Each week, we feature student letters that our exchange kids write to their potential host families. However, another neat way to “meet” the kids in our programs is to read their parents’ letter – that’s why we’ve started our new feature Meet the Parents! All of our host families wonder what it’s like as a parent to have your child depart for a school year, and these letters give amazing insight to what it’s like. You can hear the pride, gratitude, and a little bit of nervousness in all of these parents’ voices as they write these letters as their children depart on this life-changing journey.
This week, we’re featuring a letter from our student Mei’s parents! She’s an exchange student from Spain, though she’s originally from China which makes Mei a very global citizen! You can meet Mei and other students like her on our photolisting. If you’re interested in learning more about our students, complete a free host family application in order to receive a full profile!
Letters from Abroad – Meet the Parents!
Dear American host family,
This is a short letter to introduce ourselves. We are Esther and Javier parents of three wonderful kids. Our little daughter Mei is going to spend a very important year for her in your house and that’s why we are really thankful for the opportunity you are giving her to become part of your family and your lives. Thank you for opening your house to her and taking her in as a daughter, thank you for the effort it involves for your family. We are sure it will be worth it because she is very much looking forward to getting to know you.
But let us tell you a little bit about ourselves. We are a family of five. My husband Javier is a Account Manager and I am a midwife at one of the main hospitals in our city. We live in a small city next to the sea which allows us to enjoy the beach in summer, go for walks along the seafront and ride our bikes. We are a family of sport lovers and we like skiing very much. In fact, we have a small apartment four hours from home, where we spend most of our winter weekends. We also play tennis and golf.
Our eldest son Guillermo is 25 years old and lives in the city where he works in the Human Resources Department. Guillermo loves his little sister and they get along really well. Unfortunately we don’t see him as often as we would like but he sometimes joins us at our apartment where he spends some weekends with us enjoying ski, a sport he loves, just like everyone else in the family. Our second son Juan is 23, lives with us and is a senior student studying Computer Science. Juan loves football. In his free time he coach of a football team of 10 yearolds and he plays in the University team, too. He also likes surfing.
Our little daughter Mei is 14 right now. Mei is an easy going girl, quiet, hardworking and very responsible and well organised. Mei loves her brothers. She shares her passion for surf with Juan . When she comes home from school and she finishes her homework, she spend most of her free time drawing. At the weekend, when we are not skiing, she meets her friends and they hang out at the mall, go skating, have dinner at the Burger place or see a movie at the cinema. They are always back home at the agreed time. Mei is a thoughtful, lovable girl with a peaceful character. She is obedient and follows the rules and deadlines we set for her. She has a disciplined behavior and is willing to cooperate with something, she is very set-controlled. She is also a bit shy, but given a certain time, she adapts to all situations. When she has a problem, (for instance last year she broke her leg, and had to rest for several months) she endures the situation with patience without complaining. She has been away from home a number of times. She spend the last two summers at a surf camp for a couple of weeks. She enjoyed it so much that she asked to go the following year!
Thanking you again for this opportunity you are giving our daughter, we are confident it will be a wonderful experience for her. We are looking forward to hearing from you.
Esther and Javier
Interested in learning more about students like Mei? Check back each week for our “Meet the Parents” feature and our “Student Letters.” You can also use the contact form below to have a Program Coordinator get in touch with you about our students!
This year, Student Ambassador Exchange will see approximately 100 students from around the world visiting the United States – most of them for the first time! These are kids with amazing backgrounds, interests, and families of their own, and through hosting, these kids can call another family their own and call the United States home! Meet our students of 2017-2018 by visiting our photolisting or submit an application to receive a full profile of a student you’re interested in hosting!
Who are SAE’s students? They are volunteers – Nancy above is volunteering teaching dance classes in orphanages in Tibet. They are little brothers – Unai from Spain tells us he loves his big brother and can’t wait to meet his “new” family in the US. They are engineers – Emerald built her very own robot and led her team to win in competition…all at the age of 14!
Our students connect the world – with your family, these kids become a part of the global community in a way that lasts a lifetime. You are there to help them call the USA home. Become a host family TODAY – meet your student!
