Tobias Waage Kyte fra Drammen fikk en tøff velkomst da han i høst reiste på elevutveksling til USA gjennom Explorius sitt program. Planen var å tilbringe andre klasse på en amerikansk High School, men etter bare to måneder i USA fikk 17-åringen nok og nå er han tilbake i Drammen.
Først to dager før avreise i september ble Tobias tildelt en vertsfamilie og da i Texas, til tross for at han hele veien hadde fått opplyst at han skulle til Florida.
– Det var egentlig ikke noe problem for meg. Jeg tenkte at; Texas, det er jo dødskult! Hvor mange er det som får oppleve det, forteller Tobias til TV 2 hjelper deg.
Men det som møtte utvekslingseleven i Texas var langt ifra dødskult. Ifølge Tobias ble han plassert hos en vertsfamilie med elendige boforhold. Han mener det hele virket som en nødløsning for å få han over til USA.
– Det var skittent og ekkelt og doen virket ikke skikkelig. En av rutene var knust uten at noen hadde tatt seg bryet med å bytte den og jeg hadde ikke engang en seng å sove i, forteller Tobias oppgitt.
I huset bodde en familie på seks personer, i tillegg til en tysk utvekslingsstudent og alle disse skulle, sammen med Tobias, dele to soverom.
– Jeg ble bare helt fortvilet og følte virkelig ikke at dette var det Explorius hadde forespeilet meg, sier Tobias.
Etter at han hadde klaget ble han raskt flyttet ut, men problemene stoppet ikke her.
Hos en av familiene opplevde Tobias at vertsmoren ved flere anledninger drakk og kjørte bil under en rundtur i Florida. Hun skal også ha bedt om å låne penger av Tobias eller om han kunne donere penger til turen. Da foreldrene til Tobias fikk vite om disse hendelsene reagerte de med stor bekymring og kontaktet Explorius som igjen konfronterte den aktuelle vertsmoren – mens Tobias bodde i huset.
– Jeg syntes det ble fryktelig ubehagelig, du kan jo tenke deg hvordan stemningen var i det huset, sier Tobias, som fortviler over måten det hele ble behandlet på.
Hans egne foreldre, Kristin Waage Kyte og Mårten Kyte, syntes det var tøft å følge Tobias hjemmefra og hadde hyppig kontakt med sønnen. De forsøkte å motivere og støtte ham så godt de kunne via skype, sms og telefonkontakt.
– Det er jo det kjæreste du har og selv om vi vet at Tobias klarer seg selv så var det tungt å høre at han var utrygg og på gråten og ikke kunne hjelpe ham, sier Kristin.
I løpet av sine nesten to måneder i USA har Tobias blitt flyttet rundt til tre ulike familier i Texas, en familie i Kansas før han til slutt ble sendt til en siste familie i Missouri. Her kunne de ikke tilby noen skoleplass til han og alternativet var å flytte ham en siste gang.
Foreldrene til Tobias mener de ikke har fått den tjenesten de har kjøpt av Explorius og at organisasjonen ved flere anledninger har tilbudt et utilstrekkelig skoletilbud. Til sammen har de betalt 70 000 kroner for oppholdet og Tobias har et stipend fra Lånekassen som vil bli gjort om til lån fordi han ikke har fullført skoleåret. I tillegg kom han tilbake for sent til å følge sitt eget årskull og må derfor gå 1. klasse om igjen.
– Det er utrolig kjipt og så demotiverende. Dette året skulle liksom bli mitt livs opplevelse, men nå ender det bare med en gedigen skuffelse og brutte forventninger, sier 17- åringen.
Explorius mener foreldrene har skylden
Explorius hevder på sin side at det er familien Kyte som har brutt kontrakten, fordi Tobias til slutt valgte å dra hjem fra USA. De mener også at oppholdet i stor grad ble ødelagt av at foreldrene hadde for mye kontakt med sønnen. Det reagerer Tobias sin mor sterkt på.
– Hvem er det som ikke ville ha fulgt opp sønnen sin i en slik fortvilet situasjon, det er vår plikt som foreldre, sier hun oppgitt.
Hos ANSA, organisasjonen som organiserer studenter og elever i utlandet, har de fått flere liknende henvendelser fra elever som har vært utenlands gjennom Explorius.
