Stikkordarkiv: #StudentExchange

My Education / Rejsespecialisten / NKF Holding

NKF Holding ApS (2010)

100% owner of the below firms:


History:

Rejsespecialisten ApS was established in 1996 and has had several names. Rejsespecialisten is registered as a travel agency and is used by MyEducation and EuroStudy International firms as their travel agency. Rejsespecialisten ApS is a subsidiary of NKF Holding ApS.

  • CVRP-nr: 1003660864 and CVR-nr: 19043231

MyEducation DK is owned by Rejsespecialisten. MyEducation DK is not registered as a separate entity in the Danish registries.

NKF Holding ApS was established in 2010 by Niels Køhler Frandsen as a holding company for his travel-related companies. NKF Holding is located in København, Denmark.

  • CVR-nr: 33035195

MyEducation – Norge AS was established in Norway in 2012 by NKF Holding ApS. Its temporary name was Inceptum 634 AS. NKF has registered as «other education not mentioned elsewhere«.

  • Org.no: 998 516 234

My Education (UK) Ltd was established in Hampshire, England by in 2013. Niels Køhler Frandsen owns, directly or indirectly, at least 75% of the shares.

  • Company number: 08603393

In 2015 EuroStudy International Aps, another Danish student exchange firm, was purchased by Rejsespecialisten. According to proff.dk, EuroStudy was established in 1995 by Karin Busk Demuth. EuroStudy is now wholly owned by Rejsespecialisten.


Reviews:

Trustpilot: MyEducation dk / EuroStudy Aps

What is a host family?

Before you leave home as an exchange student you may already have been in contact with your assigned host-family. Even if you have not, the exchange organization is supposed to have forwarded details on where the family lives, how many family members there are, their ages, contact information and host parent occupations. Included with that information are probably pictures of the family and their home. I do not know if all exchange organizations follow this guideline.

You might get told that you are going to a temporary family (see below). Other times the exchange student is told that a representative will function as host family until a permanent family is found (see below).

Opprinnelse ukjent
Source unknown

 

What is a host family?

A host family is a family that has promised to allow you to live with them for the duration of your exchange student stay. There isn’t really a template for what a host family should look like:

  • Mom, dad (with or without children)
  • Mom (with or without children)
  • Dad (with or without children)
  • Dad, dad (with or without children)
  • Mom, mom (with or without children)
  • Old, youngish, young

The host-parents should be at least 25 years old. Any younger than that and they might well end up being a friend and not a boundary maker. I do not think there is an upper age limit. However:

  • The host family should be without mental or physical issues that would keep them from being able to fulfil their role as care-taker.
  • The host family should be in a financial situation that enables them to take in another family member.
  • The host family should be able to accept that the exchange student might have different theological, political and cultural views than themselves (goes both ways).

Temporary host family

A temporary host family is one that is supposed to last very few weeks until the exchange organization has found a permanent host family. If the exchange student is lucky, the temporary family willingly becomes a permanent host family (24%). But in most cases this is not so. If a temporary host family is pressured into becoming a permanent one, it is fairly easy to see how problems might arise. (USIA study)

Finding a host family that is willing to take a student in for ten months is not a simple task. Rotary has solved this by having the exchange student stay with several host families (approx. 3).

Representative as host family

At times the only option available to a new exchange student is being placed with their representative until a family is found. Sometimes the representative becomes the permanent host family. (CSFES finds this highly questionable) Some exchange organizations will then assign you a separate representative to avoid conflict of interest. Sadly, if a conflict occurs, the host country organization will usually side with the representative.

Host family as guardian

Your host family is your guardian. They are supposed to keep you safe during your stay, make sure you do your homework, give you chores (just like other family members), feed you, set boundaries and make you part of their family unit.

Does the host family get paid?

Sometimes yes. Sometimes no.

Some exchange organizations are volunteer organizations. In such firms the host family does not get paid no matter where you live. Other exchange organizations pay or do not pay their host family depending on what type of exchange program you choose.

Different countries have different rules. In the US there are both variations based on the type of visa the exchange student has (J-1 vs F-1). In Norway there isn’t a regulation about this, but many of the exchange organizations do not pay their host families.

Host family requirements

Most (probably all) exchange organizations have a set of rules they are supposed to follow regarding how they pick who gets to be a host family. The requirements I have seen, set by the firms whose brochures I have looked at, state that they do background checks of the host family. These include:

  • References from extended family.
  • References from acquaintances.
  • Home visitations.
  • Candidate interview.
  • Financial status check.

What is an exchange organization?

Once you have decided to go for the exchange student life, you need to decide if you should travel with an exchange organization. Some countries, like Japan, give you no choice. No exchange organization = no visa. I don’t know what guidelines most other countries have about this.

What is an exchange organization

Basically, an exchange organization is a travel agency. They organize your plane tickets, the place you stay and the activities you will participate in (i.e. school). The receiving exchange organization is supposed to function as a guardian. Ideally you will be placed in a safe area with a safe host family that, at least, pass the same requirements a foster home would. Schooling should be at an approved (by authorities) institution.

Types of exchange organizations?

There are three kinds of exchange organizations. Volunteer organizations like Rotary, AFS and YFU base their work on volunteers. Usually, there is a small regional office with permanent staff who earn average salaries.

Non-profit organizations can be a misleading term. Usually the term has to do with saving taxes. If the exchange organization has holding companies in links above it, you aren’t really looking at a non-profit organization but rather a company that utilizes what tax loop-holes there are. Exchange organizations like EF Education, Aspect Foundation, Explorius/Educatius/CETUSA, Forte International Exchange Association/Astar Education, Heltberg International Education, and Speak/Aspect High School all have holding companies controlling them.

Some of the exchange organization have their own travel agencies and insurance agencies.  Erika Travel Insurance belongs to EF Education. Rejsespecialisten is a sister-company to My Education.

For-profit exchange organizations are open about being in the business of making money. I do not know if their representatives get paid more than the non-profit ones (price per student placed) do. In the US, for-profit firms fall into the F-1 student exchange programs category.

Communication between various parties

In a student exchange situation there are several parties involved. You have parents of the exchange student, the exchange student, exchange organization in the home country, main office in host-country, host-country local representative, host-country school, host-family.

When you sign a contract with your exchange organization at home, you usually authorize them to function as a go-between for you and the partner organization. Most contracts forbid contact between parents and partner organization. In addition, the exchange companies seldom want you to have contact with your child’s school. Nor do they encourage contact with the host-family.

Your child is supposed to communicate with their local representative who is then supposed to bring the matter up the chain until the information eventually reaches the parents. The host-family is supposed to use the same route. However, our experience has been that what the parents are told is not always what the partner organization was told by either student, school or host-parent. We encourage contact between parents and their child, parents and the host parents and in crisis between parents and the school. We also encourage you to keep all contacts documented (emails, sms, recordings of phone calls etc.). Just in case.

Home country exchange organization

Most exchange organizations use the following procedure:

  • After the potential exchange student fills out application 1, the exchange organization makes its choice. Rotary require better grades than the rest.
  • Organization, student and her/his family meet.
  • Application part 2 is filled in by parents and student and signed by them.
  • All necessary documentation is collected by the company and forwarded to their partner organization in the host country.
  • Have information meeting.
  • Be a point of contact between biological parents and partner.

The Partner organization in the host country is supposed to

  • Train leaders and representatives.
  • Match representative and exchange student.
  • Match exchange student and host family.
  • Make sure ALL necessary documentation regarding host-family, representative and school has been forwarded to the proper authorities.
  • Make travel arrangements to and from host country.
  • Some hold orientations camps.
  • Be responsible for all host-country trips.
  • «Be there» for the student 24/7.
  • Support school leadership.
  • Ensure the student is safe during emergencies.
  • Return students who break the laws of the host country.

Weird things Norwegians do

A look at some of the things you as an incoming exchange student might experience in your host-family and with friends.

The text can be found in Norwegian in VG article «Nordmenns mange rariteter«

A Frog in the Fjord

Telyshysteri fin (2) Illustration: Kristine Lauvrak

Disclaimer: “Weird” does not mean “negative”, some of these strange things are very positive and should be exported to the rest of the world 🙂

1. You are telling a great story to your Norwegian friend/colleague. He or she will start making strange sounds: aspirations with the mouth as if they have the beginning of asthma. No panick, this just illustrate how interested they are in your story, and it means “yes, I agree, carry on with your story”. Nothing to be disturbed about.

2. As soon as Autumn comes, Norwegians enter some kind of telys hysteria, lighting them everywhere at any occasion. It is what I call the “endless need for koselig”, which I define as an inner summer that Norwegians create for themselves to feel like it’s warm all year long no matter the circumstances. (see How to make things Koselig)

3. Most Norwegians won’t…

Vis opprinnelig innlegg 981 ord igjen

US Regulations

§ Sec. 62. 25 Secondary school students.
(f) Student enrollment.
(2) Under no circumstance may a sponsor facilitate the entry into the United States of an exchange student for whom a written school placement has not been secured.

USA: Uten utvekslingsorganisasjon

State Department regler for vertsfamilierDet går fint an å reise til USA uten å måtte bruke utvekslingsorganisasjonene som mellomledd, men det krever noe mer egeninnsats. I tillegg kan det bli vanskelig å få støtte fra Lånekassen.

For å komme seg avgårde må man (fra ambassadens egen side):

«The U.S. Embassy regularly receives inquiries from Norwegian families asking how their child may attend secondary (high) school in the United States without working through a formal exchange organization. In these cases, the family usually wants their child to stay with family or friends. These students have to make their own arrangements, consistent with U.S. law, and travel to the U.S. on F-1 (student) visas.

How to find a high school in the United States:
Any student wishing to study in the United States must be enrolled in a school which is authorized to accept international students. These schools, whether public or private, are approved through the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Once approved, the schools are allowed to issue Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) numbers to prospective students and are able to issue an “I-20” form, which is required when applying for a student visa. You can find a list of approved schools through the following link to the DHS website. (Se f.eks. denne skolen som selv etterlyser vertsfamilier til utvekslingselevene sine.)

How to finance a high school year in the United States:
Please keep in mind that studying in the United States is not free of charge for international students, whether you are enrolled in a public or private high school. Applicants will be expected to demonstrate that they have sufficient funds to cover all expenses while in the United States, including tuition. Applicants attending a public high school must repay the school system for the full, unsubsidized, per capita cost of providing the education. Additionally, those attending a public high school may only do so for up to 12 months.

The Norwegian State Educational Loan Fund (Lånekassen) only gives financial support if a Norwegian student goes on a high school exchange during the second year (Vg2) of Norwegian high school AND travels through one of Lånekassen’s 11 approved organizations.

How to get the year abroad approved by your Norwegian high school:
You should contact your Norwegian high school counselor for more information on getting your school year in the United States preapproved for academic credit.

The Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training (Utdanningsdirektoratet) has more information about high school exchange under point 3.2.2.9 “Godkjenning av opplæring i utlandet tilsvarende Vg1 og/eller Vg2 I Norge” (page 19).

How to apply for a student visa to the United States:

  • Once accepted, your school will send you an I-20 form. This original, signed I-20 form is required for your visa interview and when you enter the United States on a student visa. The I-20 form will have a SEVIS number in the top-right corner of the form which is your individual number in the student database.
  • Review the I-20 form and make sure your name has been spelled correctly. The Norwegian special characters are translated as follows: Æ=AE, Ø=OE and Å=AA. A spelling error in your form might delay your application by up to two weeks. Please contact your school immediately to have them update the SEVIS database if you find an error.
  • Pay the SEVIS fee online here.
  • Fill out the DS-160 application form found here. After you have completed the application, please be certain to electronically submit it to the Embassy in Oslo. Then print out the confirmation page with your picture and barcode on it.
  • Book your interview appointment with the Embassy. You will need the barcode from your DS-160 confirmation page to do it.
  • Remember to bring all required items as failure to do so may result in having to book a new appointment.
  • Please see our website for a current checklist of required documents and what to expect at the interview.

The F-1 academic student program is a non-immigrant visa category intended for use by nonresident aliens whose primary purpose for visiting the United States is to study full-time at an approved institution. Key features of the F-1 visa exchange are as follows: » The visa is regulated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). » The school is the responsible party in the United States, accountable to DHS. » The visa cannot be used for elementary (K-8) or adult training exchanges (see the discussion of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, below). » The student must pay tuition to the public host school.

Upon receiving approval from DHS, a school is authorized to issue certificates of eligibility to students for use in securing a visa and admission to the United States. Form I-20A-B is the certificate of eligibility for F-1 students. The Designated School Official, who is obliged to ensure that the school complies with DHS regulations, may issue it. Schools that are authorized to issue I-20 forms are required to register on the SEVIS system.

Congress enacted limitations on certain foreign students planning to study in U.S. public elementary and secondary schools. The «Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996,» which took effect on November 30, 1996, places the following restrictions on students seeking F-1 visas who wish to study at public secondary schools. The student (or his or her sponsor) is required to reimburse the public secondary school for the full, unsubsidized per capita cost of education for the intended period of study. Proof that such tuition has been paid must be evidenced on the I-20A-B application form for the visa. Waivers are not allowed. This law also limits school attendance to a maximum of twelve months for secondary students under F-1 visas. Overseas advisors should know that this law additionally prohibits attendance in public elementary schools, K-8, or publicly funded adult education programs by any individuals coming under F-1 status. These restrictions do not apply to students who come to the United States under a J-1 visa, nor do they apply to private schools. Violating the law or failure to reimburse the school district can lead to a student being barred from the United States for five years.

