ASSE: Host-family and exchange student needs ignored

I am a host parent for a Thai student who has been with us since 8/25/07.  My family and I are new to the exchange program, and this is our first exchange hosting experience.  I can tell you that I have not been pleased with the experience thus far, primarily due to the inadequacy of the agency we hosted through – ASSE.

First, our student arrived on 8/25 and was met at the airport by my family—there was no ASSE rep to be found.  Not only that, we have yet to receive a call, visit, or other communication from a local rep for ASSE.  I have complained to Ms. Helga Brandt (Western Regional person at ASSE), only to be quoted about minimum State Department requirements and that ASSE was not in violation of any of them.  From day one, our student has shown a bare minimum of English speaking and communicating capability. We were told by her high school that unless she raised her ability to a minimum level, she would be removed from school per the school district’s policy.  I voiced our concerns to Ms. Brandt and was told that our student had passed a ESL test (46 scored with 45 being a passing grade) and she sent me a PDF of a scanned test score sheet which had nothing more than multiple choice bubbles filled in.  I explained to her that a multiple choice test answer sheet does not constitute a minimum capability, and she replied that ASSE was not in violation of anything.

I am not happy with the way ASSE has handled our situation thus far.  ASSE tells me that our student has a local rep, though none of us has yet to meet him/her.  Last night our student tells me that there are 5 exchange students in New Mexico that she went to English camp with that do not have host families or a school to attend.  She has been receiving frantic phone calls from them since Saturday to ask for help in locating host families.

I find it appalling that a local rep was not present at the airport when our student arrived, and has yet to call us or our student.  I have spoken to other host families that have hosted through Rotary International, and they tell me a whole different story of what a wonderful experience their hosting is.  One gentleman and his family have hosted 27 kids over the years.  In the span of 4 short weeks,  have been soured by our experience and will not host again

Dr. Peter C. Riley
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