only are they my exchange daughters, but they are my dearest friends.

Norma

Norma

Kate

Kate

Irina

Irina

Asya

Asya

Olga

Olga

Shatha

Shatha

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9 responses to “Exchange Daughters

  1. Well, we got a bad one on our first try. Kinda sucks because I am really into the whole exchange idea. How could I get Brunhilde?

  2. You don’t know, by chance, a nice family in/near Quinlan, Texas, who would take in a German girl who is very unhappy in her current host family at the moment? She would like to stay at Ford High School there, and her host parents are nice, but they seem to not do anything but watch TV all day. And it’s in a very remote part so my daughter, not even having host siblings, is dying of boredom in their mobile home. The ASSE area rep doesn’t seem able to/willing to help since she’s located in Dallas and doesn’t know any people around Quinlan. She told my daughter to find a new host family herself, but that’s difficult! You can’t run around wearing a sign ‘Who wants to be my host family’, can you? I know Texas is a big state and the chances that you know somebody there are very low, but I thought it might be worth they try 🙂
    Yours sincerely
    Andrea, Germany

  3. Hello, my name is Melodie, I’m 17 and I am french. I’m looking for an exchange between a family’s daughter and me, during the summer ( 2 or 3 or 4 weeks). Do you know somebody who is interrested to go in France? (I live at 1 hour to go to Paris) Or somebody who wants to welcome a french girl in his house? 🙂
    Hope an answer,
    Mélodie, from France.

  4. This is our first time ever hosting. It was very unexpected and at the last minute that it all came about. Now our 17 year old Swedish exchange student is saying she isn’t happy and wants a new host family that she has “chemistry” with. She has only been here a month and a half. I thought things were going well despite a few minor hiccups so tonight’s conversation threw me for a bit of a loop. I’m really discouraged and not sure I even want to try again. Any words of advice or suggestions on how to get her to open up and tell us what the real issue is before it’s too late (if it isn’t already) and work things out? It’s like my worst fear about this is happening is coming true. I don’t want her to be miserable but I don’t want my husband and I to be miserable for the next year either.

    • In my experience, “chemistry with my host family” and the related “clicking with my host family” are coded phrases which mean “I have an expectation that is not being met.” This may not be personal to you and your husband…your student might have expected a bigger school, larger city, warmer climate, or being located closer to a fellow exchange student from the same country. Students are told not to have expectations such as these and to be prepared for any kind of placement; however, I believe the reality is that students are becoming less willing to accept placements that do not meet their expectations.

      I think either you or your representative need to discover what these expectations are. Try to approach it from being on the side of the student. I don’t know about your organization, but we can honestly tell our students that they will not receive a new placement just because of “chemistry,” that they need to be honest about their expectations, and once you know what they seeking you will be in a better position to help them find what they want.

      If you can get your student to open up, then you can put the problem on her shoulders. If she wants to adapt and keep her placement with you, you have gained an important commitment from her that will be a positive influence on her exchange in your home. If she doesn’t, you can tell her you will help her find what she wants. Contact the organization and ask her to be removed immediately. You will not be kicking her out…you will helping her move toward her goals (misplaced or not.) Hopefully, by doing this you can part on good terms. Do not let her stay without a commitment from her that she will make a go of it in your home.

      Even the best kids need guidance sometimes. If this doesn’t work out, I hope you will try again soon. Good Luck!

  5. I love your site. We are hosting our second student this coming school year. Sadly, we will not be able to host a YES student due to the number of placements required per region. Our last student was placed through FLEX. Fantastic experience for everyone.
    Thank you for your many pages of insight and advice.
    Connie

  6. Exchanges are Life Chaging Experiences - lets make them all good ones.

    My daughter is an exchange student in Brazil. She is struggling. She hasn’t been feeling well since she got there and rather than try to get to the bottom of it, the polarizing issue has become the food, largely her unwillingness to eat the things that cause her issues (rice for example). It’s resulted in a miserable experience for both sides. The host family had expected a extraverted bubbly child, what they got what as a introverted, bright, perfectionist and very principled child. The food issue and has resulted in my daughter not trusting her host family, largely her host father, and them telling her she is a bad exchange student and it’s time to grow up. I feel for the host family – they did open up their home as a requirement to allow their daughter to go on exchange, and I ache for my daughter.

    For host families – I encourage you to recognize that the first placement (this is a year long exercise for my daughter) is the hardest especially when the language is totally foreign to them. Although you don’t “owe” them anything, they are still vulnerable children who are questioning their decisions and ability and they need your support. For parents sending their children on their dream experience – do a lot of work up front to arm your kids with the skills to get through the difficult first months. Resilience is key. And to Exchange Organizations – when you say that there is a support mechanism in place – make sure there is and that it’s about the best interest of the student. Shaming the child because they are not what you want them to be does not help the child to live into their own strengths. These students were chosen to go on these exchanges for all the right reasons, help them to be what you saw in them in the first place.

  7. Stumbled on this site looking for “house rules” for my exchange student. Love all the information. This is my second year hosting, the first year was a wonderful experience with a Russian girl and I worry that we might not have the same “chemistry” with our Spanish student arriving in 2 weeks. I learned so much the first year, we had our ups & downs, and I really want to address expectations up-front this time.
    Thank you for the blog – are you still hosting? Any new tips?

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