F-1 non-immigrant students must maintain a full course load while in the United States. They must follow a specific transfer procedure if they change schools. They are eligible for certain types of employment, provided the Designated School Official or DHS grants permission before the employment begins. The F-1 foreign student’s obligations under U.S. immigration regulations are to: » provide evidence that the unsubsidized cost of tuition for any academic study in the United States is paid in order to obtain their visa, » have sufficient financial resources for the anticipated stay in the United States, » have a residence abroad to return to upon completion of the program in the United States, and » always maintain lawful immigration status while in the United States by keeping a valid passport, not working without authorization, and leaving the United States upon expiration of the visit or securing an extension of permission to stay if needed.»

«Thinking of hosting a Foreign Exchange Student?»

Exchange student to Germany
Arrival of the first Indian student to Dresden. He was to study electrical engineering in Dresden Technical University | 19 February 1951
Allgemeiner Deutscher Nachrichtendienst – Zentralbild (Bild 183)

I happened upon an excellent article on hosting exchange students on the blog of Life Lessons of a Military Wife. In it she discusses the various issues one should consider if you are wondering if you want to host a teen-ager in your home. (Re-printed with her permission: Copyright © Life Lessons of a Military Wife):

Pick a student with similar interests to your own. Don’t pick a student who is heavy into outdoor sports, thinking your bookworm family will changes its ways…you won’t and both of you will be unhappy in the end. Read the student letters and bios VERY carefully and look for clues of immaturity, dominance, chauvenism and possible (more noticeable and problematic) character flaws too. If there is something you absolutely don’t want to deal with, then pick another student.

Realize that a boy student is easier than a girl student, so if this is your first experience, I would certainly pick a boy. We all know teenagers, right? I am a girl myself, so I make no excuses in saying that a teenage girl is much more difficult to deal with than a boy…I’ve seen it myself and been told it over and over again by other parents.

You don’t necessarily have to have teenage children already in your household to host. We have two young boys and thought it would be nice for them to have a big brother. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out quite the way we would’ve liked. We have a very gregarious young man who loves to play soccer and be with his friends, so he rarely interacts with our boys. Be prepared for something like this happening and make up your mind ahead of time if this will disappoint you or not before you choose someone to share your life. Our program had another family with three young adopted children from China. They hosted a young man from China, hoping he could share his culture and his general being with those kids. Well, those kids were so unruly, and this boy was a professional piano player who tended to like things calm and orderly. It was not a good mix.

When they first arrive, don’t have a huge party. Your student will be exhausted. Some take many travel days to get here, depending on where they are coming from. Plus, they have to deal with time changes, cultural changes and just the change of being in a new place with absolute strangers and no familiar family in sight! Integrate them slowly. When you first meet them, ask them if they are hungry, take care of those needs, then go home and let them sleep. Let them take a few days to get adjusted. There will be time for a party next weekend (or whenever), as well as showing them around. Don’t give them too much to process the first few days.

Have basic toiletries on hand. Many don’t travel with much stuff and may be too embarrassed initially to say they need something. We always have a basket of toiletries and toothbrushes in our guest bathroom for all guests. Let them know they can help themselves. No need for them to ask!

Do show them where you keep basic stuff. Go ahead and give them a quick tour around the house after they arrive, just to show them the basics. Show them where the snacks are and where to put their dirty laundry. Tell them when mealtimes are. Later, let them empty the dishwasher and the trashcan…what better way to learn where everything goes? Make sure you tell them they are not a guest but part of the family, and then treat them accordingly.

Realize you may get some cultural resistance. Many of these kids come from cultures where moms do all the housework or dads say what goes. Let them know how you do things here. Remind them they are here on an exchange, and that to be a part of your family, they will do things the way you do things. Don’t listen to the excuse that I can’t make my bed because that is lady’s work…uhh uhhh…not here it ain’t!

Your water, electric and whatever bill will be higher. Most teenagers LOVE to shower. Our boy takes two or three long showers a day. Water in Florida is expensive. Just be sure to budget for these extra expenses or be prepared to teach them about conservation.

Your food bill will be higher. Teenagers eat….a lot. I also had to shop more often and buy snacks and things like that…teenagers like to eat pizzas and snack stuff rather than regular meals, although we do try to sit down as a family at least a few days a week and required this of our student too.

Figure out ahead of time how you will deal with situations and money. We decided beforehand, that whatever we spent money on with our kids, we spent it on our student too. If we went out to eat, to an amusement park, shopped for Christmas gifts, our student was treated as one of our children. For extra expenses, such as when he goes out with his friends on his own (which is almost all the time…kids love to go out to eat and spend money) and clothing and other knick knacks he may want to buy, those were on his own dime, and he understood that ahead of time.

Have a rules talk. Within days of our student arriving, we sat down with him, in fact, we wrote it all down in very plain English, what was expected of him. He ended up posting it on his bulletin board in his room. It listed his curfews (schoolnights and weekends), no drinking, driving, drugs and that kind of thing and what his chores and responsibilities would be. Our student cleans his bathroom every other week (he rotates that with our kids) and gets $20 for mowing our huge lawn. Otherwise, we ask him to keep his room clean and pick up around the house when he sees something out of place. Of course, we constantly have to remind him of many of these things, which I believe are just part of normal teenage behavior.

Have them realize there will be consequences when (not if) they screw up. You are standing in for the student’s parents. Our student’s mom actually told him if he screws up, he will be on the first plane back home. They have to learn responsibility. If they come in late from curfew, then take something away from them, whether it’s internet, TV or going out (a big one for them). Most teenagers LOVE to sleep in and hey, if they miss their ride to school, let them sweat it out and figure it out themselves. Our student had to go flying through our subdivision on my son’s little scooter one morning, trying to catch his last chance for a ride. He made it, but next time, he got up when his alarm rang. These kids have to learn to be adults, and if you baby them, make their school lunch, make their bed for them or wake them up in the morning, they will never learn (remember this with your own kids too). We also had the “sex talk”…I wanted him to make sure I knew what the deal was and if there was any hanky panky that gets him or a girl in trouble, he was going to be on the first plane home, no questions asked.

Try to have some kind of contact with their parents. My student’s parents were worried about having their son in someone else’s care. I regularly send photos and email, plus I know I will get his mom’s support when things go wrong. She has stood behind me 100% so far, and we wouldn’t have had this rapport without this back and forth contact. Can’t speak their language? Then use the Altavista’s Babelfish Translator to try to get your point across. Email makes that easy. Even if the parents don’t have email at home, in many countries, they can figure a way to access email elsewhere.

You may end up being a bus driver. We were lucky in that our student made tons of friends and always had a ride somewhere. We do know other students who didn’t have friends who drove and the host parents had to drive them everywhere..not so difficult if your student ends up being a homebody or has only a few friends, but if they join a sport, such as ours did, with multiple practices a week, it might’ve been close to impossible for me, taking into consideration my husband’s deployments and our own kids’ schedules.

Schedule some family activities. I made sure to schedule some events for our family, including our student. Give them a head’s up well ahead of time to make sure they understand they will be attending the event. Many students think it is almost all fun and games when they come here. Ours doesn’t want to do anything without his friends, so we sometimes have to rein him in and remind him that he is here on an exchange and not on a party bus. Let them know their world revolves around your family and not them.

Have a set-up for your student’s privacy. Kids at this age should have some sort of privacy. Don’t dig through their stuff and if you can, give them a room they can call their own. This is important. Our student knows that his room is his and his alone and that I don’t even go in there other than to peek in to make sure it is somewhat in order and all the four walls are still standing.

Decide what you want to do about the cellphone situation. It seems like every teenager has a cellphone these days. Our student says kids text message all day long, even when they are standing right next to each other. We couldn’t add our student to our cellphone plan, because we didn’t want to incur any more time in our contract due to our upcoming move. Plus, we would’ve had to uptick our minutes and add text messaging, which we don’t have. So, our student had his mom send his phone from home, and we set it up as a prepaid phone. He ended up going through his minutes like water, especially with all the incoming text messages he had to pay for too, so he eventually started leaving it at home when he went to school…a good and smart decision if you ask me in the first place. He has learned to be thrifty and to delay gratification with the thing.

No TV or computer/internet in the teen’s room. When we went over the rules, we set down the internet rules as well. If you don’t want to trust them and are a little paranoid, you can always get one of those software monitoring programs on your computer and set them up with their own user id (not as administrator). Keep the computer and TV in the common areas of your house (this is a must for your kids too). You want them to know you are monitoring what they are doing, and that you are keeping track of the time they spend online. I think ours learned the wonders of My Space over here, although I think he was already a messaging wizard before he came here. I have heard it can be a real problem keeping them off the internet for hours, as many want that contact with home (and their friends), and this behavior is discouraged in order for this exchange to work as it should.

Insist that they call their parents and family at least every other week. This frequency seems to work out best. Once a week is too often and longer than two weeks wrecks havoc on the poor parents. We have lowcost long distance/international phone service and our host family was also able to find a deal at two cents a minute. You can’t beat that! Here’s a reliable service, Pingo that works great.  You can even share it with others!

Query them about their likes and dislikes, and try to make them feel at home. Most will get homesick at some point. Ours had no problem at the beginning, it is at the end of his stay that he is starting to feel down and apprehensive about going back. Give them a chance to tell you their wants and needs. Buy snacks and toiletries and things for around the house they might need. We made up a basket of goodies and gadgets, such as a pocketknife, pen flashlight, dictionary, Post It Notes, a popular novel and office and desk items our student might have needed for school. We included a nice note and put this on his desk in his room before his arrival. The kids also made a welcome home sign for his bedroom door. Before I go to the grocery store or wherever, I do let him know I am going beforehand and leave my shopping list where he can add things to it.

Encourage your student to answer the home phone. Ours used to run the other way when it rang. I finally had to tell him to answer it. Now that he has his confidence up, he has no problem answering it. Try to get them in situations where they can get their confidence going in the right direction. You can start with a non-threatening thing such as the phone..it’s not face-to-face contact, and if they totally screw up, they can still run and find you and give you the phone. The more they do something, the better they’ll get at it and the more they’ll get out of the exchange experience.

Do take the tax deduction when you do your taxes. Right now, you can take a $50 tax deduction per month for hosting a student. In actuality, you spend much more, but that’s what the law says right now. (My note: This is the rule in the US – I do not know if there are similar rules in other countries)

Along those same lines, don’t host a student if you are short on money. Hosting a student costs at least a few hundred extra dollars per month. If you can’t spare that, then don’t host. Don’t put a student in a situation where you are always pinching pennies. You will also tend to resent that unknowing student, and that’s just not fair to them. Most of these exchange programs cost many THOUSANDS of dollars for the student and his family. Many scrimp and save for years or have to ask a rich uncle to help them out. This is a big thing for them. Don’t blow it for them, and be prepared to be somewhat generous. I think many host parents don’t realize the costs involved going into this (both in time and money), so I just wanted to get that out there so you can mull it over!

US Department of State: Kontaktinformasjon

Dette er numre dere allerede skal ha fått av utvekslingsorganisasjonen (lovbestemt i USA).

Private Sector Programs Division (Har med spørsmål om utvekslingsbedriftene)

Mailing Address:

  • U.S. Department of State Office of Exchange Coordination and Compliance
  • ECA/EC/ECC – SA-5,
  • Floor C2
  • 2200 C Street, NW Washington, DC 20522-0505

Street Address (couriers):

  • U.S. Department of State Office of Exchange Coordination and Compliance
  • ECA/EC/ECC – SA-5,
  • Floor C2 2200 C Street, NW Washington, DC 20037

FAX number: (202) 632-2900 Email: jvisas@state.gov

Secondary School Student and Summer Work Travel Helpline

1-866-283-9090 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week)

The Department of State activated the helpline to ensure the health and safety of its exchange participants. Students have a right to be treated fairly and to report abuse without retaliation or threat of program cancellation.

Report Abuse or Exploitation

If you are mistreated or your rights are violated, call these toll-free numbers:

  • Secondary School Student and Summer Work Travel Helpline: 1-866-283-9090

If you are in immediate physical danger, call 911.

Know your rights: Report Abuse or Exploitation (PDF)

2016 April: Ten poorest states in the US

usamapnew

The 2016 Poverty Guidelines for US states shows what the poverty threshold is for various household sizes. For a household with four members the threshold is set at US$ 24,300. For those of you traveling with an exchange organization to the US, this is the starting sum for when a household qualifies for government assistance. US regulations state that exchange students should not be placed in households in need of welfare. There are many reasons for this regulation.

«Poor neighborhoods come with an array of challenges that negatively affect both the people who live in those neighborhoods—whether they themselves are poor or not—as well as the larger regions in which those neighborhoods are located.1 Residents of poor neighborhoods face higher crime rates and exhibit poorer physical and mental health outcomes. They tend to go to poor-performing neighborhood schools with higher dropout rates. Their job-seeking networks tend to be weaker and they face higher levels of financial insecurity.» (E. Kneebone)

This post looks at corruption, weapons carry laws, dangerous neighborhoods and worst/best schools.