Many of our students just celebrated Chinese New Year with their host families, and we wanted to join everyone in wishing our students and their families a very Happy New Year! We like to remind all of our families, no matter where their students are from, the importance of recognizing their exchange student’s holiday and celebrating with him or her. Imagine being in a foreign country at Christmas…but no one is celebrating! It is a comfort and a true sign of cultural welcome to do something, even it is small, with your exchange student. Here are some ways you can traditionally celebrate Chinese New Year every year:
- Just like Christmas or Thanksgiving here in the United States, families in China celebrate the New Year by having a reunion dinner. It’s a time to give thanks for family, come together to celebrate the year that has passed, and look forward to a prosperous New Year! It’s traditional to sit at round tables all together.
- Decorating: It’s a time of year for decorating buildings, houses, and businesses! It’s also a fun way of incorporating the new zodiac symbol for the year, so this year, many families welcomed the year of the rooster by including roosters in their decoration. Red decorations are the most commonly seen, with hints of gold or yellow!
- Activities all around: Every area of China will hold different festivities, from dragon dances to fireworks! Firecrackers are a way to say good bye to the old year…and hello to the new!
- Lucky Foods: There are foods you can eat to help you receive good luck in the new year. Fish is a must in everyone Chinese New Year celebration – in Chinese, the word for fish sounds very similar to the word for surplus! Other “lucky” foods include dumplings, spring rolls, and rice cakes.
With the combination of a little bit of luck, tradition, and celebrations with your family, we think all of our students, whether they are Chinese, Spanish, or Brazilian, will have an amazing year ahead!
Find out more about how YOUR family can celebrate next year with an exchange student by contacting us at email@example.com!
Here at Student Ambassador Exchange, we look forward to each one of our student’s study abroad experiences. It’s a life-changing opportunity: visiting a new country, really beginning to become “fluent” in another language, tasting new foods, making new friends. Students often ask our interview team: what’s it really like, though? What should I expect? What should I prepare for? We’re so lucky that many of our own staff have been through foreign exchange experiences themselves to be able to answer those questions. So we’ve whittled it down to a list of five things to expect on your exchange journey based on previous exchange student experiences.
- Language, language, language: It’s one thing to think that you’ll be improving your foreign language skills when you go to your study abroad program; it’s quite another to realize that your WHOLE day will be in English or French or Chinese or German. From asking to go to the bathroom to how a complicated calculus problem works, the idea of speaking only a foreign language for months on end can be daunting. However, the rewards are so great – by the time you finish, you’ll achieve language skills that would never have developed without that commitment.
- Classes: One of our staff credits her previous exchange student experience for actually helping her understand subjects she had difficulty with at home. Because the language gap forced her early on to really focus on what the teacher and her books were saying, she also had the opportunity to really focus on the subject at hand!
- New friends (and family!): Of course committing to a study abroad experience is about your education and your language skills, but you’ll also make friends from across the world, and you may even find yourself a little bit scared to leave your “foreign family.” All of our staff who have studied abroad have incredibly fond memories of the friends they made, and many still keep in touch and have an open offer to visit a foreign country any time they can!
- New perspective: Being a part of a different culture asks you to think differently. This doesn’t mean that the way any country thinks or acts is better than another, but it gives previous exchange students an appreciation that there are many ways of achieving a goal. You’ll also get a perspective on how you do things and gain an appreciation for your own culture when you return home!
- Courage: Above all, previous exchange students tell us that their study abroad experience gave them a sense of courage – there’s nothing scarier than leaving your home for a country you may have never visited to stay with a family you’ve probably never met to speak a language you don’t fully know yet! After that, you’ll be ready to take on your future and the world!
Student exchange is the opportunity of a lifetime, and we salute the bravery, intelligence, and keep-at-it attitude of all of our students in the program. Are you a previous exchange student? Tell us what your experience was like at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’d like to learn more about how you can get involved in student exchange and making the world a little bit smaller place, contact us using the form below!
Student Ambassador Exchange is thrilled to have our spring students, Alan and Tony, getting ready to start their semester program in just a few short weeks. We want to extend a big CONGRATULATIONS new students and their host families – we can’t wait to see what the New Year holds in store.