– Vi synes det er utrolig uheldig at utvekslingselever havner i slike situasjoner og derfor er det veldig viktig å skille mellom de seriøse og useriøse aktørene, sier president i ANSA, Kristoffer Moldekleiv.
Administrerende direktør i Explorius, Tom Ericsson, er veldig lei seg for at Tobias ikke har fått et vellykket opphold i USA. Han beklager forholdene hos den første vertsfamilien som Tobias kom til i Texas, men legger vekt på at det mangler dokumentasjon på Tobias sine påstander.
– Det er en del alvorlige påstander som kommer frem her og det vil vi sjekke grundigere, sier han.
Ericsson mener at Explorius har gjort alt i sin makt for å hjelpe Tobias underveis når problemene har oppstått og at skoletilbudet de har gitt har vært tilfredsstillende. Etter at TV 2 hjelper deg tok opp saken har Explorius tilbudt Tobias å reise ut på et nytt opphold, men med bedre betingelser. For tiden forhandler de også med familien Kyte om et økonomisk krav.
Drew Griffin and Kathleen Johnston | CNN | 16. juli 2009:
SCRANTON, Pennsylvania (CNN) — They came from around the world hoping to spend a high school year immersed in the culture and joys of America.
Instead, five young foreign exchange students found themselves caught in a nightmare of neglect, malnourishment and abandonment by those supposed to protect them.
Now those five — natives of countries stretching from Norway to Tanzania to Colombia — are back home telling friends of a different America than they expected. And their brief visit reverberates in America as a United States senator demands accountability and reform, a Pennsylvania district attorney seeks criminal charges and the U.S. State Department concedes it failed to protect kids coming to America.
«We at the Department of State recognize [because we] are responsible for this program we have to make sure we are aggressively overseeing this program and make sure children are well-suited,» said State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley.
«This is a program that is very important to the Department of State,» Crowley said. «We are talking 15- to 18-year-old children. We are introducing them to the United States. We are trying to put our best foot forward. We recognize in this incident in Scranton and also elsewhere around the country we have failed to do so.»
What happened in Scranton, according to Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania, District Attorney Andrew Jarbola, is a crime. He has convened a grand jury to look into the families where some of the 12 students who came to Scranton were placed, as well as the company who placed them there and its officials.
«Well, in my opinion they were treated kind of crudely,» Jarbola said. «Not provided the proper food, hygiene and things of that nature. And the areas they were placed? I know one of the students was placed in a home with a convicted felon — convicted of drug trafficking or drug offenses — and that is very disturbing to me.»
Jarbola said some students were so malnourished that one was treated in a hospital for dehydration while another passed out during track at school.
«They weren’t provided with food,» Jarbola said. «In fact there is one incident with tape on food items in the refrigerator of the host family that says, ‘Do not touch. This is for the host family only.’ So basically they were neglected.»
The company that placed the students first denied any problems existed, then said it had corrected them and fired those responsible. The families who housed the students say the allegations are untrue. But the students themselves tell a different story.
‘It was nothing like I had envisioned’
The San Francisco-based Aspect Foundation sponsored all 12 of the Scranton students, some of whom were on State Department grants. On its Web site, the Aspect Foundation says it began in 1985 as «a small non-profit organization offering affordable study-abroad opportunities to students from around the world,» and now «students live with volunteer host families in more than 350 communities throughout the United States.»
In 2008, the State Department gave 17 placement groups $39.4 million in taxpayer funds to manage programs involving exchange students. Aspect received $1.08 million of those funds.
Carlos Villarreal’s family, however, paid their son’s way to America from Colombia, giving Aspect $13,000 for him to study here. Villarreal said he lived with a family that housed ex-convicts and that he had very little to eat. He said his mother’s repeated contacts with Aspect about his situation were ignored.
«I lost a lot of body weight, and [it was] an unsafe environment which I felt uncomfortable living in, and it was nothing like I had envisioned my experience in America,» he said.
The Rev. Elmer Smith told CNN he took in Villarreal as a favor to Aspect’s local coordinator, Edna Burgette, and denied he failed to feed him.
