Blog Archives

Learning about Exchange by Hosting

Exchange students all over the world experience the same emotions, excitement, and challenges of study abroad no matter where their destination is. If you or a family member are considering studying abroad in the future or even as soon as next semester, what better (free) way to learn about the adaptation process and about other cultures than by hosting a student in the U.S. first?

Host families bond for life.

Host families bond for life.

Most students’ goals are to:
1. Learn another language
2. Learn about other cultures
3. Do something unique and different
4. Travel
What some students and families don’t realize is that by hosting, you are accomplishing these goals as well! Your exchange student will teach you slang, colloquial phrases, and even grammar from their country (do you know how to say ‘Moose’ in Thai for example?). They will explain why they have different customs than yours and show you different ways to think about the world (Did you know Frozen Yogurt shops aren’t very common in Germany?). You will also see how they handle homesickness and culture shock, two things that will happen during your exchange at some point or another that you will learn to overcome.

By becoming a host family and host sibling, you are joining a ‘club’ of sorts of international volunteers that said yes to a unique experience. You never officially stop being a host sibling, ask anyone! The relationships you build, whether as a host or an exchange student, last for a lifetime. Any host family you ask has probably seen their exchange student after they return home. They’ve had chances to visit them and see the country they came from or have invited the student back to their home away from home.

These are the types of things you can also experience, by welcoming a student into your home this year, even for a short period of time.

At iE-USA, you still have time to become a host family and join the “Host Family Club”. You can apply to host a specific student that your family chooses, that will mesh well with your lifestyle, personalities, and interests. And you won’t be alone, you will have a coordinator in your local area (whichever state you are from) to give your family an orientation, check in with you and the student monthly to see how things are going, and solve any problems that may arise. Parents should make a non-binding application at www.ie-usa.org before the end of August, to find the right student.

So what are you waiting for? It’s time to make a iE student’s dream come true!

Advertisements

Traditions in Germany- ‘Maierle’ Guest Post

Hey you all, I’m Constanze and I’m 19. I wanted to share some traditions that are unique to Germany, that you might see if you decide to study abroad here!
I live in Bavaria in the south of Germany. One year ago I lived at my parents house, they live in a little town with around 5,200 inhabitants. This region is called “Unterallgäu” and there are many farmers and many little villages and every village has its own dialect.  There is a cute Bavarian tradition in the Region where my parents live. A boy who loves a girl puts a birch tree with colorful tapes and a heart made of wood in front of her house in the night before the 1st of May. The boys have to protect the tree the whole night until the sunrise that no other boy steals it.
 German tradition
In the morning the girls have to guess who put the tree there and they give the boys a big breakfast. This year I got one and here is a picture of it to the right.

Read the rest of this entry

Gap Year in Belgium (Jessica)

United Nations Plaza in Brussels

While many high school seniors are eagerly anticipating the start of their college career, Jessica is gearing up for a different kind of adventure.  While her classmates celebrate their college acceptance letters, Jessica is celebrating special news of her own. Jessica is a senior, preparing for a Gap Year abroad in Belgium with iE-USA – and she just learned which family will be her hosts for her time abroad!

This article by Alexa Rosenblatt shows why some students, like Jessica, choose to take a Gap Year to travel and mature before starting college. Gap Year travel can often help improve a student’s college application. According to Rosenblatt, “During the admissions process, colleges often recognize valued skills learned during productive gap years, such as the drive to do something different, communication skills and quick adjustment to changing environments.” Blumenthal, a student returning from abroad, said, “My year was cheaper than a year’s worth of education at most schools, and was more of an education any school could have provided.” Jessica agrees with Blumenthal’s comment, “A gap year isn’t sitting on your couch for a year; it should be an opportunity to do something you never could before. It’s a learning experience.” (Blumenthal, in Rosenblatt article).

Jessica  will be attending a local high school while discovering her new ‘hometown’ of Ayvaille, near Liege. This city is famous for its rivers, kayaking adventures, and caves. But Jessica is even more excited to hear how her host family’s interests are similar to hers; her host sister is a college student close to her age who lives at home, and her host mom loves to cook cake and pastries, just like her!

iE-USA did an interview with Jessica to see why traveling abroad after high school attracted her more than heading straight to college. She said, “I always wanted to study abroad but was never able to do it with school being so busy. I wanted to do it before college, especially because they say you are better at learning languages when you are younger. So I wanted a year off that wasn’t wasted. Also, my brother is in college and did a semester abroad in Italy, but he didn’t really meet any Italians when he was doing it. I wanted to be immersed in high school life as opposed to just taking college courses abroad and living in an apartment or dorm where you don’t meet as many local people. High school kids seem friendlier.”