According to the 24/7 Wall Street, the ten poorest States are, starting with the poorest: Mississippi, West Virginia, Arkansas,  Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, Louisiana, New Mexico, South Carolina and Montana

The ten most corrupt states are, starting with the worst: Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Alabama, Alaska, South Dakota, Kentucky, and Florida. (Washington Post)

MISSISSIPPI (MS)

mississippi-county-map18 million people depend on the Mississippi River for their drinking water. At this time (2016) we do not advise exchange students to rely on tap water from MR. (Mississippi)

For each $1.00 Mississippi sends to the federal government in taxes, it receives $2.00 in federal subsidies. The median household income is $39,680

According to 24/7 Wall Street:

“Mississippi is among the states with the worst education systems, highest  obesity levels, highest unemployment, and lowest rates of health insurance  coverage. The state is an economic black hole, and it shows in the way people  suffer there. And, as is true with black holes, it is nearly impossible for the  residents of Mississippi to escape their difficult financial situations.”

Mississippi is not only the poorest state in the US, it is also the most corrupt state in the US.

«the high level of corruption in the state resulted in high state spending on projects where it was conducive to make bribes — “bribe-generating” projects — such as capital improvements and highway construction, while leaving a paucity of cash for socially beneficial projects, such as schools and health facilities. It also noted massive cost overruns on “bribe-generating” projects, thanks to those bribes, as well as blatant payoffs to government officials, who are getting wealthy at the expense of the poor.» (The New American)

It is now possible to cross school district lines to a charter school if you live in a district with poor grades according to 2016 SB 2161.

Mississippi is an open carry State. With regards to concealed weapons:

«licensed gun owners who have “additional” training to carry concealed firearms in certain locations previously prohibited by law.  These locations include courthouses, polling places, government meetings, any school, college or professional athletic event, bars and restaurants that serve alcohol, any elementary or secondary school facility, any junior college, community college, college or university facility, inside the passenger terminal of any airport, and in any church or other place of worship.» (Jackson|Lewis)

HB1523 (2016) permits severe discrimination against LGBTQ+ and women.

Poverty and crime

According to Wikipedia, Mississippi’s poorest counties are:

  • Holmes County
  • Humphreys County
  • Claiborne County
  • Quitman County
  • Jefferson County
  • Leflore County
  • Wilkinson County
  • Sharkey County
  • Jefferson Davis County
  • Tallahatchie County

Out of the 100 most dangerous cities, Jackson has become safer and is now at 76th place. Its safest neighborhood is S Siwell Rd / Henderson Rd. Neighborhood Scout has more details.

Schools

Schooldigger claims that the five worst high schools in Mississippi are:

  1. Hazlehurst High School, Hazlehurst
  2. West Bolivar Dist High School, Rosedale
  3. Newton High School, Newton
  4. Wingfield High School, Jackson
  5. West Lowndes High School, Columbus

According to Niche, the best public high schools are:

  1. Pass Christian High School, Pass Christian
  2. Oak Grove High School, Hattiesburg
  3. Clinton High School, Clinton
  4. Petal High School, Petal
  5. DeSoto Central High School, Southhaven

WEST VIRGINIA (WV)

West Virginia County Map; GeologyThe minimum wage was just (2016) raised from $8 to $8.75.

There has been a drinking water crisis in WV since 2014 due to chemical spills. New spills keep the crisis going. Poverty forces people to drink the tap-water. Please check the water quality of the area of your host-family before you accept your placement.

West Virginia is ranked as the 17th most corrupt state. Every arena from lotteries to the justice system are affected. (Public Integrity)

Open carrying of handguns and long guns is legal in West Virginia (LCTPGV) although concealed carrying without permit may be legal soon.

Poverty and crime

The poorest counties in West Virginia are:

  • Doddridge County
  • McDowell County
  • Webster County
  • Mingo County

West Virginia also has a city among the 100 most dangerous cities. In 33rd place is Charleston. According to Neighborhood Scout, Tyler Mountain is Charleston’s safest neighborhood.

Schools

West Virginia’s worst schools are:

  1. Hannan High School, Ashton
  2. River View High School, Bradshaw
  3. Wayne High School, Wayne
  4. Philip Barbour High School, Philippi
  5. Logan Senior High School, Logan

According to Niche WV’s best schools are:

  1. University High School, Morgantown
  2. Bridgeport High School, Bridgeport
  3. Morgantown High School, Morgantown
  4. Fairmont Senior High School, Fairmont
  5. George Washington High School, Charleston

ARKANSAS (AR)

arkansas-county-mapState unemployment is now down to 4% (Arkansas News). Arkansas has, however, popped up one place on this list.
Arkansas is an open carry gun state. Concealed weapons require a permit. However, there are many places a person may not at all carry a weapon. (CDL)

Poverty and crime

According to Wikipedia the poorest counties in Arkansas are:

  • Lee County
  • Phillips County
  • Chicot County
  • Woodruff County
  • Stone County
  • St. Francis County

Pine Bluff, Little Rock and West Memphis rank among the most dangerous cities in the US. The safest neighborhood in Pine Bluff is Watson Chapel / Sorrels. In Little Rock you hope to be placed in Ferndale / Northpoint. West Memphis lists N Airport Rd / W Service Road as its safest neighborhood. (NS)

Schools

The five worst schools in Arkansas are listed as:

  1. Hope High School, Hope
  2. Mineral Springs High School, Mineral Springs
  3. Marvell High School, Marvell
  4. McClelland Magnet High School, Little Rock
  5. Strong High School, Strong

The five best high schools in Arkansas are:

  1. Haas Hall Academy, Fayetteville
  2. Bentonville High School, Bentonville
  3. Rogers High School, Rogers
  4. Lakeside High School, Hot Springs
  5. Fayetteville High School East, Fayetteville

ALABAMA (AL)

alabama-county-mapAlabama lists as one of the most corrupt state in the US. This is with regard to both illegal corruption and political corruption. (AL)

Coal mining seems to be the greatest water pollutant in Alabama. Some of that water comes from major drinking water sources. (SE) Alabama has been listed as the 5th most air-polluted state. (GG)

Adults, who have not committed violent crimes or who are not drug addicts, may openly carry weapons without a permit in Alabama. Concealed carrying requires a permit. There are places and situations where regular citizens may not carry guns at all. (CDL)

Poverty and crime

Extreme poverty is on the rise. About 27% of children in Alabama live in poverty. Much of the extreme poverty is along the black-belt of Alabama (former slave counties). The poorest counties in Alabama are:

  • Wilcox County
  • Sumter County
  • Greene County
  • Bullock County
  • Dallas County
  • Perry County
  • Macon County
  • Conecuh County

Cities listed among the 100 most dangerous in USA are Gadsen and Birmingham. The safest neighborhood in Gadsen is Tabor/Brice. In Birmingham the safest neighborhood is Cahaba Valley Rd/Double Oak Ln.

School

Schooldigger lists the following high schools as the worst in Alabama:

  1. Jackson-Olin High School, Birmingham City
  2. Marengo High School, Dixons Mills
  3. Bullock County High School, Union Springs
  4. Keith Middle-High School, Orrville
  5. Marion High School, Marion

Alabamas five best high schools are:

  1. Loveless Academic Magnet Prog High School, Montgomery
  2. Homewood High School, Homewood
  3. Mt Brook High School, Mountain Brook
  4. Spain Park High School, Hoover
  5. Bob Jones High School, Madison

KENTUCKY (KY)

kentucky-county-mapBoth coal industry and power plants are responsible for Kentucky’s listing as the first place winner of air-pollution (WFPL). Traditionally the coal industry has been one of the greatest job providers. Fracking and coal are responsible for polluted ground-water and other water sources that people depend on for drinking water and food (SF).

Kentucky is listed as the ninth most corrupt state in the US. It is currently being investigated by the FBI.

In Kentucky you must be above 21 years old to carry a gun. Certain adults are denied the right to bear arms and there are certain places and situations where all regular citizens are denied the right to bear. Kentucky is an open carry state. Concealed carry requires a permit. (CDL)

Poverty and crime

26 percent of the children in Kentucky live in poverty. Many areas do not have access to electricity or access to their city’s water/sewage system. (NCCP) According to Wikipedia the poorest counties in Kentucky are:

  • Owlsley County
  • McCreary
  • Bell County
  • Clay County
  • Lee County
  • Wolfe County
  • Knox County
  • Harlan County
  • Knott County
  • Leslie County …..

Kentucky does not have any cities on the list of the 100 most dangerous cities in the US.

School

At the bottom of the list there are many (296-244) alternative schools. These include detention schools to special education schools. I am not including them on this list because I do not think that they are representative. This explains why there is a large gap between the numbers below.

  1. Valley High School, Louisville
  2. Doss High School, Louisville
  3. Western High School, Louisville
  4. Southern High School, Louisville
  5. Newport High School, Newport

The five best high schools are:

  1. Dupont Manual High School, Louisville
  2. Highlands High School, Fort Thomas
  3. Beechwood High School, Fort Mitchell
  4. Bowling Green High School, Bowling Green
  5. Ballard High School, Louisville

TENNESSEE (TN)

tennessee-county-map by GeologyTennessee is a newcomer to this list. Unfortunately for it, Tennessee lists as the third most corrupt state in the US. «while corruption may seem like a purely political problem, it’s actually a force that can make or break an entire local economy.» (Pando)

About 30 percent of the state’s streams cannot support fish and other aquatic wildlife (UTIA). The latest incident happened April 5, 2016. (ABC) Companies have no reason to stop polluting as the state does not seem to fine law-breakers (NYT). Air pollution is mainly carbon based due to coal driven power plants. Tennessee is in the US hurricane corridor.

«In Tennessee, adults can purchase and openly carry a gun without a license. However, you must obtain a concealed handgun license to carry a concealed gun in your car or on (or near) your body.» (CDL) «State Law prescribes a maximum penalty of six (6) years imprisonment and a fine not to exceed three thousand dollars ($3000) for carrying weapons on school property. «(HHCDE)

Poverty and Crime

While the many US states are getting out of the economy hump, Tennessee is going the other direction. Poverty is increasing. About 26% of Tennessee’s children live in poverty (TFP). Lowest income counties in Tennessee are (Wikipedia):

  • Bledsoe County
  • Hancock County
  • Lake County
  • Lauderdale County
  • Union County
  • Scott County

Chattanooga, Jackson, Nashville and Memphis are listed among the 100 most dangerous cities in the US. The safest neighborhood in Chattanooga is Ryall Springs. In Jackson it is Adair/Roberts. In Nashville, the safest neighborhood is McCrory Ln/Poplar Creek Rd, and for Memphis it is Democrat Rd/American Way.

School

Tennessee is phasing out Common Core from their school system. (USAToday). Tennessee has several alternative high schools at the bottom of their list of schools. These are special education schools, charter schools and detention schools. Because of this the numbering is off.

  1. Sequoyah High School, Soddy Daisy
  2. The Howard School, Chattanooga
  3. Pearl Cohn Magnet High School, Nashville
  4. Maplewood High School,  Nashville
  5. Brainerd High School, Chattanooga

Five best high schools

  1. Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet School, Nashville
  2. Central Magnet School, Murfreesboro
  3. Ravenwood High School, Brentwood
  4. Merrol Hyde Magnet School, Hendersonville
  5. Martin Luther King Jr. Magnet High School, Nashville

LOUISIANA (LA)

louisiana-county-mapLouisiana ranks as the second most corrupt state in the US. Corrupt judges, who get paid by private prisons, may send you to prison for years for petty crime. More politicians per/capita than any other state have been convicted (ABC)

«In Louisiana, you may purchase and openly carry firearms without a permit, as long as you are over the age of 17 and not prohibited by state or federal law to possess a gun. However, you must obtain a concealed handgun permit to carry a concealed gun on (or near) your body.» (CDL)

Louisiana is a high-risk state for flooding and hurricanes. Flooding can make drinking water sources dangerous. Louisiana’s water is already polluted and there are many sources for that pollution. Chemical spills are the largest contributors. (Nola) It may be that air pollution is going to increase soon. (Nola)

Poverty and crime

According to Wikipedia the poorest counties in Louisiana are:

  • East Carroll Parish
  • Madison Parish
  • Tensas Parish
  • Washington Parish

Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Alexandria among the 100 most dangerous cities in the US. The safest neighborhood in Baton Rouge is Tiger Bend Rd/Antioch Rd. In New Orleans Bellaire Drive/Marcia Ave is the safest neighborhoods. McNutt/Gardner is the safest neighborhood in Alexandria.

Schools

I am not including alternative schools in this overview as they are based on a student population with atypical learning needs. The five worst schools in Louisiana are:

  1. Madison High School, Tallulah
  2. Belaire High School, Baton Rouge
  3. Bastrop High School, Bastrop
  4. Renew Accelerated High School West Bank Campus, New Orleans
  5. Kentwood High Magnet School, Kentwood

The five best schools are:

  1. Louisiana School for Math, Science & The Arts, Nagitatoches
  2. Benjamin Franklin High School, New Orleans
  3. Baton Rouge Magnet High School, Baton Rouge
  4. Lusher Charter School, New Orleans
  5. Patrick F. Taylor Science & Technology Academy, Jefferson

NEW MEXICO

new-mexico-county-mapNew Mexico is another state that struggles with corruption. It has had three consecutive secretaries of state who have been indicted. Its ethics laws are weak (Governing). Its low-paid, part-time legislature might be especially susceptible to bribes (ABQJournal). «legal corruption is perceived to be common not only in the executive and legislative branches but also in the judicial branch» (Harvard).

