All posts by humanitysdarkerside

Bibliophile, small-time activist, ASD, blogger

Should you be an exchange student?

Many factors determine whether being an exchange student is a good choice. No matter which exchange student option you choose, grades, finances, health, diet, religion and politics all influence your ability to fit into a new culture by yourself.

Alone

The most important factor involved in making your decision is that you must realize that once you have left home to travel to a new destination you are all by yourself. Everyone in your new culture will judge you based upon the cultural rules they understand.  No one really cares about the rules you grew up with. Not your host family, not your international coordinator and not the school you attend. Usually people will cut you more slack than their own young people, but theirs are the rules you must learn. Even if the people you live with are related to you, you will still be judged by the cultural rules that apply to their family.

Grades

The schools you attend will be in a completely different language. All of your subjects are in a different way to what you are used to. The grading system might be a bit different. You need to have AT LEAST a C average to even consider going. A higher grade point average makes adjusting easier. If you have a D or F average, you need to forget about going or work hard to change it.

Finances

No matter how you travel as an exchange student, it will cost you. A lot of money. Travel fare, passport, visa, tuition, housing, food, pocket money, clothing, vaccines, and so on. It all adds up. If you travel with an exchange organization, they will take care of the plane ticket to your destination and getting you a representative. In some instances your fee goes up because they pay the host family for having you. Even if you travel with an exchange organization and the host family is free, you still need to pay for passport and visa, pocket money, any special dietary needs, travel to the airport, clothing and so on. If you estimate using at least 10 000 Euro/USD all together, you have a starting point. How will you get that money?

Sometimes stipends are offered in the host-country or by the country you are travelling from. Your parents could be well off. Maybe you need to save up to it. If things turn bad, you risk losing all that money. Especially if you travel with an exchange organization. Are you willing to take that risk?

Health

Any country you travel to demands that you be of good physical and mental health. Some countries require vaccines. You will have to do a physical, pay for insurance and answer lots of questions. Remember to be honest. Allergies, ADHD, Aspergers, dietary requirements, diabetes, epilepsy, and so on. Be honest. It could go very bad for you if you lie.

If you struggle with PTSD, eating disorders, depression or anxiety, it is likely that your mental health problems will increase. Why? New food, new cultural rules, new family rules, and so on affect mental problems. In rare cases I have heard of people becoming better, but in those cases their home family situation has been far from ideal.

If you are travelling with an exchange organization, and have informed them about allergies or other sensitivities, you still risk being placed in a family you shouldn’t be. How would you deal with that?

Diet

Vegans and vegetarians have a harder time being placed. Particularly vegans. You will most likely have to buy and make your own food. Can you handle living with a family that eats meat. Most families you end up with do. If your religion has particular dietary requirements, how will you handle that?

Religion

Many students struggle with this aspect of life, particularly if they end up in a place that has the opposite view of theirs. Sometimes the conservatism is so strong that it becomes abusive. Whether that conservatism is Muslim, Christian, atheist, Jewish or any other choice out there, ending up in a belief system contrary to your own requires a lot of an exchange student. Will you be able to keep your mouth shut and remain polite? Too many Muslims are placed into conservative Christian families who try to feed them pork products. How will you handle an abusive situation?

Politics

New cultures mean new political points of view. Who is to say that yours is better than theirs? They won’t think so. Will you be able to refrain from criticising people who have wildly different political views?

These are some of the things you need to think about before you choose the exchange student life. It could end up being an amazing year but might also end up being terrible.

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Speak Holding (Lars Wollebekk) Denmark forcibly dissolved

All of Lars Henrik Wollebekk’s business interests in Denmark have been forcibly dissolved. Speak Holding ApS was dissolved October 2017. That bankruptcy affects quite a few other companies that Lars Henrik Wollebekk.

Speak Holding ApS was listed as owner of Language Education (Denmark) ApS – commonly known as Aspect High School Denmark. Language Education has been dissolved.

Speak Holding ApS is listed as owners of ELG: European Language Group, Sarl. ELG has been dissolved.

Speak Holding ApS also owns/owned Language Education Norge AS, Speak Norge AS (and through them Speak Education Denmark).