We’re also excited to announce the opening of our photolisting for next school year. With new students arriving every day, you can get a head start on getting matched with your student for 2017-2018 academic year. You’ll find our students have an amazing variety of personalities, interests, and backgrounds. From painting to sports, robotics to theater, our students are thrilled to bring their talents and education here to the United States. They’re interested in joining the cross-country team, eating their first American hot dog, and going to a football game. What our students are even more excited about is to take a little piece of American culture back with them. Meet our new students on our photolisting, and check back every week to see new students added. Find a student you’re excited to learn more about? Submit an application to start your journey in cultural exchange. You can also send us an email at email@example.com to speak directly with a Program Coordinator.
During this holiday season, we’re reminded of the wonderful opportunities that cultural exchange brings, and we’re so grateful to each and every one of our students and families for being a part of this journey as members of the SAE family!Read More
Here in the United States, we’re just about to begin our Thanksgiving Celebration – a time for food, family, and friends to come together and be grateful for all that we have! Around the world, Thanksgiving isn’t celebrated, so we wanted to share with our followers just a few fall traditions from across the globe.
The Pushkar Fair (or Pushkar Camel Fair) occurs in November in Rajasthan, India. As the name suggests, you’ll be able to find a camel race, livestock auctions, as well as many other vendors there to sell and trade goods. There are even fun activities like a “Longest Mustache” competition! The fair lasts for five days and is celebrated according to the Hindu calendar.
The Tihar Festival is a fall tradition many Americans would love to attend…it’s a celebration of man’s best friend – dogs and other animals like crows and cows who share a relationship with humans. Diyas, or oil lamps, illuminate the cities and houses at night. Day two of the festival is focused on the relationship between humans and dogs while the final day of the festival celebrates siblings and the bond of family.
Entenrennen (The Duck Race) happens in countries from Germany to England to France and is exactly what it sounds like! From August to late October, countries host duck races in public rivers that can include anywhere from 800 to 80,000 ducks! The largest duck race was in 2008 on the River Thames in London, which saw 250,000 ducks on the river at once. Organizers make a strong effort to make sure all ducks are safely removed at the end of the race, and “winners” can earn a prize for their duck coming in first.
Nine Emperor Gods Festival (The Vegetarian Festival) is a festival held in the ninth lunar month of the Chinese calendar in the fall and involves a ritual of 9 days abstaining from eating meat. It is believed that the abstinence from meat can bring humans closer to divinity, and during this time there are feats of daring performed as a way to invite the gods, including fire-walking and climbing ladders made with blades.
These are just snapshots of the fall traditions other countries may practice – just as every family here in the United States has Thanksgiving differently, so every family in another country will practice their own culture and heritage differently! An amazing way to learn just a little bit about another culture is through student exchange, and we’re thrilled to have so many families as a part of that journey.Read More
Since most students spend a full academic year in the United States, there is a good chance they will celebrate their birthday while they are here. We always love hearing from students and host families about the festivities, because it’s a unique bonding moment. It’s a chance for the host family to show the student how Americans celebrate birthdays, and for the student to really feel like they’re part of the family. While reflecting on some of the memorable birthdays from programs past, we took a look at birthday customs around the world.
In China, birthdays are always celebrated on or before the actual birthday – belated celebrations are taboo! Good things are believed to come in pairs, so people will often give birthday presents in pairs. It is tradition for people to eat long noodles on their birthday, because the noodle length symbolizes the longevity of that person’s life. For this reason, birthday noodles should never be cut! 60th and 80th birthdays are both big celebrations because they represent full life cycles.
In Italy, birthdays are more of a family affair. Birthday cake plays a big role, but the cake, the party, and any other birthday plans are the responsibility of the person celebrating their special day. For this reason, celebrations are usually pretty small, consisting of a family dinner and cake. Because the birthday boy or girl is covering the cost of the party, most party goers compensate by showering them with presents.
Birthdays in Mexico are a time for big celebrations. Many birthday parties – especially for younger children – involve a pinata filled with candy, small toys, and other treats. Food plays a big role, with dishes such as arroz con leche (rice pudding), taquitos (rolled tacos), and flan taking center stage. One unique tradition is for the birthday boy or girl to take the first bite of their cake with their hands tied behind their backs – a humorous moment for the friends and family members watching along.