«In New Mexico, adults may purchase and openly carry firearms in public without a permit. However, you must obtain a concealed handgun permit to carry a concealed gun on (or near) your body.» (CDL)

«Local governments in New Mexico generally lack authority to regulate firearms and ammunition, and New Mexico requires local law enforcement to issue a concealed handgun license to any applicant who meets certain basic qualifications.» (LCTPGV)

New Mexico has a chronic drought problem. In spite of that, ground water is polluted by the copper industry with the silent acceptance from NM government (DJ).  Coal-fired power plants are another major source of pollution in New Mexico. In addition, the long-term effects from a spill at a uranium mill at Church Rock are felt by CR’s ecosystem (DJ).

Poverty and crime

New Mexico has the highest rate of child poverty in the US. About 30% of the children in New Mexico live in poverty  (SFNM). Unemployment is high. According to Wikipedia that poorest counties in New Mexico are:

  • McKinley County
  • Cibola County
  • Luna County
  • Mora County
  • Sierra County
  • Quay County
  • Guadalupe County

Among the 100 most dangerous cities in the US we find Albuquerque. In Albuquerque the safest neighborhood is Paseo Del Norte NE/Eubank Blvd NE. In Albuquerque there is the added disadvantage of a criminal police force (RS)

Schools

According to Schooldigger the most challenged public high schools in New Mexico are (the reason for gaps in numbering is because the missing numbers = alternative schools):

  1. Gordon Bernell Charter, Albuquerque
  2. Opportunity High School, Silver City
  3. Tohatchi High School, Tohatchi
  4. Twin Buttes High School, Zuni
  5. Coronado High School, Gallina

The five best high schools are:

  1. Moreno Valley High, Angel High
  2. Albuquerque Institute Of Math & Science, Albuquerque
  3. NM School for the Arts, Santa Fe
  4. Los Alamos High, Los Alamos
  5. La Cueva High School, Albuquerque

SOUTH CAROLINA (SC)

south-carolina-county-mapCorruption in South Carolina continues much as before (PI). A potential change to ethics laws may open the door to further public corruption and hinder prosecution (P&C).

«In South Carolina, adults can purchase a handgun without a license. However, you must obtain a concealable handgun license to carry an open or concealed gun in your car or on (or near) your body; unless you are in your own home, on your own property, or at your place of business.» (CDL)

Air pollution in South Carolina seems to be getting better (AHR). Coal burning power plants have told to clean up and air quality is also affected by wind carried pollution from other states (GO). Beach water quality is poor (7th worst) and it is not recommended that people enter it after rain-fall (The State).  Stormwater pollution from flooding are causing serious problems elsewhere (COB).

Poverty and crime

26 percent of children in South Carolina live in poverty. Its place on this list has remained the same since last redo (Sep 2014). According to Wikipedia, Allendale County Jasper County, Dillon County, Marlboro County, Lee County, Williamsburg County and Bamberg County list among the 100 lowest income counties in the US.

Among the 100 most dangerous cities in the US, we find Anderson, Spartanburg and Myrtle Beach. In Anderson, the safest neighborhood is Route 187/Route 24. Anderson Mill Rd/Old Anderson Mill Rd is considered the safest neighborhood in Spartanburg. In Myrtle Beach, Moorland Dr/Legends Rd is considered the safest neighborhood.

Schools

South Carolina also sports detention schools, charter schools and special education schools that do not represent a general student population. This shows in the numbering.

  1. Allendale Fairfax High School, Allendale
  2. Estill High School, Estill
  3. C.A. Johnson High School, Columbia
  4. Blackville Hilda High School, Blackville
  5. Eau Claire High School, Columbia

Five best

  1. Academic Magnet High School, North Charleston
  2. Palmetto Scholars Academy, North Charleston
  3. Dutch Fork High School, Dutch Fork Township
  4. Fort Mill High School, Fort Mill
  5. Charleston School of the Arts, North Charleston

MONTANA (MT)

Montana County Map by GeologyCorruption seems to be on the rise in Montana (PI). Either that or it might be that the Attorney General’s office seems to vigilantely pursue political corruption. One such case is Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl vs. Republican State Rep. Art Wittich (MFP).

«In Montana, adults may purchase and openly carry firearms without a permit. However, you must obtain a concealed handgun permit to carry a concealed gun on (or near) your body.» (CDL)

Coal feeds the power plants in Montana. That and fracking are major contributors to pollution (MEIC). Waterways have long been contaminated with mercury, lead and other dangerous chemicals (HCN). There is still a ways to go before lakes, rivers and streams are all assessed (EPA).

Poverty and crime

Twenty percent of children living in Montana live under the Federally mandated poverty index number (NCCP). None of Montana’s counties lists among the 100 lowest income counties in the US.

Montana does not have a city listed in the 100 most dangerous cities in the US.

Schools

The five schools in Montana with the lowest scores are:

  1. Browning High School, Browning
  2. Poplar High School, Poplar
  3. Moore High School, Moore
  4. Columbia Falls High School, Columbia Falls
  5. Lame Deer High School, Lame Deer

The five schools with the highest scores are:

  1. Bozeman High School, Bozeman
  2. Ennis High School, Ennis
  3. Choteau High School, Choteau
  4. Powder River County High School, Broadus
  5. Red Lodge High School, Red Lodge

Sources:

!!This document was updated 18th April 2016!!

2013: Number of high school students who come to Norway

Below find the reply from SIU to my question about number of students and what rights they have. What the answer pretty much says is that they had their first numbers in for the school-year 2012/2013. For this year the exchange organisations listed in SIU’s mail reported a total of 248 foreign exchange students coming in under their charge.

I do not know how many students have come into the country via other exchange options.

——– Opprinnelig melding ——–

Emne: SV: Utvekslingselever som kommer for å gå på norske vgs
Dato: Wed, 12 Jun 2013 11:12:19 +0000
Fra: Erik Johann Duncan <erik.duncan@siu.no>
Til: ‘margarethesdatter@csfes.org’ <margarethesdatter@csfes.org>
CC: Vigdis Berg <vigdis.berg@siu.no>, Siv Andersen <siv.andersen@siu.no>, Ina Lerøy <ina.leroy@siu.no>
Hei Lise, 

SIU har for første gang hentet inn tall fra 
utvekslingsorganisasjonene for innreisende elever i 
videregående skole. I hovedsak er dette elever som tar et år i 
norsk Vg2. 

Totalt er det i studieåret 2012-13 registrert 248 slike elever 
til Norge via seks utvekslingsorganisasjoner. Flere av 
organisasjonene oppgir at det kommer flest elever fra Tyskland 
og Italia. Dette skiller seg altså fra dennorske mobiliteten 
ut, der viktigste destinasjonsland er USA, etterfulgt av 
Storbritannia og Australia.

Innmobiliteten gjennom utvekslingsorganisasjonene har vært 
nokså stabil de siste fem årene.

Kilde: Utvekslingsorganisasjonene AFS, YFU, STS, Explorius, 
Speak Norge og Into.

Med hensyn til juridisk ansvar for utvekslingselevene viser vi 
til Kunnskapsdepartementet for videre dialog.

Dette til orientering.

Med vennlig hilsen
Erik Duncan

Erik Johann Duncan  
Avdelingsdirektør / Head of Department  
Senter for internasjonalisering av utdanning (SIU)  
Norwegian Centre for International Cooperation in Education     
Postboks 1093, 5809 Bergen, Norway  
Tel/Main: (+47) 55 30 38 12 / Fax: (+47) 55 30 38 01    
www.siu.no / www.studyinnorway.no / www.studeriutlandet.no     

-----Opprinnelig melding-----
Fra: Lise Almenningen [mailto:margarethesdatter@csfes.org]
Sendt: 8. juni 2013 00:39
Til: SIU Firmapost
Emne: Utvekslingselever som kommer for å gå på norske vgs

Har dere noen oversikt over hvor mange utvekslingselever som 
kommer til Norge hvert år?

Hvilket norsk organ er det som har ansvar for 
utvekslingselevene?

Hvilke rettigheter/beskyttelse har disse elevene i forhold til 
vertsfamilier, utvekslingsorganisasjoner og videregående 
skoler?

Jeg takker for all hjelp.

Vennlig hilsen
Lise LM Almenningen

--
CSFES volunteer - Norway

https://trygghetforutvekslingseleven.wordpress.com

2010: USA: Hostage in America

(by Ragni Trotta)

Last year, 17-year old Synne Fjellvoll from Norway was one of 28,142 foreign exchange students granted a J-1 VISA to study in the U.S. as a foreign exchange student in 2009. Synne and her parents researched various student exchange programs before settling on the Education Foundation for Foreign Study (EF), which spread glossy brochures around Norway’s many highs schools and held a local EF seminar in their hometown promoting their student exchange program under the slogan “Personal Service”, “Safety”, “Quality”. At a cost of US$6,000, plus an extra US$500 to ensure that she was sent to the “Southern States”, everything seemed set for the experience of a lifetime. Says Synne; “I was so excited to study abroad in the United States of America. It was a dream come true.”

Synne’s dream was soon to turn into a nightmare. Placed in the care of what appeared to be an all-American host family in Branchville, South Carolina, she soon started to have misgivings of the people assigned to care for her wellbeing. In Synne’s case, the failure to do background checks on the host family as well as the local EF representative, both of whom the sponsoring organization had been using for years, were the gravest of several violations of Federal Regulations perpetrated by EF. Background checks would immediately have thrown up several red flags, had they ever been undertaken, as Federal Regulations clearly state. A closer look by a private investigator and ex-FBI agent has showed that the local EF representative assigned to Synne as her 24-hour support person; Linda Davis (or Linda J. Teller), in fact had 10 liens & judgments and 3 criminal convictions against her, as well as a history of using numerous aliases.  Furthermore, 36 judgments and liens are registered against her host mother Gidget Vickers. 

Federal Regulations state that foreign exchange students must be placed within a “nurturing environment” in a “financially stable home”. However, with the host father unemployed for the first 6 months of her stay and the host mother holding down two jobs to support the family’s 5 children, Synne’s chores swiftly added up to include babysitting the two youngest kids every day after school from 3:00 – 6:00 pm and on weekends, mow the lawn, walk the dogs, do the dishes and even wash her host sister’s clothes on Sundays. Explains Synne; “I never felt like part of the family, I felt like a maid. It hurt me when my 16-year old host sister was allowed to hang out with her friends and go to the movies, while I had to stay home to babysit.”

Worse, the home was clearly uninhabitable by most health & hygiene standards. Several untrained dogs were urinating and defecating around the house, which also suffered mould problems. Explains the exchange student; “The stench was disgusting. Several holes in the roof and walls were scantily covered by cardboard and boards, and the window in my room was broken. It was freezing in my room when the frost came”.

Host families are also required to provide meals for the students. However, Synne was quickly also told that she had to buy her own food as well as any other items that she needed. She was not allowed to eat from the family fridge and had to pay for her own food when the family ordered Chinese takeout, which was frequent. Branchville is a town 1,083 people, with 54% white and 43 % African American inhabitants. She was told by her host mother that “black people were a bad influence and would get her involved in drugs.”

Under the constant threat of being sent home, Synne was frequently forced to sign EF “ Success Plan for Student Behaviour” and “Academic Agreements” admitting to her many failures, presented to her by her host mother and local EF representative Linda Davis. Grounded for weeks and isolated in a foreign country far away from home, her telephone was confiscated and her internet access taken away for weeks on end, making it impossible for her to contact her family. Says Synne; “I was threatened by the host mother all the time. I was frequently told “Synne, you are in big trouble” and “if you don’t pull it together we are going to have to send you home early. And you have yourself to blame. You did this to yourself.”

According to local sources, it is common knowledge that the Vickers family uses foreign exchange students extensively for babysitting purposes and complaints have been raised against the family by previous exchange students. In 2007, the same family stopped providing adequate food to a 17 year old German girl  (Sina Tuscheerer) who was an exchange student staying with them, forcing teachers at Branchville High School to purchase and place food for her in the school fridge. According to the teachers, the problem was reported to local area representative Linda Davis as well as EF in Boston several times, but no action was taken. Still, much to the astonishment of the teachers at Branchville High School, the Vickers family has continued to be on the receiving end of foreign exchange students, even hosting two students from Finland (Sointu Lampinen) and Sweden (Frida Edstrøm) at the same time.

Federal Regulations state that sponsoring organizations must provide a student card with a telephone number that affords immediate contact with both the program sponsor and the sponsor’s local representative. The regulations also state that local area representatives must check in with exchange students at least once a month. As early as in October 2009, Synne spent several days unsuccessfully trying to reach her local contact local EF representative Linda Davis on the telephone number written on her student card. Explained Synne; “I tried to call Davis several times. Nobody picked up the phone.” She then dialed the number to EF’s office in Boston and requested a change of family. The phone call was answered by Program Coordinator Claudia Jackson, who told her to call her local representative who according to Jackson was “always available”. Jackson stated that anyway, it was “too late to change family”. Synne’s student card failed to include a toll free phone number to the U.S. State Department, the supervisory body of student exchange programs, which according to Federal Regulations should have been printed on the card. Says Synne’s father Per Fjellvoll; “My daughter was held hostage in a house and with a family who did not want her there as anything other than a housekeeper and a babysitter.”

