Got another form letter back from the New York embassy yesterday:
Not a peep from the VAC about it being posted via SMS, email, or junk mail (I assume physical post?) Don’t have a receipt from the VAC with any number to track either. From what I’ve found, they can take up to 10-15 business days to send it out, so it might be sitting around in New York until August 15th for all I know. Ugh, whatever. As long as it gets here before the start of September. Surely to god it doesn’t take a month to send an already approved visa and passport back?
Anyway, may as well focus on something brighter and more useful, so I thought I’d tell you all about my family and our history of hosting exchange students. We have had exchange students nearly every year since I was 15 – almost a decade now. I have been honored to learn from students from Germany, South Korea, Finland, Switzerland, Thailand, and Mexico while they lived with us for nearly a year. Living with internationals can sometimes be rough at first as you both get a crash-course in cultural differences, but by the end you have a new member of the family. I cannot help but believe that this unique experience has led me in the direction to where I am going now.
I cannot recommend hosting an exchange student enough. You learn so much about their worldview as well as your own (and oh are teenagers brutally honest), and it’s the closest thing to broadening your mind with travel if you cannot afford to travel yourself. You will be wiser on current events around the world and start to see the US from a foreign perspective. You get to try delicious food they cook and occasional sweets when family back home sends care packages. (Germany has excellent chocolate, and Finland’s cloudberries are amazing!) You will learn that language alone can greatly dictate a worldview and get an idea for a culture by the language they speak. (You will also learn the useful skill of defining abstract concepts in English to students that don’t understand the words.) You realize that other people in the world are different – not weird, not wrong, not right – just different.
If you’ve ever considered hosting an exchange student, let me recommend the programs we went through – Youth For Understanding (YFU) and Education First (EF). Hosting a student is not nearly so expensive as many people think. At the bare minimum you are only required to provide a separate bed, suitable study area and three meals per day. However, they quickly become another member of the family and you’ll end up treating them just the same. People do the programs for many reasons – to just enjoy the experience, to expand the minds of their own family, to pay it forward, to stave off empty nest syndrome, or even for the chance of a scholarship to be exchange students too! And an important point – you aren’t just given a kid with no warning. You get a list of potential students to pick from with all kinds of important criteria you can sort through like age, religion, home country, gender and hobbies.
So consider an exchange student for a year. You’ll come out a changed and better person for it. 🙂