ELG owns/owned Speak Education UK while Lars Wollebekk owns Combank IT Systems, Advisory Board ApS and Speak Education Nordic AB directly just as he was listed as the owner of Speak Holding.

The links to ELG USA, Advisory Board ApS and Speak Education Nordic AB no longer work.

Lars Henrik Wollebekk
  • Speak Holding ApS – Dissolved
    • Language Education ApS, Denmark (Aspect High School) – Dissolved
    • Language Education Norge AS (Aspect High School)
    • Speak Norge AS
    • ELG: European Language Group, Sarl – Dissolved
      • Speak Cultural Exchange UK Ltd.
  • Speak Education Nordic AB
  • Combank IT Systems
  • European Language Group, USA
  • Advisory Board ApS (Zaruben Capital ApS)

Unsanitary conditions

Exchange student life brings with it many challenges. Some you can work through. Some you can live with. And some you must do something drastic about. Changing your host family ought to be OK, part of the learning process of dealing with new people and new cultures. Exchange students are youngish when they are thrown into a completely different culture with rules they do not understand. Host families are supposed to help the exchange student understand the cultural do’s and don’ts.

A common problem is the one described below. Exchange students are NOT in a country to be free labour for the host family. Chores are to be expected, but not being treated as an unpaid worker. As some of the advice at the link states – talk to your exchange organization, your teacher, the school that sent you there or the person in charge of your stay. Most of all talk to your parents about the situation.

In the below post there is one thing that is more of a cultural matter than the host-mother being against the exchange student. There is massive focus on doing well in school in Japan. Comments on the need to choose something more intelligent would usually be meant as wisdom. Exchange students have to remember that cultures are different and they would do well to study their intended culture before they go there. Especially adult-child relationships.

“I will be in Japan for an entire year. I have been here for a month and I have been very unhappy with my host family. They seem to think that I came to Japan only to clean their house and change my personality completely. Here is the thing, they are dirty, 15 years older than my own parents, busy, and confrontational. I cant deal with it anymore. I have cried so many times and its all because of something that one of them said to me or my host father lying about me or something like that. I want to be happy and whenever I even THINK about my host family I feel like crying. I dont want to stay with them any longer or else I will turn into a bad person. My host father is a lier and my host mother thinks that I shouldnt seek my dreams and that I should become a different person. Everyone knows that I want to be either a singer, model or actress but she had the nerve to say, “I dont think you should seek talent Krys, I think you should do something more intelligent.” I need help.(Yahoo answers)

Host family nudism

Exchange students are expected to adapt to their host-family’s culture and try to follow house rules, however, there are limits. Some exchange student representatives do a terrible job when vetting a potential host-family. Or, perhaps, they are lied to.

In this example an exchange student asks what to do in the case of host-family nudism. Answers range from disbelief to telling the exchange student to get out of there as soon as possible. I tend to agree with the person who thinks that the host-family should put their nudism on hold while hosting. If they are unable to do that, then they should not be a host-family. Oddly enough, nudism is an issue that turns up with host-families and/or exchange students. When in doubt, always use caution in how to share your personal culture. Nudism is rare in most countries.

I am staying with my exchange student and her family in Germany. She and I are both 16 and she has a 9 and 21 year old sisters and both her parents. All her family are nudists. I told them that I don’t feel comfortable with them being nude all the time but they said that it is unhealthy to be insecure about your body. The dad is at work most of the time so they say it’s all okay because we’re all girls.

They don’t have locks on the bathroom doors and when I’m having a shower they just walk in to brush their hair or clean their teeth and they see me naked. My exchange student and I have to share a bed and of course she sleeps naked. They said they are borrowing another bed from their friends but they are still waiting another week. They only wash clothes once or twice a month because they only need them for going out. I have to wear the one dress to school for a whole week because of it.

They’re really nice people and everything but I am staying with them for three months and don’t want to feel uncomfortable staying with them for so long. I don’t want to report them to my supervisor teacher or anything like that because I don’t want them to get in trouble. What else can I do to stop having to feel so uncomfortable around them?