When Linda Davis finally contacted Synne in late December 2009, and the Norwegian exchange student again requested a change of family, the EF coordinator told her that she was; “always complaining and whining”. According to Davis, the Vicker’s were “a good family and you are the one making all this trouble for us. It is always the Norwegian exchange students that are hardest!” EF representatives also repeatedly turned their back on the 17-year old when she repeatedly turned to them for help via phone and email in January, February and March 2010. She was called a ‘liar”, a “troublemaker” and conveniently ignored. However, she complained one time too many and was “removed from the program” by EF in a whirlwind of accusations in March 2010, after what EF claimed were “a number of chances to improve her behavior”.

According to Toralf Slovik, EF’s Program Coordinator in Oslo, Norway, who contacted her natural parents, Synne was being sent home because she had been expelled by Branchville High School. Says her father; “I called the Principal of Synne’s High School and he told me that he knew nothing about my daughter being expelled.” The “expulsion” later turned out to be an erroneous translation of the word “detention”, but EF was adamant that she still had to be repatriated due to “bad behavior”, “bad grades” and too many “social activities”. Synne in fact had little time to commit to spare time activities due to daily babysitting responsibilities, house chores and two-three weekly Church visits. Says the exchange student; “My host mother told me that I had to take most responsibility since I was the oldest.”

The Principal and teachers at Branchville High School were deliberately kept at an arm’s length and forced to watch from afar, although several posed questions with Synne’s host mother’s demands for her to be enrolled in several too advanced and unnecessary classes, contrary to the curriculum that had been chosen for her in collaboration with her local high school and natural parents prior to her departure from Norway.  While EF maintains that Synne had problems at school, neither the Principal, the school counselors or any of her teachers were at any time made aware of this fact. This highlights the total disconnect between the sponsoring organizations and the U.S. high schools to which they send their participants and one is forced to ask what kind of organization puts an exchange student with a B+ average on “Academic Agreement” without informing the school or any of her teachers. Says Synne’s father Per; “We had just received an email from EF saying that everything was fine and she was doing well in school. Of course, the positive news was sent to us along with the news that Synne had been involved in a car accident. That was probably no coincidence.”

On several occasions, host mother Gidget Vickers acted so threatening and aggressively towards the exchange student that even her teachers became concerned. More than one teacher witnessed Synne’s traumatic last day at Branchville High School; “Gidget Vickers showed up at school, verbally attacked Synne in front of several teachers and students, snatched her handbag and forced her to leave without saying goodbye to her friends and teachers.” After confiscating her phone, Vickers took her home to pack and subsequently drove the 17-year old to Charleston Airport, where the Norwegian exchange student and her luggage were thrown out of the car curbside and left to fend for herself.

According to Synne’s father, her premature repatriation was based on minor episodes and lies by EF and her host family who was just looking for a reason to send her home. “The accusations made against my daughter were subsequently proven false by emails and communications with the Principal and teachers at Branchville High School. Clearly, any serious organization would have taken immediate steps to correct the situation and let her finish the 9 weeks that remained of her school year.”

J-VISA STATUS

On the morning of March 23, Synne was told by EF that she had to be on the plane back to Norway that evening or she would be deported. At the point of her repatriation, three local families were willing to host Synne for the remainder of the school year. Torolf Slovik from EF informed the family by email that she would be in the U.S. illegally if she stayed beyond that evening and that her VISA had been cancelled. However, her host-mother Vickers and local EF representative Davis made it abundantly clear around town that anyone who took her in would be charged with harboring an illegal alien. Says Synne; “They were determined to send me home.”

Says Fjellvoll; “EF has gained a reputation for taking swift action only when it comes to sending students home, as was the case with my daughter. The family contacted the U.S. Embassy in Oslo and the U.S. Department of State in Washington and asked them to intervene so that Synne could complete the 9 weeks that remained to her graduation. The Norwegian Embassy in the U.S. was also contacted. However, the family was told that it was a private issue between the student and EF and that they could not do anything.”

The scaremongering that EF spreads regarding the deportation of students is completely untrue and inaccurate. According to Stanley Colvin, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of State and supervisor of the J-VISA student exchange programs, foreign nationals that enter on a J-1 visa are “lawfully present” so long as they are in “valid program status”, meaning that they must be successfully pursuing the activities for which they entered the United States, under the sponsorship of a designated Exchange Visitor Program sponsor. If the sponsor withdraws their sponsorship, for cause, then the participant is no longer lawfully present and has thirty days to leave the country. Says Fjellvoll; “Having to leave in thirty days is vastly different to having to leave in a few hours. One month may have permitted us to seek other alternatives so that Synne could have completed her school year.”

When Synne’s case was brought to the attention of the U.S. State Department, they said they were willing to help her reissue her J-VISA provided EF reinstated Synne’s sponsorship. Alternatively, the State Department said they would accept the sponsorship of another exchange organization. Despite several requests both directly from the family as well as a U.S. lawfirm, EF refused to reinstate the sponsorship and finding another exchange organization 9 weeks prior to graduation proved an impossible task.

COMPLAINTS PROCEDURES

Under the current system, the student is completely powerless. EF will always side with their host family in any dispute, because any acknowledgement of mistakes on their part would make them liable to lawsuits. The student has absolutely no chance from the outset. The bias of local coordinators, who in many cases place young students with friends or relatives, is another issue some students have been faced with. Norwegian exchange student Synne Fjellvoll’s host mother was a friend of the local EF area representative and had a cell number to her that she refused to give the 17 year old exchange student. The local coordinator consistently ignored Synne’s requests for help.

According to Stanley Colvin, the U.S. Department of State cannot do anything to help once a student has been taken off a program. According to Colvin, sponsoring organizations can take student off a program for “cause”.

The question here become “what is cause” and more importantly, who determines what is “cause”? Under the current system, the sponsoring organization has the power to send a student home for anything it determines to be a “cause”, without any review of the situation or an interview with the student by an independent third party. What is even more disturbing is that when a student complains to the sponsor, the sponsoring organization is actually left to investigate itself.

Many young students are afraid to complain fearing retaliation and repatriation to their home country, because complaints are dealt with by the very organizations that they did their exchange with. Few students are savvy or confident enough after having been bullied around and lied to by their local coordinators to take their complaint to the next level, which is the U.S. Department of State which operates a toll free phone line for J-VISA holders. This toll free 800 number should according to Federal Regulations be printed on every exchange student’s student ID card, but was not included on Synne.

While some problems is to be expected among thousands of young foreigners from different cultures, a pattern of ignoring complaints, failing to find appropriate families and repatriating “problem students” early have become the distinguishing trademarks of EF’s operation. Strangely, few problems seem to be reported by the exchange organizations and the U.S. Department of State refers to approximately 200 investigated complaints per year, the Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students (CSFES) reports between 150 – 200 phone calls per week. A “thorn” in the side of the exchange companies and the only independent organization who speaks up on behalf of the students, Grijalva is tireless in her efforts to help protect the young casualties who have suffered at the hands of the exchange organizations and bring them to the attention of the proper authorities. On March 28, 2010, CSFES filed a complaint with U.S. President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on behalf of Per Fjellvoll regarding EF Foundation’s failure to adhere to the Federal Regulations in the case of his daughter.

 The resounding agreement from the many students participating in EF’s exchange program is that EF was “not interested” in any problems they might have. Financially speaking, a student has no recourse to claim for “breach of contract” if it can be proven that the student failed to adhere to the program rules. Hence, the EF Foundation’s policy is for it’s employees and agents to thoroughly document every little trespass made by students so that a possible claim for reimbursement can be denied. EF’s legal policy is to make settlements with the worst cases of abuse to keep the limelight away from the real problem, which is the organizations continued violation of Federal Regulations and student’s civil rights.

 

INVESTIGATIONS

Who actually has the power to investigate and rectify situations that bear further scrutiny?

While the U.S. Department of State actually had the power to investigate the student exchange companies, little seems to happen with the continued violations of several sponsoring organizations. In an interview with the Arkansas Democratic Gazette in December 2007, Stanley Colvin commented on complaints about EF Education and its Fayetteville coordinators, Gerald D. and Sherry A. Drummond. The U.S. State Department began an investigation after Arkansas State Senator Sue Madison, D-Fayetteville, received complaints from host families and foreign-exchange students about EF Foundation and the Drummonds. The students and their current host families in Northwest Arkansas told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette how foreign-exchange students lived in what they considered unclean, unsafe homes and how they felt disliked by Sherry Drummond when they stayed with her. They also complained that the Drummonds improperly served the dual role of host family and organization representative for several students, making it awkward for the students to voice their concerns. Rikke Stoyva, a Fayetteville High School student from Norway, didn’t care for emphasis on religion by her host family, John and Jill Foster. The family attended nondenominational church services three times a week in West Fork. Stoyva, who is Lutheran, lived with the Fosters for three months, then was moved to Camden, where she’s attending Camden Fairview High School.

“About 20 percent involve students brought to the United States by EF Foundation”, Colvin said. As part of its investigation in Arkansas, Colvin said the State Department could reprimand the company and require it to write a corrective-action plan to ensure it doesn’t violate federal regulations. A more severe penalty could involve shutting down the corporation or limiting how many students it can bring to the United States. Colvin sent a letter to the EF Foundation describing five media accounts and complaints last week regarding the organization. “This is not a pretty picture,” he concluded in the letter.

The U.S. Department of State does not divulge information about investigated complaints, and it is not clear what other reprimands EF got from the U.S. State Department following this investigation. Not long ago, Colvin shut the doors of a placement agency in South Carolina called United Students Association who had placed 4 foreign exchange students in homes of convicted felons. However, the many complaints received by CSFES on a daily basis regarding EF’s continued violations of Federal Regulations, suggest that too little is being done to monitor the sponsoring organizations.

While the US. Department of State is the supervising body of the student exchange programs, U.S. Congress is ultimately who issues the licenses to sponsoring organizations.

HOSTAGE SITUATION

As case after case of mistreatment of exchange students continue to surface, a clear pattern of exploitation is being revealed. Says Danielle Grijalva, Director for the Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students (CSFES); “Because the current system gives the sponsoring organization the power to withdraw a student’s visa on a whim, students are put at the mercy of the sponsor and the host family from the day they arrive in the U.S. The constant threat of being sent home, grants the host family complete power over the exchange student. It also affords host families who wish to mistreat a student within the confines of their walls ample opportunity. Sadly, students are willing to do almost anything to avoid the shame and failure of being sent home.” Grijalva is contacted by hundreds of foreign exchange students who have been left stranded and desolate by their exchange companies on a monthly basis.

Sadly, countless stories like that of Synne are appearing across the world, bearing witness of EF’s violations. As a result of the fundamental flaws of the system as well as the lack of oversight, droves of young students continue to find themselves stranded and alone in the “land of opportunity”, living as hostage far away from home and with no one to turn to for help.

So much concern has been raised concerning the lack of protection of young, vulnerable exchange students, that Federal Regulations were put in place in 2006. However, the lack of oversight of the Exchange Programs, which is the responsibility of the U.S. Department of State, continues to display glaring holes. Far from protecting the most vulnerable, the current system actually works to the student’s detriment, by placing all the power in the hands of the sponsoring organization and the host families, putting the student in what can only be described as a hostage situation.

This serves to further emphasize the need to independent supervision of the foreign exchange students. Federal Regulations state that problems with students and change of host families must be reported to the U.S. Department of State. Although the number of complaints made to the U.S. Department of State is not available, it is reasonable to believe that the sponsoring organizations try their utmost to contain troubles.

Says Grijalva; “EF continued violations of Federal Regulations and well as student’s civil rights, need to be scrutinized by the U.S. State Department. We call upon the U.S. Congress, which is ultimately responsible for the failure of the program, to permanently suspend EF’s license.”

Grijalva has filed a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office and the U.S. Department of State regarding EF’s failure to adhere to the Federal Regulations which were written to protect foreign exchange students participating in their program. Says Grijalva; “These are not isolated incidences. EF continues to violate Federal Regulations and student’s civil rights.”

“NON-PROFIT” ORGANISATION

Incidents such as Synne’s these pose serious questions with what is marketed as an “educational” program. According to the Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3), EF’s tax-exempt status is based on the fact that EF is an “educational” organization, which is a contradiction in that EF claim it is not “their policy” to involve the school in matters of a student. Last year, the student exchange industry received US$34 millions in grants from the U.S. Government to promote ‘cultural exchange’, but what is meant to be a program to build ‘cultural’ bridges between young Americans and high school students from other countries is increasingly becoming an embarrassment to the U.S. as a growing number of foreign students are shipped back home early in disgrace and humiliation.

It is also a common misconception among Europeans that US “non-profit” organizations are philanthropic entities not focused on financial profit, a grossly misleading and incorrect fact that the EF Foundation uses to great advantage in the marketing of its services. In fact, the term ‘non-profit’ only means that earnings must be reinvested in the organization, which put the focus back where it really is: the money.