«The boy had no place to go, so I took him in and I fed him,» Smith said. «He had a television in his room, he had heat in his room, he had air-conditioning in his room.»
Another woman who hosted students said she was sitting on her porch when Burgette walked by and asked her if she would take in a child. Like Smith, the woman said that she was just trying to help a student whom she was told had nowhere else to go.
Jarbola said a girl from Norway, who asked to be identified only by her first name, Anne, tried to alert officials that she and some of the students were in dire straits.
Anne told CNN she had school officials send an e-mail to Aspect in October explaining how bad things were and including photographs of the inside of the home where she was placed. The home was later condemned by the city.
Anne’s high school principal took her in, but other students weren’t as lucky and spent nearly the entire school year in unsafe homes, until Children and Youth Services was tipped off about a month before school ended, Jarbola said.
Jarbola, who said Anne’s e-mail is now evidence in the criminal investigation, told CNN that when welfare officials interviewed the students, one was so hungry he wept when they gave him pizza during questioning. In all, five of the students were removed from homes where they’d been placed by Aspect.
Sponsoring agencies asked to police themselves
U.S. Sen. Robert Casey, D-Pennsylvania, said the situation sickened him.
«I’m the father of four daughters,» he said. «I would never want my daughter nor would any parent want their daughter or son exposed to these kinds of conditions anywhere, but especially when you’re in a foreign country. And in this case the United States was this foreign country.»
Aspect gave conflicting responses to CNN.
Vivian Fearen, its executive director, did not return calls seeking comment. Her Pennsylvania public relations firm issued a statement blaming the Scranton problem on Burgette, who was fired once the allegations surfaced in the Scranton media.
Burgette also did not respond to repeated attempts by CNN for comment.
Later, however, Aspect issued a statement through the public relations firm.
«Based on their own investigation and verification from county children and youth officials, Aspect Foundation was led to believe that none of their students in northeastern Pennsylvania was abused, malnourished or dehydrated,» said Karen Walsh, public affairs director for the Neiman Group.
But the statement also said Aspect «fully acknowledges that what happened in Scranton, Pennsylvania, was deplorable and in complete violation of their own strict standards and those of the Department of State’s Exchange Visitor Program.»
«Aspect Foundation has corrected the problems; terminated or accepted the resignations of those who were responsible for them; and established new policies and procedures to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again,» Walsh said.
Walsh said the Lackawanna County Children and Youth Services agency reported no Aspect students in Scranton required medical attention and only three were relocated. In addition to Burgette’s firing, Walsh said, two other supervisors resigned.
But the district attorney and other officials in Lackawanna County dispute Aspect’s contention. Jarbola said two received medical attention. All told, according to Jarbola, five were relocated, and those cases are being reviewed by the grand jury.
But Casey’s staff pointed out that Aspect employed Burgette for 10 years, making it difficult to portray her simply as a rogue employee.
Casey said Aspect knew in October the students were in trouble and chose to ignore it. But he saved most of his anger for the State Department, which allows groups like Aspect to police themselves.
«It’s about time that the State Department complete its investigation — even as the grand jury is working — complete the investigation, level tough sanctions and make improvements to this program in terms of oversight,» Casey said.
In its initial statement to CNN, the State Department said when it hears of allegations, «we immediately contact the sponsoring organization involved and ask them to investigate. We gather full information and act swiftly and appropriately.»
That’s the problem, argue critics, who say the department has had a hands-off policy for years when it comes to foreign exchange group sponsors. When complaints are made against the sponsor, they are asked to investigate themselves.
Arkansas legislator Sue Madison said she had a law passed in her state to protect students after it was discovered some of them were forced to do manual labor, live in unfit conditions and even forced to hand over their money to host families.
«You make a complaint to the State Department and you basically never hear from them again,» Madison said, explaining why she decided her state needed a law to do its own enforcement.
Watchdog groups struggle to get State Department’s attention
Danielle Grijalva, director of the Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students, said she once worked in the industry. The agencies, which she calls unregulated travel agents, can make millions of dollars enticing rich foreigners and lobbying for State Department grants to lure scholarship-eligible students here for a year of study.
Her group now monitors complaints. The situation in Scranton, she said, is not isolated — nor is the State Department’s initial response to the crisis. She fields calls from parents and students alike who complain they have nowhere else to turn.