Host families who bully

There are many reasons for changing host-families. Everything from not having the right chemistry to severe abuse (sexual and/or otherwise). An anonymous guest writer on Nationality Unknown reveals a common problem with host-families, one that can be difficult for outsiders to understand. This type of bullying might well be the result of not enough information about what it means to be a host-family, which is so much more than room and board.

“When I arrived at my first host family I was extremely excited. It took a while for my exchange organisation to find me one, which was extremely nerve-wracking (you must understand this struggle). When I finally got to meet them it was the first time I had heard about them, and also the first time they heard about me, which was a little odd. When getting the news they were allowed to host an exchange student, they didn´t even know what gender I was going to be. I had a sister and a brother and our house, even though it was small, it was truly amazing. It seemed everything I had hoped for.

Yes the weeks passed by and these little things weird things came up all the time. They ignored the fact that I had already been learning a lot of the language. From all of the arriving exchange students, I was one of the most advanced when it came to language, yet whenever they had a chance they would remind me that I wasn´t good at all, that I couldn´t understand anything. And not as a joke, or as constructive criticism. They also tended to be confused on where I was actually from, even after one month and me repeatedly telling and explaining them. It sounds silly, but it feels so bad when people don´t know or don´t recognize where you are from. When you go on exchange you get so confronted with your nationality and your identity, and when people don´t see that it´s like you are some ghost. A weird ghost that doesn´t fit in there, but apparently also doesn´t have a clear home.”

Fortunately, this exchange student was able to change families and their story turned out well. Staying on in the first host family would have destroyed the exchange student’s self-esteem. At least, that has been CSFES’ experience.

Several exchange students have shared their experiences on Nationality Unknown. Experiences range from gruesome to pleasant.

James P Pellow, CEO at CIEE

I am fascinated by the way people who hold power manage to get out of trouble practically scot-free. Take James P Pellow, President and Chief Executive Officer of CIEE (Council On International Educational Exchange).

Steve Fishman, a journalist with New York Magazine, wrote an article about the corruption at St. John’s University, New York. At her trial, Cecilia Chang admitted to defrauding St. John’s University. One of the notes she left, claims St. John’s was using her as a scape-goat to cover the crimes of others at the university.

Investigations uncovered the gifts she gave to several of her colleagues at St. John’s. One of those who profited by Chang’s employment was President Father John Harrington who in turn mentored the above James Pellow.  Crisis Magazine reported that:

… Pellow also received no-interest loans. According to the 2009 IRS 990 form, a loan of $300,000 was made to Pellow. This loan was declared to the IRS the same year that Pellow made a total compensation package of $745,445. A year later, in 2010, Pellow made $448,268 in base salary, $150,000 in bonus compensation, $90,282 in “other” compensation, $16,500 in deferred compensation and $47,457 in non-taxable benefits for a total compensation package of $752,507 for the year. Pellow also declared on the IRS form that he served as a director on one other board. According to Forbes, Pellow has served as a director of SAVVIS, Inc, where in 2010, he earned $75,000 in fees, $59,987 in stock awards for a total compensation package of $134,987. This was in addition to the more than $750,000 from St. John’s. Forbes also lists Pellow as a director at Cryo-Cell International, Inc.

It turns out that Pellow’s salary and bonuses by far exceeded those of similar positions at other Catholic universities. In fact, men his age and of his position seldom see these kinds of payments no matter the work-place. The way these men benefited from Chang’s presence at the university smells of questionable ethics. I wonder why others weren’t arrested along with her.

James P Pellow seems to have come out of the entire affair unscathed. Leaving St. John’s for CIEE was probably a wise move. Choosing to hire a man with Pellow’s alleged background makes no sense for a firm that touts its non-profit and volunteer profile. With all the noise surrounding the St. John’s findings, CIEE must have known about Pellow’s connection to the university. They are obliged to perform background checks on all of their potential employees.

Even though law makers decide something is legal, a particular action can still be corrupt. Distribution of and the effects of the use of power is something that interests me. Mainly that is because of  how much people in power get away with. Often without a single negative effect. At least if they are Caucasian and male.

Schüleraustausch: Wenn das Auslandsjahr zum Albtraum wird

Published by Bayerischer Rundfunk on Mar 22, 2017

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