EF – A REPEAT OFFENDER

Education First Foundation for Foreign Study, founded in 1979, is the country’s largest foreign-exchange company. Approximately 35 U.S. organizations have been granted the very sought after licenses to sponsor J-VISA’s for foreign exchange student. However, the Federal Regulations and accompanying moral obligations which accompany the responsibility of holding such a license are being blatantly ignored by several of the sponsoring organizations. Among the repeat offenders in the abuse of its participants feature EF Foundation for Foreign Studies, a sponsoring organization with headquarters in Boston that has a strong representation of Swedes on their U.S. Board of Directors, including Chairperson Asa Fanelli, previous Chairman Goran Rannefors, President Dan Sodervall, Director Jennifer Baverstam and Director Jens Appelkvist. The EF umbrella includes several company names including; EF Institute for Cultural Exchange Ltd, EF Foundation for Foreign Study, EF Educational Tours, EF International Language Schools, EF Voyages Culturels, EF High School Year Abroad and Education First. Approximately 5,000 students were sponsored by the EF Foundation in 2008.

While the organization sponsors exchange students from across the world, EF’s main markets for the recruitment of exchange students are Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Germany.

It is curious, but not surprising, to note that the Norwegian arm of the company is registered as a limited company in the category of “tour operator”, featuring a local company name that translates to “EF Education The European Holiday School Ltd.” EF’s “summer language trips” abroad has been the target of media reports in Norway, due to the lack of oversight and the availability of alcohol to minors down to the ages of 12 years old.

Kirsti Kollenborg is listed as the Norwegian company’s CEO, while Toralf Slovik is the country Program Director and Heidi Bjoere Larsen the Marketing Manager.

6 U.S. student exchange companies have been approved by the Norwegian Government’s loan association (Statens Laanekasse) for the purposes of student grant and loans to study abroad. Aside from having to redo a lost year of studies, Norwegian exchange students who are sent home early without graduating, must fully repay all grants they received from Statens Laanekasse. Says Fjellvoll; “Synne’s student exchange and unnecessary repatriation has cost the family at least US$20,000.”

THE LOCAL COORDINATOR AND THE HOST FAMILY

Even at the tender age of 17, Synne Fjellvoll says she became concerned with her host family’s seemingly poor finances. Despite strong denials that they received any payment from EF, she overheard her host parents talking about a “receiving a paycheck from EF.” But U.S. host families are to receive no compensation for hosting, which puts a question at EF’s reported expenses (990 form) that includes expenditures for so-called “Supervisory Fees”. Unfortunately, EF is able to hide their multi-million dollar activities behind their 5013C (not for profit) status of the Foundation.

Perks for host families of exchange students include free babysitting and housekeeping services, although foreign exchange students are only permitted to take sporadic jobs. When you call EF’s office in Boston and enquire about taking in a foreign exchange student, they will tell you that the issue of babysitting is “tricky” and that host families are not allowed to force exchange students to babysit. This was certainly not the case with Synne, whose far from sporadic babysitting job was performed under the threat of being sent home.

Explains Danielle Grijalva, Director for the Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students (CSFES); “ I have come to learn of family after family who can barely feed their own family, let alone an exchange student. However, the local area representative whispers in their ear that the exchange student’s parents are wealthy. Many families steal money from the students or “borrow” their ATM card, as in the case of Espen Hansen from Norway who was placed with a family in Minnesota by the EF Foundation. The students don’t speak up in fear of being sent home and it is not uncommon for families to rake in $800 – $1000 in rent from students living in their home, even if it is in shambles.” The EF Foundation coordinated his placement with a US sponsoring organization called CETUSA. CSFES’s efforts to assist the Hansen family, led to CETUSA filing a lawsuit against Grijalva for her efforts in assisting the young Norwegian exchange student.

According to CSFES, theft by host families is rampant. In 2008, a Nebraska woman called Fayette Klug was arrested for stealing $10,000-plus from two foreign exchange students living with her, one foreign exchange student from Norway and one from China. The two girls told law enforcement that Klug took cash from them, used their credit cards and locked them in the basement apartment area that they shared. Why Klug was even hosting foreign exchange students became a point of investigation because turned out to be a convicted felon. According to the Madison County Sheriff’s Office, the investigation into Klug is ongoing, as additional foreign exchange students may have been victimized by Klug.

Says Grijalva; “U.S. Senator of Pennsylvania Robert P. Casey, Jr., is to be commended for his efforts wasting no time investigating the treatment of exchange students placed in Scranton, PA. In May 2009, Senator Casey sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging her to investigate the Department of State’s oversight of U.S. youth exchange programs following reports of abuse and mistreatment of nine foreign exchange students in Scranton, Pennsylvania, including Norwegian exchange student Anne Bardoz. “The situation these students found themselves in is simply unacceptable,” said Senator Casey, who has called on the U.S. State Department to swiftly review its oversight procedures.

Grijalva also hails the efforts of U.S. Senator Sue Madison from Arkansas, who has spearheaded a study of the health, safety and welfare of exchange students placed in Arkansas after receiving complaints that some foreign exchange students were being placed in homes with families ill-equipped to take care of them.” According to U.S. Senator Madison, The U.S. State Department, which currently has oversight authority, does not have adequate staff to oversee the foreign exchange program. Senator Madison is the champion of Senate Bill 411, called “The Arkansas Foreign Exchange Student Program Act” in the State of Arkansas, which seeks to further protect the welfare of foreign exchange students in her State.

Regulations prohibit sponsoring companies from bringing students to the U.S. without having first located a host family and Madison’s findings further under build the stories of several exchange students, who appear to have arrived in the US without families or have been subjected to “last minute changes” of families.

Said U.S. State Senator Sue Madison: “Some parents came to me about problems they’ve seen in Northwest Arkansas.” In Clarksville, Madison said, a student from Korea was placed with a family living in low-income housing. “The student would write home asking her parents for money to help feed her host family,” she said. “At that point, she asked to be moved to another family and representatives from the company set up a table outside a Wal-Mart to recruit her another family,” Madison said. “They found her another family and this time the male of the household was arrested on a drug charge.”

Madison said to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette that she was told by an EF Foundation employee that the Drummonds (local coordinators for the EF foundations) are paid $300 to $400 for each foreign exchange student placed in a family’s home, including their own. The Drummonds received $12 per student, per month, for verifying the students are doing well and helping with difficulties they encounter, Madison said.

According to Danielle Grijalva of CFSEF most foreign-exchange student companies pay $400 to $750 for each student who is placed in a home. Host families aren’t paid. The payment is a small portion of the $5, 000 for six months or $10,000 for a year that the students pay EF Foundation to come to the United States.

In the Scranton case, 69-year-old Edna Burgette, took students door-to-door in an effort to find host families. The local coordinator for the Aspect Foundation charged families US$400 to place malnourished students in northeastern Pennsylvania homes. Said Norwegian student Anne Bardoz to Aftenposten: “The floor was covered with dog feces, the air filled with tobacco smoke and the stench was unbearable.” Anne had to buy her own food and was not allowed to leave the house she was placed in. According to court documents, Burgette will plead guilty to ‘mail fraud” collecting money using fraudulent paperwork related to the placement of five exchange students including Bardoz. She faces up to 20 years in jail and a fine of US$250,000.

Edna Burgett ‘plead out’ to the charge of mail fraud because she knowingly accepted these students to supervise, all the while knowing she did not have a home for them. This was considered ‘mail fraud’ because her placement agency relied on the U.S. Postal Service to secure these placements.

Exchange students subjected to “last minute changes” of families, include Michaela Kaluza from Germany, who was all set to live with a host family in Colorado for a year and had brought appropriate winter clothing. Without explanation, she was told she had to go live with a host family in Maryland consisting of a 69 year old grandmother, her 81 year old husband and their young granddaughter. In a house splattered with dog urine and with no food, Michaela’s chores included frequent changes of the 81 year old man’s diapers.  After 2 weeks, Michaela complained to her school and her local EF representative. She was told by Elizabeth at the EF office in Boston that she was “struggling with American culture and just needed to deal with it.” Elizabeth proceeded to accuse Michaela of “lying and bad behavior” and told her that she had to “stay with her host family or go back to Germany.”

Says Pedro Acevedo from Caracas, Venezuela, who was an exchange student to Mississippi with EF in 2008: “From the very first day I arrived, I had problem after problem.” After sending Acevedo two fake placement letters identifying US host families, he was finally told that EF had found a temporary «arrival family» in Mississippi that would take him in until something permanent was found. After arriving in the U.S. 2 months after the school year had started, Acevedo slept on the living room sofa and had no privacy staying with the first of three host families. He was not allowed to hang up his clothes, did not get any food and was generally treated like and unwanted intruder by the host family, whose father was a Vietnam vet. Says Acevedo; “I was told I needed to start ‘acting like expected’ or I was going to be sent home. Emily Force, my International Exchange Coordinator, and local EF area representative, treated me like an animal. I was called names including ‘idiot’, ‘brat’, ‘stupid’ and ‘irresponsible spoiled child’. I was yelled like no one had ever done before, to the point that I had to clean her spit out of my face.”

After visiting her son at his second host family, Acevedo’s mother offered to pay his second host mother US$150 per month to ensure her son was fed. Recalls Acevedo; “My mom also went to Wal-Mart, and spent over US$250 in food and stuff for the house, all of this under the verbal agreement that I was not to have food issues while I was living there. After my mom left, the story changed. I was still being asked to pay for dinners, and even had to buy my own lunch, because sometimes there wouldn’t even be bread to make a simple sandwich.” Acevedo was finally was offered to stay with a third host family from another organization, who was hosting an exchange student he knew from school. Says Acevedo; “Our experience with EF was awful”.

Says Tone Sigurdsen from Norway; “Our experience with EF is terrible. Our daughter was in the US two years ago. She was placed with a family that could hardly be called a “host” family. The company had no control of the number of students or available places. Changing host family turned out to be a nightmare, and EF did absolutely nothing to help. If she hadn’t found another host family herself, she would have been sent home in the middle of the school year. There was no help or interest from EF in solving the problem.” Sigurdson was told that EF “did not have enough host families available”, because they had enrolled too many students that year. An in there lies yet another violation of Federal Regulations, which state that no student must be brought to the U.S. without the sponsor having found a host family.

Federal regulations prohibit employees or agents of a foreign exchange company from serving as both host family and area supervisor for a student. The U.S. State Department is currently investigating complaints involving the EF Foundation and its Fayetteville coordinators, alleging that exchange students stayed at the homes of the coordinators.

In September 2009, EF sent Marion Ridal from Finland to live with a family Alabama. Says her mother; “The people in the family were imbalanced and my daughter was very frightened during her stay there. Members of the family called her names and humiliated her in many ways. She was too afraid to even sleep at night. Fortunately she had the courage to ask if she could get in to another family.” The EF district supervisor took her to their home, and she started school.” After a week, the EF representatives from New York decided to send her to Missisippi to a new family. Says her mother; “They told her that it’s either Missisippi or being sent back home. She was picked up from school and didn’t have a chance to say goodbye to her new friends. Marion was really shocked and was crying hysterically when she called me.” A local family was willing to take her in so she wouldn’t have to move, but EF would hear nothing of it and her mother’s many phone calls and emails to EF went un-answered.

Once in Mississippi, Marion’s new host mother took her mobile phone away, yelled at her all the time and prohibited her from going out. “Marion didn’t have anyone to turn to because the local area supervisor in Mississippi was the host-mothers brother in law. They always blamed Marion and said that if she didn’t do as she was told, they would put her on a plane back to Finland.” Explains the mother; “We were told Marion would be in secure and caring surroundings in USA. EF has made Marion to look like some sort of troublemaker, even though she hasn’t done anything wrong.”

An Italian student placed in Ohio by the EF Foundation in 2007, bought gifts in excess of $3000 for the host family, paid numerous restaurant dinners, bought groceries and lent money to members of the host family which was never repaid. Although he was Catholic, he was required to attend church on a regular basis. His host family placed him in danger by having him attend a party with his host brother where a fight broke out and guns were fired.  The police were called to the party, and the exchange student told one of the police officers that such occurrences were routine for that area. The home environment was inappropriately controlling and his host mother would lecture him until late at night on many occasions regarding his friends. The host mother refused to take him to the doctor when he was ill with fever for a week, leaving him in his basement room without checking on him or offering him food, drink, or medication. His assigned co-ordinator from EF was a good friend of the host mother, so he could not confide in her. This young student suffered emotional abuse in this home and he would become anxious and stressed around his host mother.

Swedish Patrick Sundelin was yet another foreign exchange student travelling with EF, who was placed in an Alabama host family. The couple’s own child had been taken away by social services and two convicts rented rooms from the family. Patrick’s first trip in the US was to the local court house, because the host family boarders had to register with their local probation officer. He faced the anger of local EF representatives when he demanded to change family and refused to sign the “Behaviour Success” agreement he was presented with several times. Patrick filed a complaint with the Swedish National Board for Consumer Complaints and was awarded the meager sum of SEK 10,000 (US$1,000) in compensation.

This fundamentally flawed system has been able to continue because most parents are reluctant to start an expensive litigation in the U.S. against an organization that is willing to throw anything at a case to win it. Says Fjellvoll; “EF is digging in it’s heals due to the flood of ugly cases looming in the wings.” However, a growing number of natural parents in Norway who have had to save their money for years to send their child abroad, are now digging deep into their pockets to seek justice for their children for the way in which they were treated while on this ‘cultural exchange.’

