UPDATE # 15 Junior year abroad in a US high school - what do you think a kid from Europe should know? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 16 Old 03-03-2011, 07:57 AM - Thread Starter
 
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PLEASE NOTE UPDATE IN POST 15.

 

My DN and goddaughter, 15, who lives in Europe, is planning to spend her junior year abroad in a US high school (she will turn 16 shortly before going). My brother has asked me to go over the "parents' letter" he is supposed to submit to the exchange organization. He has agreed for me to post the letter here to get more input about what kind of stuff you would (and wouldn't) want to read in such a letter if you were planning to host a teenager from Europe.

 

It is also the only document in which my brother can enter any requests about her schooling (the organisation, together with the host family, chooses the school ). My brother has heard that standards are likely lower than what she is used to in her fairly selective public school so he thinks she might as well get a diploma out of it and ought to be able to attend senior classes and graduate; I think that while she is a bright and diligent student who is doing well in school but is not gifted or a super achiever it is unlikely that they’ll be ready to accelerate her so far, no matter what their standards are like (and with her summer birthday, she is young for grade anyway, and sensitive) and that she’ll be happier in a school with higher standards, attending junior classes with her agemates. But I am not sure how best to word either. I'd love your take on that, too!

 

Below is what he's come up with so far, with some input from me – would you let me know  if there is anything that feels “off” to you, any red flags we put in or stuff you feel we left out but should include? (BTW, location is completely up in the air, but tends to be somewhere "in the middle").

 

Thank you so much!

 

Quote:
 

Edited to move this comment, to make post more legible:

This is only partly a school issue but I am not sure where else it should go -  mods please move at your discretion. 


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#2 of 16 Old 03-04-2011, 06:23 AM
 
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I didn't see if you mentioned what her first language is. You might explain to her dad that taking senior classes doesn't make you graduate. Collecting enough credits makes you graduate. The school would review her previous school records and decide what counts and what doesn't. I seriously doubt they would count enough or that she would have the right classes to graduate. (English classes alone would most likely keep her back). You can't just move to the states, declare yourself a senior, and graduate. It doesn't work like that. Some kids who move here for their parents work have to take unpleasant schedules or go to summer school or just take an extra year to get in the right classes.

 

I also think that him mentioning that he feels their schools are just better than all American schools would be VERY rude. In my role as corporate housewife, I get to talk to families moving to the US for work and it drives me round the bend to listen to flat out statements about education here or our health care system. If you think where you are is better, then stay there. If you want to come here, then do so with an open mind because you want to be here. It's not polite to put down the country to the people who are trying to help you make the transition. It just comes off as snobby.

 

Depending on what part of the country she is coming to, mentioning if she has studied or would like to study Spanish would be interesting. I think a sentence stating some reason why she wants to come to America would be good -- why not another the UK, Ireland, or Canada if all she wants is to study English.  Does she watch American TV, follow American sports? Anything?


but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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#3 of 16 Old 03-04-2011, 07:28 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you for replying!

I am sorry, it sounds as if you were rather offended by what I was trying to explain. I do not share my brother's views and agree that he is reaching - in fact I have tried to explain about collecting credits and standards and so on, but it will be easier if I can back up what I have been trying to explain with your experiences working with families from abroad - I have worked in the US and Canada but have never gone to high school there. And his experiences are coloured by the fact (and this is true - I have experienced it myself) that all exchange students he's ever known, upon coming back from the US (apart from saying how much they loved it!) brag about how easy the academics were and a number have claimed to have graduated. In fact, I have always wondered about that part of their experience and I know that the former exchange student in my year at least did not graduate from high school, just got a GED.

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I also think that him mentioning that he feels their schools are just better than all American schools would be VERY rude.

 

And I am sure he wasn't going to put it like that in his letterROTFLMAO.gif. Nor does he think so (he loves the US, actually) - it's just that he is, apart from being a concerned parent, the kind of corporate type who is made VERY uneasy by the fact that he has no control whatsoever over what school his daughter will be offered! Have some compassion! I think all they can do as a last resort if they feel the school is not right at all is back out of the contract at high cost. it's just the way these programs work, that which host family might be a good fit is determined first and the school the child will go to will be then be determined by what's accessible where the host family is living. In all likelihood, as host families tend live in smaller communities, it will just be the local high school and that will be fine - THB, I am sure my DN could care less about the standards of the school and about graduating, she just wants to travel and meet new friends!

 

 

Quote:
 In my role as corporate housewife, I get to talk to families moving to the US for work and it drives me round the bend to listen to flat out statements about education here or our health care system. If you think where you are is better, then stay there. If you want to come here, then do so with an open mind because you want to be here. It's not polite to put down the country to the people who are trying to help you make the transition. It just comes off as snobby.

I have experienced this whenever I have lived abroad myself and agree with you that it is extremely rude, in fact it is one of the things that used to drive me round the bend about my fellow expatriates and immigrants. However, I have also made the experience that it is universal and find it just as rude about expatriates and immigrants moving to where I live now. I think it is hard to be open-minded about the unknown, no matter how voluntary your move is - I am **** practicing myself (note that my brother has *not* lived abroad himself but wants the experience now for his kids).  