Whether it’s a big tradition like a birthday or a smaller moment like going for a bike ride around the neighborhood, host families around the country are introducing our students to American culture one event at a time. If you’re interested in celebrating life with an exchange student, we’d love to talk to you! Give us a call at (512) 323-9595 for more information, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.Read More
This is typically the time when host families start to notice their students having issues with homesickness and culture shock. Studying abroad is a great experience for any student, but it can also be a daunting one. Leaving behind everything a student knows can cause them to experience significant culture shock and homesickness, which can cause tension with the host family. To prepare families, we have listed the Five R’s – the top causes of culture shock – along with some solutions to prevent them from getting out of hand.
Routine: Students probably had their own routine at home that is different from the one your family follows. As they become familiar with your routine, they are likely to feel stressed out, tired, and unsure. Don’t feel like you need to change your routine to align with their schedule back home – this will prolong their process of adapting. Instead, reassure your student that they will catch on eventually. If there are certain activities that always take place at the same time, it might be a good idea to write everything down in a central location where the student can read it. This will help them feel more grounded in their new routine and feel like they are truly becoming a part of your family.
Reactions: It is fairly simple for us to interact with other people in the U.S. because we share the same sense of cultural norms. For an exchange student, this ability to understand interactions is made much more difficult. Certain behaviors that are acceptable in China may not be received as well here, and a common gesture in the U.S. could be seen as offensive to a Chinese person. As a result, students may feel confused and they may criticize any custom that they do not fully understand. They may also shy away from interacting with you, afraid that they might do something wrong. In this case, it is important to be encouraging. Enforce acceptable cultural interactions and don’t be afraid to tell students when they are doing something wrong. However, be sure to explain to them why their behavior is inappropriate and show them what an appropriate response
looks like. Simply telling them no will leave them feeling confused and unsure of how to respond in the future.
Roles: Similar to adjusting to a new routine, students must also adjust to their new roles at home and in school. It will be a little easier for them to adjust to their new role in school, although it may take them some time to begin speaking up and actively participating in class. Figuring out their role at home will be trickier. In their family, they may have had a specific chore that they were responsible for doing. Without that, they may feel as though they don’t have a place in the home. It may also take them time to get to know the different roles each member of your family plays and to understand how you all interact with each other. If there are household chores that everyone helps with, be sure to tell your student who is responsible for which task. Feel free to give them a chore that will allow them to participate. This will give them a sense of purpose and belonging, which will go a long way in the adaptation process.
Relationships: Many of our students are also now experiencing having a new sibling in addition to dealing with their other new relationships. Just like regular siblings, your student and your own child may go through periods of getting along and then…not so much getting along. Remember that throwing a new child into the mix will change your family no matter what – your attention as parents is now directed at a new child in addition to any of your own you have in the household, so jealousy from either is totally normal. Some helpful tools might be gentle nudges to encourage a jealous sibling (host or biological) to do something nice like write a note or share a favorite snack (two cookies are better than one). Going out of their way to be helpful or nice can help the kids work on the relationship!
Reflections: As students adapt to the four R’s above, they may begin to change. Much of this personal growth is a good thing, and something that should be celebrated. However, the student may begin to feel a sense of conflict between who they were when they left their home and who they have become. Encourage your student to talk about these changes, and point out all the
positive changes you have seen in them. This will allow them to take a little bit of the experience home with them.
With time, patience, and encouragement, students get past homesickness and culture shock. This is a natural step in adjusting to a new normal. Before you know it, they will be embracing life in the United States!Read More
Our office has been following the developments from Hurricane Matthew all weekend. We are saddened by the devastation this storm has caused along the East Coast, and our thoughts go out to all those affected. Three students were with host families living in the path of the hurricane, so we have been monitoring the situation closely. While all three students and their families are safe, we unfortunately learned that one family’s home was completely destroyed by the hurricane.
In light of this, the host family will no longer be able to host the student. We are currently looking for families interested in hosting the student for the remainder of the year. Ideally, we would like to move the student within the week so the family is able to focus on assessing the damage to their home and working to rebuild.
The student – Andy – is a 10th grader from China. He’s currently 15 and absolutely loves films. His favorites include Forrest Gump, Jurassic World, Shawshank Redemption, and Life of Pi. He has enjoyed getting to know American culture over the last two months, and we want to help him continue to have a great experience!
If you or someone you know might be able to host Andy for the remainder of the school year, please reach out to us at email@example.com or (512) 323-9595 for more information.Read More