«It’s self-regulated, unmonitored, under-reported,» Grijalva said. «Students being raped, placed in the homes of convicted felons, placed in the homes of registered sex offenders, come to the United States and lose 20, 30, 40 pounds.»
Grijalva shared e-mails with CNN which she said came from parents and students and host families — even correspondence with the State Department managers who oversee the program.
The State Department «will not accept as a complaint any matter that is not presented to us by an involved party to the exchange agency,» she was told in a 2006 e-mail by Stanley Colvin, a deputy assistant secretary for private-sector exchange.
Complaints forwarded by watchdog groups like hers, she said, are not considered by the State Department as worthy of investigation.
The State Department turned down CNN’s request to talk to Colvin or other managers directly involved in managing the exchange programs.
«When we bring this to the attention of the State Department, once again, it’s a business issue, they can’t get involved and they continue to look the other way,» Grijalva said.
Crowley said the department is not looking the other way now. He said the Scranton situation showed the department «tended to inspect by exception. Only when we were aware of dire circumstances did we send an investigator out.»
Crowley said the department asked the inspector general’s office to investigate Aspect but also plans to inspect its own management controls. He said that given the number of students, the department will still have to depend on sponsoring agencies to monitor the students they bring over. But he said the State Department can and will do more.
«We do recognize that the oversight of this program at the State Department was not strong enough, not aggressive enough,» Crowley said.
«We were not out there in the community looking hard at where our children were. We have already taken steps to put more eyes on these homes around the country so that in the future not only will we be putting the appropriate emphasis on the agents that are responsible first and foremost for oversight we’ll be looking over their shoulders as well.
«That did not happen certainly in the case of Scranton,» he said.
Crowley also released a June 12 report on Aspect written by Colvin. In it, Colvin said the department has warned the industry for the past three years that it was becoming harder to find suitable host families. It said the department specifically told Aspect that an audit found the group only complying with host family screening requirements 67.7 percent of the time. It’s unclear from the report why the State Department did not stop awarding Aspect grants at that point.
After finding a number of violations in Scranton, Colvin said the state would sanction Aspect by reducing the number of students it can bring over by 15 percent. Based on the fees it charges, the penalty, Colvin wrote, will result in a revenue loss of $540,000.
However, there is no mention in the report whether Aspect will have to return any of the $1 million of taxpayer-funded grants it received for the 2008-2009 school year. The State Department did not respond to repeated requests for clarification.
Meanwhile, Tanzanian student Musa Mpulki has since returned home. Before he left, he told CNN he did not want to upset his mother, so he never told her that he had little to eat during his nine-month stay in the home of a 72-year-old man who had signs on his refrigerator that some food was only for family.
Although his housing situation was a nightmare, Mpulki said the students at the school made him appreciate America, and he said he appreciated the State Department grant that brought him to the United States.
«I guess I like to say, ‘Thank you very much the government of the United States for to bring me here to get a good experience at the school and a good education.’ »
For de fleste av utvekslingselevene som reiser ut som utvekslingselev blir utvekslingsåret et godt år. Mange strever desverre voldsomt. Det kan være mange grunner til det:
Kjemien er dårlig mellom eleven og vertshjemmet
Vertshjemmet er skittent, lukter vondt eller faller fra hverandre.
Representant og vertsfamilien er gode venner (interessekonflikt).
Konflikt mellom representant og vertsfamilie.
Mye kjeft og beskyldninger.
Trusler fra vertsforeldre og/eller utvekslingsorganisasjonen.
Seksuelle tilnærmelser, overgrep, mishandling.
Alkohol eller stoffproblemer i hjemmet.
Du føler deg utrygg uten egentlig å kunne sette fingeren på det. En av vertsforeldrene har selvmotsigende utsagn og liker deg det ene øyeblikket men ikke i det neste. Du vet liksom ikke helt hvor du har dem.
Utvekslingseleven blir hverken hørt eller trodd av utvekslingsorganisasjonen.
Ingen hjelp å få.