 

 

Quote:

Depending on what part of the country she is coming to, mentioning if she has studied or would like to study Spanish would be interesting. I think a sentence stating some reason why she wants to come to America would be good -- why not another the UK, Ireland, or Canada if all she wants is to study English.  Does she watch American TV, follow American sports? Anything?

She's studied French and Latin, no Spanish. I have wondered about mentioning that myself, it's a good point.

Why she wants to come to America - that's an interesting one. it hadn't even occured to me it needed a justification - doesn't everyone who's young?orngtongue.gif I remember that people tended to be flabbergasted that my husband (then boyfriend) did not want to come to the US to live with me, and it was even more unimaginable that I was ready to move back to live with him, given that I already had a job in the US and everything? Apart from the fact that the job was temporary, I explained that while I loved living in the US, there was lots of stuff I loved about Europe too and that I did not mind going back. They didn't get it. Seriously.

DN is writing a letter about her motivation too and I think she hasn't even included anything about that either. It probably feels weird to her to mention that she loves American music, and films, and youth culture etc. because it describes exactly 100% of her fellow teenagers...I shall mention it to her that she might want to talk a little about that. I am sure she feels it is a given.


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#4 of 16 Old 03-04-2011, 07:29 AM
 
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She sounds like a wonderful girl! 

 

What I found missing from the letter was a sense of the practical - food allergies/intolerances/preferences; privacy needs eg. is sharing a bedroom and a bathroom okay; independence level eg. is she used to navigating public transit on her own; family views on discipline (curfews, grounding, etc.). 

 

Reading between the lines, it sounds like she's independent and flexible, but it would be nice to spell it out a little. Maybe this letter isn't the place for that kind of discussion, but as a host family, I'd want to know these things. 

 

 

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#5 of 16 Old 03-04-2011, 07:41 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ollyoxenfree View Post

 

She sounds like a wonderful girl! 

 

What I found missing from the letter was a sense of the practical - food allergies/intolerances/preferences; privacy needs eg. is sharing a bedroom and a bathroom okay; independence level eg. is she used to navigating public transit on her own; family views on discipline (curfews, grounding, etc.). 

 

Reading between the lines, it sounds like she's independent and flexible, but it would be nice to spell it out a little. Maybe this letter isn't the place for that kind of discussion, but as a host family, I'd want to know these things. 

 

 


Thank you - yes, she is wonderful, kind, caring and easygoing, but sensitive. And she'll eat anything, always has, in fact - that's what I meant when I suggested putting in something about being ready to try any dish, it's literally true. But you're right, it needs to be spelled out some more.

Privacy, independence, curfews and discipline - this is exactly the kind of thing European parents would not think of mentioning (in my experience, standards would be more relaxed), and which wasn't on my radar either, having much younger kids. Some of this stuff (such as whether she'll get her own bedroom) may be part of the contract already,  I'll  check.


 

 


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#6 of 16 Old 03-04-2011, 08:12 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tigerle View Post

I am sorry, it sounds as if you were rather offended by what I was trying to explain. I do not share my brother's views and agree that he is reaching - in fact I have tried to explain about collecting credits and standards and so on, but it will be easier if I can back up what I have been trying to explain with your experiences working with families from abroad - I have worked in the US and Canada but have never gone to high school there. And his experiences are coloured by the fact (and this is true - I have experienced it myself) that all exchange students he's ever known, upon coming back from the US (apart from saying how much they loved it!) brag about how easy the academics were and a number have claimed to have graduated. In fact, I have always wondered about that part of their experience and I know that the former exchange student in my year at least did not graduate from high school, just got a GED.


I'm not offended at all. thumb.gif

 

You really cannot believe everything a teenager tells you, esp. if they feel it is what they are supposed to say. Any European teenager who came here and then went back and said that they had to work at school would be thought to be an idiot, regardless of what sort of high school they were in or what they did. I do understand about dealing with execs, I live with one (who is an immigrant) and deal with others through his work. None the less, there's just no polite way to say "my 16 year old should be in classes with your 18 year olds."  Tell him that it's not something you have any control over anyway, that they can send her school records with her when she comes and the school decides what to do with them, where to place her, etc.

 

Some of the things European teens I know got a kick out of here were joining a baseball team, being in Girl Scouts, and taking Spanish. At first they thought it was fun to not have uniforms, but eventually tired of that (one started a petition for uniforms at her school!). I wouldn't jam the letter with pro-america stuff, but one sentence summarizes why she wants to come would make sense *to me,* but I deal with immigrants with varying attitudes about being here, a different culture shocks after they are here a bit. Some were disappointed --feeling that they would be coming to the center of universe, only to find themselves in Wichita.