We asked her if she thought a gap year was for all students and she said, “You should do a gap year if you have a plan in place; something that will be enriching for you. I know a student who didn’t make good college plans and HAD to take a gap year because of that but she took a job that keeps her at home for the year, which is sad because she could be traveling or learning. If you were able to plan something ahead of time that allows you to do something you have never done before, you should definitely do a gap year.”

So what did Jessica have to say about her new host family and school abroad? “At first, waiting to hear about my host family, I was nervous. I was worried a family wouldn’t understand me, or treat me badly. But now that I found my family, they seem like such a good fit.”

She also said, “I already looked up the website for my school, and you could even see the school lunch menu, which I have to say was a step up from the American lunch of football shaped nuggets and flat patties. Their lunch seems so sophisticated, something you would actually want to eat at school. It’s the little things like that which are making this experience seem less abstract. I’m excited, not nervous now, to meet my host family, and I already started chatting with my host sister, she has Facebook!”

Read more about iE-USA Gap Year here.

Why do you go away?

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”

―Terry Pratchett

 

IMG_20140225_120431

 

Want to travel this summer or next spring? High school students can apply here

Top 6 Reasons to Study Abroad in Italy

 “You may have the universe if I may have Italy” 
― Giuseppe Verdi

This week, iE-USA decided to feature Italy as its Country Destination on our blog. Grayden, our Student Ambassador, has selected his top 6 reasons why you should choose to study abroad in Italy:

  1. The Culture: Italy is a country full of rich and diverse culture which differs from region to region. This contributes to the broad cultural range which Italy offers, and provides a vast learning experience for anyone who chooses to study abroad here. 
  2. The People: Italian people are one of the main reasons that their country is so great. Friendly, as well as talkative, Italians are great people who are very outgoing socially. It’s easy to find friends who are spending free time together, having a good time and want you to be a part of it. Family also plays a large role in Italian culture and life, and when abroad they will make exchange students feel like a part of the family, which is a major plus! 
  3. Lifestyle: Italians live a very relaxed, happy lifestyle. School and work provide Italians with much more free time during a day than a typical American schedule would allow, and allows for more time to eat, spend time with friends, and participate in many other activities. 
  4. The Food: Italians like to say that their food is “the best in the world,” and they are right. Italians have a diet that varies by region, but consists of many pastas, breads, and many greens and salads as well. The food in Italy is one of the things that people savor and remember for the rest of their lives!
  5. The History: Italy, as well as Europe in general, is a country which is hundreds of years older than America, and contains a history lesson wherever you look. From the buildings, castles, and churches, no matter where one stays, they will always be living in or near a piece of history.
  6. The Scenery: Whether it’s the villages, the masses of hills, the coast, or the mountains, Italy is a country where the natural beauty never stops. The best part? All of these areas are within a few hours of each other.

To apply or get more information, click here!

To talk to our student ambassador Grayden, go here.

Maria and Mandela

As 15 year old Maria boarded her flight for South Africa, she had no idea she was headed to the ground floor of a significant historical event!

Maria

Maria lights a candle during a weeklong vigil for Nelson Mandela.

Meet Maria

Maria from California chose to study abroad for 1 semester in South Africa with iE-USA.

Toward the end of her exchange semester, news of Nelson Mandela’s death rocked the world. Maria, now immersed in the South African culture, was able to see these events through the eyes of a South African.

Maria shares more in her own words:

What impacted you during your semester in South Africa with iE-USA?

It’s hard to list just one thing, because I’m so thankful for the experience in general. The townships were like nothing I had seen before. There are squatter camps, where people build houses out of tin and other materials, and there are formal settlements. These are housing units made out of brick, which was an effort that Mandela began post-apartheid. In the townships, everyone was smiling and friendly, yet they have almost nothing. It made me realize how much we take for granted.

How did people respond to Nelson Mandela’s passing?

The energy that week leading up to the funeral was all revolved around him and remembering the life that he led. There were thousands of flowers laid out on the streets and hand-written cards to the Mandela family. It’s not until you are in that environment that you realize he did not only have a physical impact on the laws and government, but an emotional impact on the people and their minds. People really feel like he impacted their lives on a personal level, and he did.

Why did you choose South Africa?

I wanted to go to a country where their first language is English. That narrowed it down pretty quickly. Most of the other English-speaking countries all have a similar culture to that of America, and so I felt South Africa would be the most different. I wanted the “most different.” I wanted something out of my comfort zone.

What differences did you notice?

The languages. You can sit on a bus and hear English, Zulu, Tswana, Afrikaans, and Xhosa. You don’t get that in America. Also, school was the polar opposite of my school in California. We had uniforms, which I ended up liking because I didn’t have to decide what I wanted to wear in the morning. And I got to take classes I had never been able to take back home, like African History and Consumer Studies. 