Noen ganger kan det være at utvekslingseleven er for kravstor. Da må du forsøke å justere forventninger og krav etter standarden i det nye landet. Bare du vette om det er du eller vertsfamilien som er urimelig. Om det er vertsfamilien eller utvekslingsorganisasjonen som er problemet er det flere muligheter:
Identifiser problemet så godt dere kan.
Ta bilder, behold tekstmeldinger og videresend til foreldrene deres som sikkerhet.
Fortell med en gang foreldrene deres hva problemet er (selv om du kanskje tror at du innbiller deg at det er et problem). Få dem til å mase på utvekslingsorganisasjonen i Norge.
Snakk med rektor/lærer/helsesøster/venners foreldre og be om hjelp.
Om du trenger å bytte hjem, spør folk du kjenner om du kan bo hos dem – ikke vent på organisasjonen. De er ofte ikke interessert i å finne nytt hjem til dere.
Norske ambassader/konsulater i nærheten av der du bor kan ofte gi deg råd om advokater, psykologer o.l. i utvekslingslandet. Foreldrene dine kan kanskje hjelpe deg med dette. Google er en god venn.
Foreldre har rett til å ta kontakt med skolen barnet deres går på.
Ha kontakt med vertsfamilien om dere ønsker det.
Husk på kjøpskontrakten. Utvekslingsorganisasjonen din plikter å oppfylle punktet/markedsføringen som lover et trygt hjem. I Norge er det SIU (Senter for internasjonalisering av utdanning) dere kan klage til om utvekslingsorganisasjonen nekter å gjøre noe.
Om dere lurer på noe er det bare å ta kontakt med meg, Lise Almenningen, på margarethesdatter (at) csfes.org – I USA kan dere ta kontakt direkte med eieren av CSFES, Danielle Grijalva på dgrijalva (at) csfes.org
A foreign exchange student’s complaints over living conditions he encountered with a host family in Norwood Young America have prompted a state investigation that could lead to new legislation to safeguard visiting students.
After the Norwegian student complained that he had lent his host family $1,000 for groceries and their son’s acting classes, he was sent back to Norway in March for unspecified rules violations by the exchange organization that brought him here . Now, he’ll have to repeat his senior year there.
The incident spurred Minnesota Deputy Secretary of State Jim Gelbmann to investigate problems reported by other exchange students visiting Minnesota. He subsequently called on lawmakers to expand the state’s authority to oversee foreign exchange programs.
The California-based Council for Educational Travel USA (CETUSA), which placed the student in the Norwood Young America home, is defending its practices in the face of reports of poor living arrangements for some of its foreign high school students, including some who arrived in Minnesota without host families lined up.
«It took me a while to realize this wasn’t an isolated incident,» Gelbmann said of the Norwood case. «The problems are systemic throughout the CETUSA organization.»
A Minnesota House and Senate conference committee has agreed to language in a bill that would allow the secretary of state to investigate and terminate registrations of organizations that don’t meet standards set by the state. It is now awaiting approval as part of a state finance bill.
While staying in Norwood, Espen Hansen lent his host parents at least $500 for groceries and $500 for their son’s acting classes.
«The mother was nice to Espen, but CETUSA shouldn’t have placed him there,» Marianne Hansen, Espen’s mother, said in a telephone interview. «I started sending him money» to make sure he had enough to eat.
A reporter’s calls to the host family were notreturned.
Hansen said she requested a new host family for her son. Months later, Espen was moved to the home of Joann Kilmer, regional coordinator for CETUSA, briefly before being returned to Norway.
Another Norwood parent began making inquiries about Espen’s predicament, and that’s when the secretary of state’s office got involved. When Gelbmann began contacting some of the 37 other Minnesota schools where CETUSA has placed students, he found more reports of problems encountered by students.
While some of the schools had no complaints, the majority of those contacted had concerns, citing limited communication between the school and CETUSA prior to the students’ placement, and less-than-ideal conditions with some host families, Gelbmann said.
He said it appeared that CETUSA was not visiting host families’ homes prior to students’ arrival, as required by federal law. Kelli Hanson, a «host mom» for another CETUSA student placed in Norwood, took in a second student whose first placement didn’t work out. Even though federal law requires coordinators to «maintain, at minimum, a monthly schedule of personal contact with the student and host family,» nobody from CETUSA ever checked on the new student, she said.
