What an amazing year this has been!
First - Let me back up a bit, and fill you in with some pertinent information.
One sunny day in February of 2012, after being laid off the previous June, I was desperately looking for, and applying for, jobs. That day, after once again poring over countless possibilities, I saw what I thought would be a perfect job for me - becoming a local coordinator for CIEE.
The Council for International Educational Exchange is a well-known study abroad program where high school students from all over the world are placed with host families in the United States to attend high school. Most often the students are placed for a total of nine months with their host families, but some students choose to be in the program for just a five month placement.
Whichever the case, it is the local coordinator's job to find interested host families, help them complete the initial documentation including backgrounds checks, and contact the appropriate high schools for openings. Once the family has been approved by CIEE, the LC (local coordinator) suggests students who may fit into the host family's home best, such as placing a student who likes to play the guitar with a family who has an interest in music. The host family makes its collective choice and then the real fun begins!
The students arrive in August, just prior to the beginning of the school year, and both parties try to settle into a semblance of what the family life will be for the next nine months.
CIEE Family (not mine)
Oftentimes, there is a period where both are struggling a bit to get used to each other, and it takes some time to get accustomed to the parameters of each other's expectations. Host families are urged to treat the student as a part of their own family, including chores, bedtimes, etc., instead of a guest, per se. Paired with a possible language barrier, the few first weeks can be a little frustrating, suffice to say!
However, after the initial culture shock, a regular rhythm is set and the placement usually goes very well. There are a few instances where the student needs to be re-placed, but it doesn't happen very often, to the great credit of both the host family and the student.
All that being said, try as I might those first few months by posting blurbs on Facebook, in church bulletins, local newspapers and sitting at tables during the occassional weekend festival, I kept coming up dry. Effective promoter, I was not.
Imagine my surprise when I was contacted by the District Coordinator with a last minute placement. All of the work had already been done; host family vetted, plane tickets purchased, required documentation turned in to the school. All I needed to do was say yes - which I very happily did.
That decision sculpted the past year for me. I have met a new, now very dear friend whom I respect so much - the host mom. I have witnessed the blossoming of a young, German girl into a self-assured young lady - my student. I have met wonderful co-local coordinators as well as amazing students from around the world. I have learned about different cultures from the students I met on the ski trip, the visit to our State Capitol, and the delightful excursion to our aquarium so they could "snorkel with the sharks" (very small ones, mind you) - an amazing adventure, you must agree!
And I have been asked to be the local coordinator for the next year - again, host mom already vetted by my outgoing host family, placement made, plane tickets purchased, and school documentation already turned in. My new host mom is going to be a stitch to work with and I am looking forward to the new adventure.
Am I lucky, or what?
Alas, however, the time is near that I must say goodbye to my wonderful student and the monthly contact I had with the host family for my supervision reports. I will miss the beautiful young lady who is returning to her home country, now versed in American ways. Thank goodness for email and Facebook!
This year found me energized with hope, extremely impressed with our global youth, and proud I was able to be a part of this incredible journey!
If you are interested in more information about CIEE, visit www.ciee.org.