 


but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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#7 of 16 Old 03-04-2011, 08:29 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Linda on the move View Post
Some were disappointed --feeling that they would be coming to the center of universe, only to find themselves in Wichita.

 


lol.gif When I traveled in Europe, the reaction I received when people found out where I was from was "ooooooooh, you're from New York!!!". I knew that the NY they imagined was Manhattan, but I lived in a dull suburb an hour and twenty minutes from the city by train.

 


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#8 of 16 Old 03-04-2011, 08:39 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Yeah, the kid in my year spent her year abroad in Laramie! DN is prepared for that eventuality. I have actually heard that schools in the more rural areas of the midwest and plains tend to be great as there is so much focus on what they can offer to kids in places which do not have much else to offer.


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#9 of 16 Old 03-04-2011, 09:11 AM
 
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Just commenting that yes, the credit thing, a lot of transfer students(even if they transferred from the next school district over) that I knew back in high school had to cram a bunch of prereq freshman classes in to be able to graduate, and they found that a lot of their classes didn't transfer to our high school. All of the exchange students, however, were given "senior status" which meant that they could choose whatever classes they wanted to take, so they wouldn't have to take boring classes. They also usually came to the states knowing that they would be adding another year on to their studies because the year in the states wouldn't transfer to their original school.  


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#10 of 16 Old 03-04-2011, 09:17 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I just talked on the phone to my brother and he has agreed that his academic expectations were probably unrealistic. I'll let him know about the senior status thing, that is helpful.

 

DN expects to repeat junior year at home as she needs the credits to graduate from her home school. She was entered early as it is (summer birthday a few days after the cutoff) and might profit from the extra maturity.


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#11 of 16 Old 03-04-2011, 10:01 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tigerle View Post

I just talked on the phone to my brother and he has agreed that his academic expectations were probably unrealistic. I'll let him know about the senior status thing, that is helpful.

 

DN expects to repeat junior year at home as she needs the credits to graduate from her home school. She was entered early as it is (summer birthday a few days after the cutoff) and might profit from the extra maturity.


When I did a study abroad through my university the workload was heavy for most of the students (I worked as an intern with only one class). When the English department (who sponsored the trip) heard about the workload they said that wasn't supposed to happen; the workload was supposed to be light for study abroad students so that they had time to enjoy the experience. I did have to stay at the university an extra semester because I was a history major and did not need any more English credits.

 


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#12 of 16 Old 03-04-2011, 12:10 PM
 
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I would not put in the letter, but have a frank talk w/ your DN and her expectations socially as well. Many dating 'rules' and drinking, driving, etc are different.

 

If she were to be in HS senior-- the boys would be ages 17-19. She is 16. That is a big difference. As a jr. she would be w/ kids that are 16-18. A bit better, make sure that your BIL and DN talk about those issues.

 

One of my coworkers hosted a 17 yr old male student from western Europe and he got sent home and kicked out of the hosting program because he could not abide by the American drinking age (21) and curfew that the host family had for their family (including their same age son). He also was placed as a Jr and academically it was easy---but the culture shock and new language made it difficult and he only got average grades. Learning English in classes was much different than writing/reading/speaking it 24/7- he was in advanced English classes in his native country, but did not have the written language skills for the classes he took.

 

She hosted other students (all boys since she herself had two boys) and did not have any troubles except a few talks on driving, curfew, and normal teenage stuff (pick up after yourself, dont ring up super long distance phone bills, be considerate of others when using hot water, etc). She often suggested that some hosted students bring some 'treats' from home (favorite candy bars, candy, snack bars, etc)- it can take some kids awile to adjust to new foods, etc Plus other teens enjoyed 'sampling' things from other countries, it was a good ice breaker for the host student to make new friends.

 

Their hosted students also  enjoyed participating in normal teenage stuff- dances, sports, etc. 

 

 

I hope your DN has a good time!

 

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#13 of 16 Old 03-04-2011, 12:21 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Linda on the move View Post

Some of the things European teens I know got a kick out of here were joining a baseball team, being in Girl Scouts, and taking Spanish. 

 


Riding a yellow school bus!! I know teens who were very excited about this one lol.gif ! 

 

 

 

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#14 of 16 Old 03-04-2011, 04:58 PM
 
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Since it's Junior year, could she enter into an IB program? That's designed so that she should be able to go to another IB school and enter the senior year.

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#15 of 16 Old 03-05-2011, 04:49 AM - Thread Starter
 
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The latst draft of the letter, with the proposed amendments, has been sent off!

Thank you very much for your input. I have removed the first draft in order to protect DNs and her family's privacy. But if you have any more comments and suggestions on what would be helpful for DN to know before setting out on her adventure, I'd love to hear them.


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#16 of 16 Old 03-05-2011, 04:51 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sapphire_chan View Post

Since it's Junior year, could she enter into an IB program? That's designed so that she should be able to go to another IB school and enter the senior year.



I think it is unlikely to expect that the place she will end up in has an IB program, and her home town certainly has none. I made a mental note of this though for my own kids, because our town does!


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