In interviews with CETUSA, the agency was not able to provide the Star Tribune with documentation that home visits were in fact occurring.
Some schools drop out
As a result of such concerns, Buffalo High School has ended its relationship with CETUSA.
In a March 31 e-mail sent to Gelbmann, Rick Toso, then Buffalo’s interim principal, wrote: «Our counseling department recalled … frustratingly poor communication from [CETUSA] coordinators, especially when there were concerns that we deemed serious,» including «inappropriate home placements [that] were not resolved; last-minute demands on placements after the school year started; [and] pushing placements with little information available on the arriving student.»
Other schools that reported concerns were in Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted, Cokato, Monticello and Aitkin. Blaine reported a positive experience.
«I’m convinced they have problems,» Gelbmann said of CETUSA. «A number of school districts are no longer dealing with them. That obviously says something.»
CETUSA defends itself
CETUSA officials say problems occasionally arise with student placements, but that its system is not flawed.
«With the economic crisis, a lot of families experience some very difficult times … and we have cancellations as a result,» said CETUSA CEO Rick Anaya. During orientation, exchange students are advised against lending money to host parents, he said.
«CETUSA enjoys one of the best reputations in the industry,» Anaya said. The U.S. State Department lists it as the 14th largest of 92 designated secondary student exchange sponsors operating in the United States.
Officials at the Norwood school Espen attended said they had had a positive relationship with CETUSA up until this year, taking about a dozen students a year. But they remain concerned about how Espen’s case was handled.
«CETUSA has never come forward with any hard facts as to why Espen was sent home,» said Ron Brand, principal of Norwood’s Central High. «I supported him staying. I found him to be a very good representative of his country. He was a gentleman and a good student.» Brand said the school is still reviewing whether to work with CETUSA in the future.
CETUSA would not provide the Star Tribune with an explanation for its decision to send Espen home. But the U.S. State Department, which conducted its own investigation, said «it was determined that the student was terminated for breaking sponsor program rules,» a spokeswoman said.
Espen and his mother said he had been threatened in October with expulsion from the program when he was caught drinking. But he was given another chance and did not drink again, he said.
CETUSA’s Anaya said, «We gave him a chance and there was a second violation,» but he would not say what it was.
Gelbmann said he wants the state to be able to act in such a case to make sure rules governing exchange programs are followed.
«Our objective is to approach CETUSA and say, ‘We now have the authority to terminate your registration. However, we’d like to work with you to make sure this doesn’t happen in the future.’ »
But nothing is likely to happen in time to keep Espen from repeating his senior year.
He tried to return to finish his school year in Norwood after making private arrangements to stay with another family. But he was turned away by customs agents at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on April 13 because he lacked the proper visa — CETUSA had canceled his original visa and a new visa he had obtained was not the one he needed. After back-to-back 16-hour flights, he arrived back in Norway. «I was so tired,» he said, and «I felt like a criminal.»
«I’d hoped to experience something new,» he said. «I thought living in America would be fun and positive. I made a lot of friends. But it didn’t end up how I’d planned.»
Ser EF får mye pepper her, men må bare si at jeg reiste med SPEAK en datterorganisasjon av ASF og de var ikke mye bedre! Det startet med at hun som jeg skulle bo hos aldrig dukket opp på flyplassen. Så da bodde jeg hos forskjellige vertsfamilier og koordinatorer. Ett sted måtte jeg til og med sove på gulvet. Til slutt måtte jeg bo med en annen utvekslingsstudent hos et eldre ektepar. Dette ekteparet var mildt sagt IKKE egnet for å ta imot utvekslingsstudenter. Vertsfaren min manipulerte og løy, han var alkoholmissbruker og tok livet sitt.
Den andre utvekslingsstudenten i familien ble flyttet fordi de fryktet for sikkerheten hans, mens de lot meg være igjen der alene. Hadde jeg ikke hatt så mange gode venner hvet jeg ikke hva jeg skulle gjort.