Fjellvoll is spearheading a group of parents who aim to highlight the gravity and prevalence of what has so far been dismissed as “isolated incidents”. Says Fjellvoll; “EF’s policy is to accuse the student of wrong doing and send them home early in shame and defeat. An exchange organization that encourages this kind of mistreatment of young people, while they continue to ignore the many traumatized students they are responsible for, should not be licensed to operate in any country.” Fjellvoll is bringing his complaint to the attention of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which he calls upon to take action on behalf of the many Norwegian students who have been subjected to abuse as EF exchange students. He also calls upon the U.S. Department of State to withdraw EF’s license to sponsor foreign exchange students. Concludes Fjellvoll; “The EF Foundation is a repeat offender with no concern for the children the send abroad. This organization should NOT be in a position to revoke a high school student’s J-VISA, at least not without an independent review by the U.S. Department of State or another independent third party. Despite their many violations of Federal Regulations, they are allowed to continue to abuse young exchange students far away from home in the worst of ways. One must ask oneself what kind of nation allows this kind of injustice to carry on.”

Swedish TV did an expose on exchange student Emma Dahlberg, a Swedish exchange student with EF was forced to go to church several times a week and worship snakes in Harlan, Kentucky for two months, before she was removed.

NEW BILL PROPOSED IN ARKANSAS BY SENATOR MADISON

Senator Madison’s “The Arkansas Foreign Exchange Student Program Act” in the State of Arkansas, states that the student, the host family and the school shall be given telephone numbers and email addresses for the Department of State, The Council on Standards for International Educational Travel; and The Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students. Furthermore, the bill states that students have the right “to not be coerced to write letters or sign agreements that the student does not fully understand”, “to not be sent back to his or her home country before the completion of the exchange without a prior review process” and “to not be caused to fear being sent back to his or her home country for any communication” made to authorities.

Furthermore, the bill states that international student exchange visitor placement organization shall cooperate with state, school, and other public authorities and that alternate placement shall be readily available so that no student remains in a home if conditions appear to exist that endanger the student’s welfare. It also grants the Department of Human Services extensive rights in the monitoring of foreign exchange students, and expressly states that retaliation or the threat of retaliation by international student exchange organizations will lead to disqualification from placement of any foreign exchange student in Arkansas.

“Clearly, the above Bill needs to be adopted by every state in the U.S.”

BEUL VS. ASSE

In the landmark case of Beul v. Asse International Inc. placement agency, U.S. brought the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit of September 2000, the lead opinion of Circuit Judge Posner was that it is placement agency’s responsibility to step into the shoes of the natural parents. The negligence lawsuit was brought by foreign exchange student Kristin Beul under Wisconsin law against exchange company Asse International Inc.

For a fee of $2,000 it placed the 16-year-old German girl who wanted to spend a year in the United States, with the Bruce family of Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. The family, which consisted of Richard Bruce, age 40, his wife, and their 13-year-old daughter, had been selected by Marianne Breber, Asse International’s Area Representative in the part of the state that includes Fort Atkinson. Kristin Beul arrived in Wisconsin from Germany on September 7, 1995, and was met at the airport by Richard Bruce and his daughter. Marianne Breber did not go to the airport to meet Kristin. In fact, apart from a brief orientation meeting at a shopping mall in September with Kristin and one other foreign exchange student, at which Breber gave Kristin her phone number, she didn’t meet with Kristin until January 21 of the following year. Breber called the Bruce home a few times during this period and spoke briefly with Kristin once or twice, but she made no effort to make sure that Kristin was alone when they spoke.

Kristin had led a sheltered life in Germany. She had had no sexual experiences at all and in fact

had had only two dates in her lifetime. On November 17, 1995, Richard Bruce, who weighed almost 300 pounds and who was alone at home at the time except for Kristin, came into the loft area in which she slept and raped her. This was the start of a protracted sexual relationship. In the months that followed, Bruce frequently would call the high school that Kristin was attending and report her ill. Then, with Mrs. Bruce off at work and the Bruce’s daughter at school, Bruce would have sex with Kristin. By February 22, Kristin had been absent 27 days from school. Bruce brandished a gun and told Kristin that he would kill himself if she told anyone what they were doing together.

In February Mrs. Bruce told Breber that she and her husband were getting divorced, and Breber found another host family to take in Kristin. Kristin didn’t want to leave the Bruce home, but on February 22 Breber arrived there with a sheriff’s deputy to remove Kristin. The deputy asked Kristin in the presence of Richard Bruce and his daughter whether there was any inappropriate sexual activity between Richard and Kristin, and Kristin answered «no.» Kristin lived with Breber for a few days between host families, but Breber didn’t use the occasion to inquire about any possible sexual relationship between Kristin and Bruce. Breber told the new host family that Kristin was not to contact Bruce for a month, but she did not tell Bruce not to have any contact with Kristin. They continued to correspond and talk on the phone. Kristin had decided that she was in love with Bruce and considered herself engaged to him.

In April, Mrs. Bruce discovered some of Kristin’s love letters and alerted the authorities. A sheriff’s deputy interviewed Bruce. The next day Bruce, who had committed a misdemeanor by having sex with a 16 year old, Wis. Stat. § 948.09, killed himself, leaving a note expressing fear of jail. It is undisputed that the events culminating in Bruce’s suicide inflicted serious psychological harm on Kristin; the jury’s assessment of her damages is not claimed to be excessive.

As the sponsor of a foreign exchange student, ASSE was subject to regulations of the United States Information Agency that require sponsors to train their agents, «monitor the progress and welfare of the exchange visit,» and require a «regular schedule of personal contact with the student and host family.»

It was the opinion of Circuit Judge Posner that; “ASSE was standing in the shoes of the parents of a young girl living in a stranger’s home far from her homeland and could reasonably be expected to exercise the kind of care that the parents themselves would exercise if they could to protect their 16-year-old daughter from the sexual pitfalls that lie about a girl of that age in those circumstances. ASSE assumed a primary role in the protection of the girl.»

 The jury returned a verdict finding that plaintiff Kristin Beul’s damages were $ 1,100,000.

CHILD SAFE

According to Christopher Gould; CEO, Director and Founding Member of Child Safe, an international charity registered in the UK in 2004 Gould is a retired Detective Chief Superintendent with over 30 years service, who has been involved in the investigation of child abuse for over 15 years. In 1997, while managing the Child Protection Group in the Constabulary, Gould began an exte4nsive research project to examine the scale of abuse of children and young people involved in educational and language trips in the UK, Europe and beyond. The investigation was prompted upon his discover of a 12-year old Spanish exchange student who had been sexually abused by his host father while on a  4 week language trip in the US. The host father was a known and convicted sex offender who had been hosting foreign exchange students in the area for approximately three years.

Says Christopher Gould: “My interest in this matter is one of the police perspective.  I retired two years ago as a Detective Chief Superintendent in the UK after 30+ years service, much of which was devoted to child abuse investigation and homicides.  Following research I undertook for the Home Office and European Commission, I set up the Child-Safe international children’s charity  (whilst a serving officer).  The original research looked at the abuse suffered by children and young people on educational, cultural and language trips abroad. The findings were significant and took me around the globe, investigating and researching.  Since setting up the charity, the aim has been to advise and support commercial and voluntary organizations involved with such programmes (including schools) and help them to reduce the opportunities for abuse within their organisation/homestays etc.  Much of the support comes from experience, intelligence and information gathered from victims, survivors and offenders.”

In the first 12 months of his research, Gould uncovered 2,000 cases of abuse ranging from neglect to emotional abuse to both physical and sexual abuse.97% of the 2,000 cases were related to incidents which happened within host families. Says Gould; » Based on my personal experience and research, host families containing sex offenders and child abusers are being used in significant numbers by exchange agencies, generally without their knowledge, for exchange students. Furthermore, homes where a host parent or family member has a conviction for a serious crime are also being utilized by exchange agencies. In one study of 700 families Gould conducted in the UK, 26 families had household members with convictions for serious crimes or specific crimes against children.

Says Gould: “I also work internationally with many different law enforcement agencies and Governments.  The charity is now supported and endorsed by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), the Home Office, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF), the Centre for Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP), ECPAT, International, the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and others.”

Programmes are monitored and to a large extent controlled by rules imposed by the US State Department: “There is much concern at the moment around the growing number of cases where foreign exchange students are being treated inappropriately and in many instances unlawfully. Many breaches of Visa requirements are being identified by the US State Department by organizations responsible for bringing these young people into the country.  The growing concern surrounds the International standing of the USA once these complaints are made by returning students in their countries of origin.”

Extracts from article “Exchange group gets probe after teens complain

Arkansas Democrat Gazette from December 2007

Fayetteville High teachers and counselors said they’ve had frequent issues with the Drummonds and EF Foundation placements. They’ve complained to officials in the foundation’s headquarters (EF in Boston) about the Drummonds and believe the organization did nothing in response. “I only hear about the bad [situations ], and there are several each year that are miserable for the student, and the placement in the homes get changed and the students have to be moved,” said Anne Butt, the high school’s college adviser for nine years.

Lesli Zeagler, a Fayetteville High counselor, said there are few problems with the international students attending the school who are brought to the United States by Rotary International. Not true with EF Foundation, she said. “With EF, I’ve experienced students who are scared, who seem to be malnourished, and they seem to be isolated,” Zeagler said. “The problems go back years, but we’ve never had a group of students who have been so vocal about it.”

Around 30, 000 exchange students come to America annually, said Colvin of the State Department’s exchange coordination office, adding the State Department investigates about 200 complaints each year. About 20 percent involve students brought to the United States by EF Foundation, Colvin said. As part of its investigation in Arkansas, Colvin said the State Department could reprimand the company and require it to write a corrective-action plan to ensure it doesn’t violate federal regulations. A more severe penalty could involve shutting down the corporation or limiting how many students it can bring to the United States. Colvin sent a letter Thursday to the EF Foundation describing five media accounts and complaints last week regarding the organization. “This is not a pretty picture,” he concluded in the letter.

STATISTICS 2009/ 2010

  • 28,142 foreign exchange students came to the US, mainly from Europe.
  • Norway is 6th in country ranking by number of students sent to the US
  • The top ten countries sending foreign exchange students to the US last year are;
    • Germany 8,172 students (29%)
    • Brazil 1,889 students (7%)
    • China 1,661 students (6%)
    • South Korea 1,616 students (6%)
    • Thailand 1,210 students (4%)
    • Norway 925 students (3%)
    • Italy 892 students (3%)
    • Spain 866 students (3%)
    • Japan 791 students (3%)
    • Denmark 655 students (2%)
    • France 622
    • Sweden 601
    • Finland 345
    • Iceland 14
    • A total of 2,493 students, almost 9%, came from Scandinavia.
    • 7,881 students went to the Southern region of the US
    • 247 foreign exchange students went to South Carolina
    • 1,980 US exchange students went abroad, mainly to Europe
    • In the last 7 years, Norway has sent 5,016 FES to the US
    • In the last 7 years, Sweden has sent 3,812 FES to the US
    • In the last 7 years, Denmark has sent 3,958 FES to the US
    • In the last 7 years, Finland has sent 2,243 FES to the US

2009: EF: Incentive booklet for representatives

EF 1

EF 2

EF 3

EF 4

EF 5

EF 6

EF 7

EF 8

EF 9

EF 10

EF 11

EF 12

EF 13

EF 14

EF 15

EF 16

EF 17

EF 18

EF 19

2009 Jun 03: Casey Presses State Department on Mistreatment of Foreign Exchange Students

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

WASHINGTON, DC- Following his meeting with Miller Crouch, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs on the situation with mistreated foreign exchange students in Pennsylvania, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) today released the following statement:

“As new details emerge on the intolerable living conditions foreign exchange students were forced to endure in Lackawanna and Luzerne counties, I have concluded that our system failed these young people.  In my meeting yesterday with the leading State Department official responsible for the oversight of educational exchange programs, he acknowledged a ‘systemic failure’ on the part of the Aspect Foundation and the need for the Department to establish more safeguards in the process to monitor personnel responsible for the safety and welfare of students.

When a family sends their son or daughter to the United States to experience a glimpse of American culture and values, they should not have to worry that their child will go without food or live in dangerous conditions without any supervision.  I look forward to working with the State Department to immediately correct the flaws in the existing process and ensure that future exchange students visiting the United States will only be placed with responsible families that have been fully vetted.”

Last week, Senator Casey sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging her to investigate the Department of State’s oversight of U.S. youth exchange programs following reports of abuse and mistreatment of the foreign exchange students in Pennsylvania.

Nine foreign exchange students between the ages of 15 and 18 have been placed in the care of Lackawanna County’s Department of Human Services.  According to officials, some children were in need of medical attention due to malnutrition and dehydration while others were living in unsanitary conditions and in homes that were recently condemned.  Only after their teachers voiced concerns did their neglect come to light.  Currently, foreign exchange students are eligible to attend approximately 430 high schools, colleges and universities throughout Pennsylvania.

###

Press Contact

Larry Smar: (202) 228-6367

(Uthevelser red.anm.)


2013 May: FIEAs «Termination Letter»

U.S. Department of State
… (I have removed identifiers for minors)

Dear Sirs and Madams,

We have previously sent a complaint about Forte International Exchange Association’s (FIEA) mistreatment of our son M (2012 Oct 19). We have also sent a mail regarding the way FIEA have broken the regulations set by the State Department (2013 Jan 26).

