Today we are excited to introduce Maggie, our newest Student of the Week! She is a 15 year old girl hoping to spend the 11th grade in the US. We were certain that she would do great in the United States when she described herself by saying, “I think it’s important to work hard and play hard.” This globetrotting young lady is no stranger to travel. She’s been to Thailand and explored all over Europe, but she told us that her favorite country so far has been Switzerland – for the scenery and the food. Beyond simply seeing the world, Maggie cares about making the world a better place. She joined Roots & Shoots – a global program started by Jane Goodall to get youth more involved in environmental issues. Her local group tested river water for pollution. Based on their findings, they urged their mayor to treat the water.
Maggie loves school because she gets to learn new things while also spending time with her friends. She told us that her favorite class is English, because it’s the only class where students can speak freely. We asked her why she wants to come to America, and she’s most excited for a classroom experience that is different from China.
Beyond school, Maggie is looking forward to getting to know her host family. She loves animals, especially dogs! She would probably do best with an active family. She likes to be involved in many different activities, and would probably jump into anything you’re involved with!
If you’re interested in hosting Maggie or any other student, the process is simple! Reach out to a Program Coordinator or fill out a host family application.
We are happy to announce our new weekly additions of culturally focused blog posts that explore traditions, history, and festivals held around the world. Part of promoting inter-cultural exchange is not only sharing your own culture with an exchange student, but learning about theirs as well. This week we’ll be taking a look at…Chinese New Year!
Chinese culture and traditions stretch back thousands of years, fostering and promoting some very interesting festivals such as the much anticipated Chinese New Year. February 8th marks the beginning of Chinese New year festivities, ushering in the year of the monkey for Chinese diaspora across the world!
The New Year festival is centuries old and gains significance because of several myths and traditions. Traditionally, the festival was a time to honor deities as well as ancestors. Chinese New Year is celebrated in countries and territories with significant Chinese populations, including Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mauritius, and the Philippines. Chinese New Year is considered a major holiday for the Chinese and has had influence on the lunar new year celebrations of its geographic neighbors. 
According to tales and legends, the beginning of the Chinese New Year started with a mythical beast called the Nian. Nian would eat villagers, especially children! To protect themselves, the villagers would put food in front of their doors at the beginning of every year. It was believed that after the Nian ate the food they prepared, it wouldn’t attack any more people. One day, a villager decided to get revenge on the Nian. A god visited him and told him to put red paper on his house and to place firecrackers. The villagers then understood that the Nian was afraid of the color red. When the New Year was about to come, the villagers would wear red clothes, hang red lanterns, and red spring scrolls on windows and doors. People also used firecrackers to frighten away the Nian! 
Want an opportunity to celebrate Chinese New Year and learn about the cultural traditions behind it? Apply to be a Host Family today with Student Ambassador Exchange, and broaden your cultural horizons!
It goes without saying, every student we meet is different. It starts with reading their letter and seeing their photo, but SAE staff really get to know our students during one of the most exciting parts of the intial application – the Skype interview. The interview allows us to get to know each student a little better, hear their English skills, and of course gives us a chance to place them in the best possible situation here in the States. Most students start off a little shy, but they eventually open up and start showing us a bit of their personalities. These interviews take us beyond paper applications and help us figure out who these students are and use that information to find them great host families. In order to help host families find a student who would be a great match in their home, we decided to offer a glimpse into our process and highlight a different student each week. This week, we are starting off with Greg, a 17 year old from China who is hoping to spend the 12th grade in the United States.
When Greg answered our Skype call, there was already an infectious grin on his face. He was pretty proud of his American basketball knowledge; he showed off all his basketball posters and even pulled a Michael Jordan statue out from under his desk! We got to see his sense of humor as he reasoned that he enjoys cooking mainly because he enjoys eating. When asked about school, Greg told us that he loves physics and most other science classes but thinks that calculus is “the most boring class ever.” Just like a teenager! He even showed off his knowledge of the United States by asking us about various recent policy changes and offering his own opinions.
Greg would probably get along well with just about any family. He is outgoing, curious, and friendly. However, a host family with another basketball fan would probably make for an incredible bond! If you like Chinese food, Greg would love to prepare some of his specialties for you.