Og organisasjonen visste aldrig hvor jeg var, heller ikke da vertsmoren min kastet meg ut på dagen… De nektet meg også å dra til min egen familie i USA da jeg var hjemløs i jula. Bodde hos litt forskjellige venner til jeg fant en fantastisk familie som jeg bodd e hos resten av tiden.<
Men ASF i San Fransisco ringte faktisk å kjeftet på meg fordi jeg hadde uroliget mammaen min med å fortelle sannheten. Ja, hva skulle det være godt for.Jeg trodde nesten ikke det jeg hørte, og fortalte de det at noen måtte jo få vite hvor jeg var, og det ville jo mamma gjerne vite.Møtte eller snakket aldrig med min koordinator, møtte mange andre koordinatorer men hørte aldri fra min egen. SPEAK var jo absolutt mest redd for sitt rykte og da de fant ut at min pappa jobbet i dagbladet var de raskt ute med å betale tilbak pengene.Jeg fullførte året mitt, og de siste månedene var helt fantastiske! Men det må skje noe med systemet for at det skal bli trygt å dra alene som 17 åring på utveksling!
Reiste med YFU til USA i 07/08, og det er som skrevet i artikkelen: utveksling er som lotto.
Første halvår bodde jeg hos en ‘forferdelig familie’, der jeg bodde med 5 personer mer enn hva jeg hadde blitt fortalt. en av disse personene var ettersøkt av politiet, og en av de første tingene jeg ble fortalt var at om politiet kom på døra så måtte jeg banke foten i dørkarmen tre ganger og prøve å oppholde politiet legne nok til at han fikk rømt gjennom døren i kjelleren til nabohuset.
En annen gang var det da jeg var så snill å ta en pose ‘medisin’ over til en mann andre siden av småbyen, da hun var for syk til å levere ‘medisinen’ selv… Og så var det det å gå i klasse med kjæresten til mannen som hadde drept sønnen til fosterfamilien bare noen måneder i forveien!
Stakkars familien hadde mye å bearbeide, sønn i Irak, en sønn død og den siste etterlyst av politiet. Begge døtrene hadde blitt voldtatt på soverommet jeg sov på.
Områderepresentanten bodde nesten 4 timer unna, og det var uaktuelt for henne å komme til småbyen min for å hjelpe meg, heldigvis hadde jeg noen fantastiske lærere på skolen min som fant ny familie til meg da de fant ut noen av tingene som skjedde hos den første familien.
Utveksling KAN være et helt fantastisk år, men det er lotto. Uansett kommer du til å vokse mye på det.
Jeg var på utveksling med EF i California høsten 2007 og hadde også problemer med den første vertsfamilien min. Familien var veldig spesiell, men jeg hadde vondt av den hjemmeværende vertsmoren min som åpenbart ville ha meg der for å være hennes venn, så jeg ble der i 7 måneder. Etter å ha levd i en svært dysfunksjonell familie over en så lang periode, fant jeg til slutt ut at nok var nok. Jeg prøvde å nå ut til mine koordinatorer, men de kalte meg bortskjemt og ba meg slutte å klage. Jeg prøvde å fortsette å bo med vertsfamilien min litt til.Vertsbroren min røykte hasj og spilte World of Warcraft 14 timer om dagen. Da jeg klagde til koordinatorene mine om narkotikamisbruket til min vertsbror ble saken min prioritert og jeg fikk beskjed om at de skulle finne en ny vertsfamilie for meg. Det skjedde aldri.Det var først da jeg tok initiativ og ringte til min High School og forklarte situasjonen min at jeg fant en ny vertsfamilie. De var helt fantastiske og jeg hadde et strålende tid resten av mitt opphold. Det virker som om det er en gjennomgående trend at EF gjør mye for å få deg inn i landet, men når du først har ankommet må du klare deg for deg selv. Min historie er ikke på langt nær så ille som de i artikkelen, men det var likevel en stor påkjenning å være 17 år og måtte klare seg helt selv i et fremmed land omgitt av fremmede.
Til tross for dette vil jeg anbefale alle til å «take a chance». Jeg vokste veldig på mitt opphold i USA og ble kjent med mange flotte mennesker. Jeg er blitt kjent med folk fra hele verden og bruker stadig det kontaktnettverket når jeg er ute og reiser. Generelt er jeg veldig positiv til utveksling på videregående, men stiller meg heller kritisk til EFs behandling av sine utvekslingsstudenter.