We wish to illustrate the many lies told by FIEA about M through some of the claims made in their Termination Letter. FIEA’s claims are in cursive.

After this incident, the current host family, the :::::, were afraid for M to be around their children as he began acting “weird.” M had been accused of putting paint in the children’s hair, kicking the children, pushing them, and ordering the host parents to clean and vacuum.

When it comes to the accusations of putting paint in the children’s hair, both M and the two teen-age girls painted each other’s hair at the theater where M ended up having to spend all of his afternoons and week-ends so he would not have to stay in the Moe house alone. At the time, both girls laughed at the idea that M had done something bad.

M does not have any memory of kicking anyone. The only thing he could even remotely link to this statement would be when he managed to step on some toes while hugging the girls.

M did suggest that they could all clean the house – there was great need. When the host-parents told him no, he suggested that he, himself, clean it. They bluntly refused him. So M did the best he could and cleaned his own room.

The most upsetting action done by M was in front of his host siblings, where he would put his finger to his head like a gun and act like he was shooting  himself. 

Maggie Simpson illustrates our point about the ridiculousness of this statement perfectly: Watch 5:30-6:00 http://gorillavid.in/x59mdffkr1ge

During one occasion on the way home from school, M asked his host dad, Malcolm, if Malcolm ever had dark thoughts. Malcolm questioned M what he meant by “dark thoughts”, but M said he couldn’t tell him because of Malcolm’s response. There was another incident where M saw a posting on Facebook about suicide and made the comment of “if you are going to commit suicide, you don’t talk about it, you don’t say anything, you just do it.”

All of these lies make me angry. I cannot believe how untruthful FIEA have been. This last claim is a perfect example. See below facebook conversation:

September 20

:::::: ok im ready to die but i caint pull the triger whow wants to do it for me”

:::::: “wow, i thought i had it bad. life cant be that hard… can it?”

“(Mike’s comment): (name) you have one of the kindest hearts I know and you have an amazing opportunity to make a difference in the lives of people around you. You should watch Man on Fire starring Denzel Washington. Great movie. God bless!”

:::::: “Spelling!”

:::::: “hey (name)? i aint seen u in a while, but i would like to, so don’t do anything drastic.”

::::::: “Let’s have a little talk tonight! I have enough dead people in my cast an yyou aren’t supposed to be one of ’em!

::::::: “don’t do it”

(M’s comment): “i know that this is a despirate kry for help. i also know that you are not going to do that. because the people who take their own life do it without telling anyone about it. talk to me if you want to compare storryes or lifes. you or i will find out that our life is not that hard.”

(M’s comment): “i just talked to him. (name) what the hell is wrong with you. this is not something you are kidding about. i was woried. delite this post imidiately! sent from the crossing.”

M had phoned his friend (name withheld for privacy reasons) to see if they could talk about what was bothering his friend. That was when he discovered that his friend had been kidding.

For one think Mike – the host-father – was part of the facebook conversation (see above). Whether he or Becky Sanderson were lying about this event, is irrelevant to me. I tend to think that with her track-record, it is Becky who is the guilty one. The way FIEA misrepresent so completely what happened is both cruel and self-serving.

Whenever a student expresses such signs of abnormal behavior, Forte takes it very seriously. Which is why our area director, Becky Sanderson, called M and had a conversation with him on whether or not he was depressed. M did open up to Becky and said he was depressed and had suicidal thoughts. M also admitted he needed help. After that conversation, Becky felt M would be a danger to himself and was showing signs of mental illness and needed professional help. At the same time, the host parents felt M would be dangerous around their children and would either hurt himself or their children. The :::::: family no longer feels comfortable with having M in their home.

I have no doubt M was a little depressed by this time. But at no time did he, himself, express suicidal thoughts. This was one of the things Forte tried to get his families to sign off on, but did not succeed despite pressuring them. See below facemails from :::::: – first host-father:

10/15-2012: Conversation between M and ::::::

::::::: Everything you are doing to fight this company is causing drama for the families here that may or may not care about you. We are being asked to sign something that says Forte did not take you out of a home that wanted you there. I have not read the actual paper yet, so I do not know if what it says is true enough for me to sign. I do know this…yes, we wanted you to stay. Forte did not make the decision to take you from this home that wanted you. You, yourself wanted to leave a home that wanted you. And while that is perfectly okay to want to leave somewhere, it somewhat defeats you’re argument that the company treated you wrong by pulling you out of homes. You also did it yourself, and had your reasons. I don’t know all that happened with other families, but if the company made the decision for you to leave their homes, I’m certain they had their reasons just as you did when you decided to leave our home. I’m not going to lie for you or for the company or for anyone. I guess is what I am trying to say is fight the company if you want, but could you leave me out of it somehow and quit causing us drama? I see the good in everyone, and you’re not a bad guy, but I am starting to regret that we let you come stay with us.

And :::::: continues on 10/16-2012

::::::: Forte is trying to get me to make written statements about anything that will help them with their case. I don’t like what they are doing or what you are doing as I am getting stuck in the middle. I wasn’t trying to be mean M. I was even told not to talk to you at all. I just had to state that for the record. I will be honest and say this…I don’t trust Forte and I don’t trust you. I don’t hand out trust easily, and I know how one can keep enemies close for certain reasons. I did not tell them you wanted to kill yourself fyi. They have tried to get me to make statements against you and I refused. I wrote something that would not help them or you and shouldn’t have hurt either, but apparently they believe if it won’t help them win they can leave out certain truths. I just want out of it, but I had to tell you that for record purposes. I’m sorry if anything I have to do hurts you, but it can’t always be helped.

After discussion among management at Forte, due to M’s current mental stability, admittance to depression, and thoughts of suicide, we feel he should be dismissed early from the exchange program to seek professional, psychological help in his home country with his natural parents. Forte cannot shoulder that burden onto our host family to endure. Although our host families agree to host our exchange students, they should not have to deal with the effects of what depression does to a teenager.

Forte have behaved despicably throughout M’s stay. How he could have been placed with the families that he was and how on earth FIEA could possibly keep on letting Becky Sanderson get her claws into kids who are supposed to get a good impression of the US is unbelievable. Why has she not been held responsible for her actions? Into Education are no better for having supported FIEA through the whole process. Amazing that companies that claim to keep our children safe do such a poor job of it.

Please do something about this situation. Exchange students coming to the US need to feel safe, not used and abused.

Sincerely

Lise Lotte and Jonny Almenningen

CSIET
Mr. Chris Page
Ms. Lindsay Poehlman

FIEA
Ms. Diana Latvala
Ms. Ava Chen

Into Education Ltd.
Mr. John Douglas Fisher
Ms. Constanze Fisher

Into Education Ltd. (Norway)
Ms. Marit Åsenden

CSFES USA
Ms. Danielle Grijalva

….
Jonny Almenningen

Brev til vertsfamilien fra foreldrene/Letter to host-family from parents

Dear host family,

My name is (parent). I am (student)’s mother. His father is (father), and (student)  has an older brother called (siblings). In addition, our family consists of (pets).

Our family lives in a regular, middle-class, residential area. The woods are only a couple of minutes away, and swimming requires a bike-ride. Half an hour’s drive takes us to the capitol, Oslo and the fjord.

(Sibling) and (student) are incredibly different. (Sibling) is shy and introvert while (student) is anything but. (Student) has always loved adults. If anyone offered him their lap, he would take it. We kept on expecting him to “get over it” and enter a shy stage, but as long as his parents were somewhere in the vicinity he felt safe. He took his time starting his race towards independence, but a couple of years ago he took off. Since then, he has tried on his independence shoes and he seems to fitting into them fairly well.

What I like the most about (student) is his sense of humor. Both he and I end up being the only ones who laugh at our own jokes and we often do not get other people’s. We do, however, enjoy laughing at each other’s sense of humor. What frustrates me the most about (student) is how stubborn he can be at times. He has that from me as well. It doesn’t really matter whether he is right or wrong, what matters is that he disagrees with whatever I want to be true.

(Student) gets along well with children who are younger than himself and with adults. Many of the interests of the kids his own age haven’t caught on with him yet. He’d rather be outside and active than inside and in front of a pc. Programs about trucking and machines will hold his attention for hours at a time, if we let him. It seems he is going to be able to utilize this interest in his studies. He is taking vocational classes. There he is learning how to drive various vehicles used by logistical companies. After he has gotten his regular license, his school will pay for the additional classes needed to get his truck-driver’s license.

Water fights are one of (student)’s favorite hobbies when the weather here is warm. There is something about water that has an incredible attraction for him. When he was little this could have unfortunate results for our home, but thankfully he has outgrown his flooding tendencies.

(Student) likes knowing what rules apply in different situations. That way he gets to concentrate on the important stuff rather than having to try to figure out what he is allowed or not allowed to do in a given social situation.

According to (student) we are incredibly boring parents. This is probably true. We’re also ancient beings, and that is also true seen with the eyes of a 16-year old.

(Student) has dyslexia. That makes him a slow reader. He loves reading though and uses audio books so he can get through as many books as he wants to. I also read to him sometimes. He seems to like just about any category. Whether he is reading scientific magazines or mysteries doesn’t matter. If the subject interests him, he’ll absorb details that often escape other people.

My hope for a host family is that they will be people who will care for, and care about, my son. Religion or family structure does not matter to us. What we need are decent people who don’t mind boys who don’t fit the stereotypes in all ways. (student) is, after all, one of the two most precious people in our lives.

Best regards

sign.

Brev til vertsfamilie / Dear host-family

Dear Host family:

My name is (student), and I will be 17 in November 2011. In this letter you will find information about me, my family, (home country) and the (home country) school.

About me:

I am 16 years old. My birthday is (date).

My favorite channels on TV are Discovery and National Geographic. I have learned a lot of stuff from them.

I like horse riding. I’ve been riding for about 10 years. Dancing is another of my hobbies. I’ve tried most of the forms most except hip-hop and break. I also like driving cars and riding bikes.

I’ve worked in a pet shop, a food store and a toy store. I love small children and I worked in a kindergarten for 2 days as part of a school assignment.

My best friend is 12 years old. His name is (friend). His grandparents live next-door, and I visit them a lot. They are like my spare grandparents. We like to discuss everything between heaven and earth. We find solutions to everything from bullying to environmental problems.

I am member in a political group named (name of group). I’ve also been on the student council.

My favorite subjects at school are English, Social Science and Math. The subject I like the least is Norwegian.

I love traveling, and I dislike sitting still. If I could decide, we would be on the move all the time from sunrise to sunset.  I am restless and almost nothing can happen soon enough. I love to be outdoor with friends and/or family especially when it’s warm outside.

I like playing cards. I love animals. That’s why I sold 200 boxes of cookies in order to help an animal shelter.

I try to stay healthy, so I am careful with what I eat and I try to exercise. Did I mention that I’m a vegetarian?

I love going to musicals. I also like going to the opera, ballet and other dance performances.

I used to take piano classes, and I have been in a drama club.

I’m environmentally conscious. I like environmentally friendly technology and things that slow down or can stop global warming. Taking care of the ecosystem that our earth is matters a great deal to me – even if I do things that aren’t always environmentally friendly.

I like to cuddle with my dog and to take it for walks. I love riding out in the nature and I love farms with animals. The woods are only about 300 yards from our home, and I like spending time there with my dog.

Something that is very important to me is equality. Sexual orientation, gender or age shouldn’t matter. Animals and humans should have nice lives now and in the future.

My blog is at (name of blog)

About my family:

My dad works as a (title) and has a (education). He’s worked for (place of employment) for over 20 years and he’s 53 years old.

I have a supermom who is 46.

My brother is attending his last year at high school.

I have a dog named (name of pet). 

Last year we had 6 guinea pigs, but one after one died until only one was left. We gave her to a home with another guinea pig. That way she wouldn’t be lonely.

About my country and city:

Norway has a population of about 5 million and it is a little bit bigger than Montana and a little smaller than California. Texas is one and a half times the size of Norway and has about five times the population of Norway.

About half an hour drive from the national airport (OSL, Gardermoen) and the same distance from Norway’s capital Oslo we live in a little area called Skjetten. Skjetten has a population of about 10 000 people.

Norway is mostly made up of mountains. Up north you can see the midnight sun and Aurora Borealis (the northern light).

The Norwegian school:

You start at the age of 6. We have 7 years of elementary school (Obligatory).  After that there are 3 years of junior high (Obligatory). Finally, 3 years of high school are recommended but not obligatory.

Our High School is a lot different from yours. Here you can choose if you want to go 3 years at school taking regular subjects. Or you can take 2 years of vocational studies and two years as a trainee in your chosen field. Choices are fields such as Mechanics or Food and Health.

My studies are called Service and Transportation the first year. After that I’ve chosen Transportation and Logistics. After school I can start to work as a trainee at a bus-, truck- or logistics company. During my studies I will get my car license and truck driver license from school.

Why I want to come to the US:

Some of my answers are the usual answers like: I want to improve my English skills, learn about another culture and another country. I also want to learn to see things from another perspective and I want to grow as a person. I don’t think it’s fair to leave it with that because it is not the whole reason. I’m going to call it my American dream.                                  

Love from (student) (16 years) from Norway.