by NORTH COUNTRY GAZETTE on MAY 11, 2007
By Danielle Grijalva, CSFES Director
Approximately 30,000 teenage exchange students will return to their home countries next month.
The Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students (CSFES) shares the following true story regarding the treatment of an exchange student by his student exchange company.
Jay’s stomach rumbled as he sat in his counselor’s office. His eyes would move down as he looked at the pencil his counselor held and then he looked up to his counselor’s mouth as he spoke on the phone to the area representative of his student exchange company.
He was exhausted and his energy was lost; this very well may be time for him to give in to returning to Thailand four months early. To return to his family who loved him didn’t sound like such a bad idea.
Mr. Ashurst would shade in the numbers on his desk calendar with his pencil and occasionally look over at Jay who was sitting in front of his desk. Occasionally Jay would see him write something down on a separate notepad, but for the most part, shading in the numbers is what occupied him most as he listened to Mrs. Wallen.
“Now may I say something, Mrs. Wallen?” Mr. Ashurst calmly spoke. “While I am not quite sure if you are interested in hearing what I have to say, I believe I’ve been patient with you and now I would like to ask the same from you. When Jay arrived, he had missed five weeks of school through no fault of his own. He has since maintained a 4.2 GPA and is active in many after school activities. Jay is well liked by anyone who comes into contact with him. Although he is quite shy, he has made friends, many of whom have taken it upon themselves to write letters on his behalf. Not one person wants him to return to Thailand early, Mrs. Wallen. My notes tell me that you have labeled this student as manipulative — please, let me finish. My notes reflect on four separate occasions you have called this young man a liar — please, I’m not done. Essentially you have told me he is nothing more than a spoiled rotten brat who is impossible to please and has been a troublemaker from the beginning.”
Jay was uncomfortable hearing Mr. Ashurst’s conversation, but also liked it at the same time. There was no more shading in the numbers on his desk calendar. Mr. Ashurst was now standing.
“Since I can tell, Mrs. Wallen, that we are not going to have a meeting of the mind about Jay, I prefer to discuss this matter with the State Department —” Mrs. Wallen had heard enough and abruptly ended the call. This was fine by Mr. Ashurst.
Mr. Ashurst reached in his desk and grabbed for his car keys. “Jay, I’m hungry. Grab your backpack, I’m taking you to lunch.”
“Yes, sir.” Jay softly responded.
During lunch, Mr. Ashurst learned from an ever so soft-spoken 16-year-old boy that it had been two days since he had anything to eat.
His last four weeks had been spent sleeping on a mattress in a basement.
The reason he didn’t tell his parents in Thailand is because he didn’t want to cause them to worry.
The reason he missed five weeks of school was because he did not have a host family waiting for him as he and his family were promised.
Against the United States Department of State regulations, he lived in the home of his area representative where he was told that he had better keep his mouth shut about the matter; that if he did complain to anyone, he would be sent home early to Thailand.
His parents in Thailand spent $16,000 for this experience.
It was in the basement of his area representative where he spent his last four weeks.
CSFES is pleased to report Jay was removed from the basement and placed in an actual home where he is thriving.
This is not an isolated incident as the exchange industry would like for you to believe.
CSFES urges all school administrators to report to the CSFES via www.csfes.org or by calling 866-471-9203 should any students with a similar story appear at their high school. 5-11-07