To hear more about Greg and our other incredible 2016/17 students, reach out to a Program Coordinator today and start writing your #SAEstories!
Are you interested in learning about another culture? Interested in sharing your own? Perhaps it’s time you applied to be a Host Family for an International Exchange Student! Immersing oneself in a culture other than their own has a fantastic amount of positive benefits for the host, the student, and the community as a whole.
Student Ambassador Exchange is currently accepting Host Family Applications for the Fall 2016/Spring 2017 school semesters! Hosting a student allows a family to create life long friendships and cultural ties through the avenues of public diplomacy, and the exchange of culture. If you’re interested in hosting one of our students and would like some more information, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Meet eight students who are already looking forward to spending the next school year in the US!
Nancy from China
Hobbies: badminton, drawing,
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Student Ambassador Exchange fosters the intercultural exchange of people around the world. One of our most popular interests is from China, a country that sent nearly 700,000 students abroad in 2012. With Christmas right around the corner, we thought it would be interesting to share some of the upcoming Chinese holidays. Should you run into a Chinese exchange student, perhaps you can talk about what they like to do for these holidays!
1. Tomb Sweeping Day: The Qingming or Ching Ming Festival, also known as Tomb-Sweeping Day in English, is a traditional Chinese Festival on the first day of the fifth solar term of the traditional Chinese lunisolar calendar. This makes it the 15th day after the Spring Equinox either 4th or 5th of April in a given year. The Qingming Festival is an opportunity for celebrants to remember and honour their ancestors at grave sites. Young and old pray before the ancestors, sweep the tombs and offer food, tea, wine, chopsticks, and other libations to their ancestors.
2. Chinese New Year: It’s well known that the New Year is January 1st, however, in China February 8th will mark the day the Chinese calendar begins. This holiday will usher in 7 days of celebration where windows and doors will be decorated with red color paper cups and couplets with popular themes of good fortune, happiness, wealth, and longevity. Other activities include lighting firecrackers and giving money in red paper envelopes.
3. Dragon Boat Festival: The Dragon Boat Festival is a celebration where many eat rice dumplings (zongzi), drink regular wine (xionghuangjiu), and race dragon boats. This festival takes place on June 9th, where other activities include hanging icons of Zhong Kui (a mythic guardian figure), hanging mugwort and calamus, taking long walks, writing spells and wearing perfumed medicine bags.
China has many holidays lined up for next year, look here to find out more!Read More
December is here, and this time of year, everyone knows about Christmas and the New Year! In America and much of the western world these holidays tend to afford the most focus from people during this final month of the year, and lets not forget Hanukkah which is currently in full swing! Here at Student Ambassador Exchange we hope to share a global perspective through cultural exchange and lived experiences. We’ve taken the liberty of compiling a list of international holidays in December. Perhaps you’ll find one that you wish to celebrate in the future!
1. Dongzhi Festival: This festival is celebrated in many East Asian countries including China, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam. The Festival celebrates the Winter Solstice, an astrological phenomenon where the Northern Hemisphere experiences the shortest day and longest night of the year. Speaking generally this is a time for family to come together and reflect upon the yin and yang philosophy of balance and harmony in the cosmos. The Festival tends to fall around the 22nd of December.
2. St. Lucia’s Day in Nordic Europe: In Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Finland, Lucy (called Lucia) is venerated on December 13 in a ceremony where a girl is elected to portray Lucia. Wearing a white gown with a red sash and a crown of candles on her head, she walks at the head of a procession of women, each holding a candle. Even boys take part in the procession as well, playing different roles associated with Christmas. It is said that to vividly celebrate St. Lucia’s Day will help one live the long winter days with enough light. This holiday is held on December 13th.
3. International Solidarity Day of Azerbaijanis: Inspired by the fall of the Berlin Wall, the nationalist Popular Front of Azerbaijan called for and lead the removal of borders between Soviet Azerbaijan and Iran on December 31, 1989. This has since been celebrated by Azerbaijanis around the world as the International Solidarity Day of Azerbaijanis and is a public holiday in Azerbaijan. This holiday falls on the 31st of December.
4. International Human Rights Day in Cambodia: This national holiday was established to commemorate the United Nations General Assembly’s adoption and proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This day is celebrated on the 10th of December, and is usually marked by collective assembly and marches in many main cities across the country.
5. Independence Day in Finland: Finish Independence day is celebrated on December 6th. Following the Russian Revolutions of 1917, Finish parliamentarians drafted a declaration of independence from Russian dominion. The Presidential Independence Day reception is held for approximately 2000 invited guests at the Presidential Palace. This event, known informally also as Linnanjuhlat (“the Castle Ball”), is broadcast on national television and has been a perennial favorite of the viewing public.
We are looking for an amazing host family for the last student remaining in our Spring 2016 Semester Program. We’ve nicknamed him “O” because it sounds like his first name, and he’s a total sweetheart. He’s smart, kind, and outgoing, according to the sweet letter we received from his father, and in his own words, “O” is hoping “that I can improve my English and study hard to fulfill my dream” of studying in America.
As a host family, you’ll need to provide a welcoming and supportive home for the exchange student throughout the semester. Families are strongly encouraged to think of their students as full-fledged members of the family, not as guests. Key host family responsibilities include:♥ Providing three daily meals, plus snacks
To apply to become a host family please fill out the short contact us form to the right! We’d love to tell you more about O, his dream, and his journey here to the United States.Read More
The Departments of State and Education declared last week to be International Education Week. We like to think that we celebrate this every week, but we welcome the occasion to reflect on our experiences and appreciate all the good that can come from international exchanges.
International Education Week celebrates the ways that study abroad programs enrich lives all around the world. From the American students that go abroad and the foreign students that travel here to the host families around the world that open their homes to these students, each participant is forever changed. International education strengthens our global ties, and teaches younger generations to look beyond their own countries and interact with the world around them. Host families are vital to these exchanges. By opening their doors to students they have never met before, they are showing kindness that will forever be remembered when the student thinks of the United States. On a small scale this may seem insignificant – just a friendly interaction. However, on a larger scale, this makes a big difference in the world of international relations.
Many of us at Student Ambassador Exchange had the opportunity to study abroad. One of the most rewarding aspects of the exchange was getting to visit historical sites and have a personal experience with events that shaped our world history. From climbing pyramids in Mexico to walking where the Berlin Wall once separated Germany, these experiences gave us an education that a textbook could never offer. We believe it is vital that students around the world have access to these experiences. We are proud to play a small role in helping students go abroad and go beyond a typical education. In closing, we think First Lady Michelle Obama describes the importance of international education best: “Investing in the potential of all young people, through access to a well-rounded, world class global education, is an investment in our collective future.” To all students, teachers, host families, and people who have played a role in helping us facilitate these exchanges: thank you for your investment.
For more information on International Education Week, visit the official website: http://eca.state.gov/programs-initiatives/international-education-week
It’s a long flight from China to Texas. Depending on where IN China you are flying from, some estimates put the trip at 23 hours of non-stop flight. When Andrea arrived at Austin Bergstrom International Airport, signs of travel fatigue were anything but noticeable as she beamed at her new host family. Despite her cultural differences and language barrier, Andrea now has an exciting opportunity to experience a new world in the United States of America. She will afford the chance to learn about American culture, Texas culture, and improve her English language skills as she fully immerses herself in the American academic system.
One interesting aspect of traveling is seeing and learning about the holidays that are celebrated in comparison to your own. Yifei has been with her host-family in Columbia, Missouri since August of 2015 and has already significantly immersed herself. In mid-July, the Chinese celebrate the “Hungry Ghost Festival” where it is customary to float river lanterns to remember those who have died. Compared with the American holiday of Halloween there are obviously some differences, however, it still afforded a fun opportunity for Yifei to adorn an absolutely stellar witch costume.
Student Ambassador Exchange promotes and supports any and all students interested in participating in our programs of cultural exchange. With 2015 coming to an end, Andrea and Yifei have nearly six months behind them, with another exciting 6 months ahead. New Years, Valentines Day, St. Patricks Day, so many more interesting opportunities that will undoubtedly give them a broader perspective on the world.Read More