Do you have any favorite memories from your time?

Maria poses with a seal outside of Capetown.

Maria poses with a seal outside of Capetown.

I got to go shark cage diving – that was one of the coolest things. You wear a wet suit and get in the water with them!

What does it feel like to come home?

So far, it’s as if nothing has changed, which is good and kind of weird at the same time. I am glad I can pick up where I left off, but the experience was so personal, that I feel like I have changed drastically, while nothing around me is different.

What advice would you give someone considering studying in South Africa?

I would say to just be open-minded, because, if you go to any country with a closed mind, you are not going to be happy. One thing people should be prepared for when they go to South Africa is that there is more poverty than in America. They should also know that it’s not a reason to be scared. Overall, I found that they (South Africans) are very friendly, loving people – more so than in America. I took the train, taxis, and city buses, but I always felt safe.

How do you think this might affect your future?

I would like to revisit South Africa in the future. I am even considering a year abroad at UCT. I also hope this experience will help me get into college, so that I may continue studying culture and people on a higher academic level. I believe this is just the first step in a long list of cultural-immersion experiences.

Are you a teacher, educator, or homeschooler? Want to use this interview as an educational piece about Mandela or South Africa? Download the Maria_and_Mandela_Educational_Handout.

Want to apply to go to South Africa next year? Go here: http://usa.international-experience.net/study-abroad/apply-now/

Last month in Germany :( – Claire

Germanyclaire

I’ve learned so much by being in Germany for the past few months.  Unfortunately, I can only stay for 5 months and not 10.  I would jump at the chance to extend my time here, but with school and graduation in a few months, it works out better to just stay a semester.  When I came, I could only put together a few sentences and had almost no knowledge of the grammar.  With the immeasurable patience of my host family (especially host mom), I’ve made incredible progress in German.  I’ve learned so much just by helping my host mom cook and asking questions about the language and when, what, and why people say certain things.

I’ve really become part of culture here.  I’m on a soccer team and in a choir.  I’ve snowboarded in the French Alps. I’ve made numerous friends, and I’m glad to say I also have a new German family.

I strongly recommend studying abroad, and, of course, choosing Germany.  I won’t lie and say it’s always the easiest, but it is certainly 100% worth it.  No doubt.

Live your dreams

Dreams

If traveling or living abroad is your dream, don’t let anyone (including yourself) stop you. Change your “Can’t” to “Can”. Nothing is impossible, and whatever your challenges may be, you can overcome them. Do you fear you won’t succeed? Do you fear you won’t make friends? Do you fear you will miss old friends and family? Don’t let fear of the unknown stop you, everyone has fears but the ones that succeed in life are those who acknowledge and address those fears and move past them. Study abroad programs provide support and orientations to address these fears and staff will always be available to help you through the hard times. No dream was ever easy, right? If other cultures and countries interest you, you want to see the world, you want to break out of the bubble you live in, meet new people and try new foods, then live the life you have imagined. Applying for study abroad might be the first step in your journey to making the life you want to have. Ask an exchange student in your community or our youth ambassador how they overcame their fears. It’s worth it.

Camden: Germany… or Deutschland

 

What do you appreciate most about your experience?

I made good friends with my wonderful host siblings, all so different, yet so interesting. My sister was becoming a teacher, one of my brothers had just returned from Spain, and my other brother was studying to become a doctor. All of them so unique, such wonderful and beautiful people, and I was lucky enough to have met them, and live a few short days with them. I remember speaking with my host sister on my last night in Germany, thinking about how lucky I was to have met the people I did, how much they changed me. I told her how lucky I was to have been her sister, if only for a short time.

 

Not so foreign anymore- Maria

Robert Louis Stevenson once said,”There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.”
From: livemyjourney.com

From: livemyjourney.com

That is how I felt when I first arrived in Cape Town, South Africa. I was a foreigner, in a completely new environment, with new family and new friends. Cape Town, however, quickly welcomed me with open arms and showed me all there is to love about this amazing city.

Each weekend brings a new adventure. I have waddled around with penguins, and gotten up close and personal with baboons and seals. I have spent hours climbing the mountains that engulf this beautiful city, and surfed the waves of the marvelous beaches. But, while I will remember these experiences forever, it is the people of Cape Town who have made my stay so special. My host family has shown me nothing but love. I have enjoyed getting to know my aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents, and I can proudly say that I feel like a member of the family.

The students at school were eager to teach me all there is to know about South Africa and, also, to learn about my culture in The States. And the people I encounter, as I make my way around town, always smile, ask questions, and surely know hospitality.

I don’t feel like a foreigner anymore, because Cape Town has become a place I call home.

-Maria, South Africa 2013

%d bloggers like this: