This week I was back in my "teacher" mode with a fantastic group of teenage exchange students who will spend this year in the US. They were fresh off the plane, although worn from their trip and from the farewell parties in their home countries. Ah, but teenagers bounce back. They were full of questions and we were full of answers that didn't match their questions. We keyed in on safety in a new environment. They wanted specifics, what will my life be like kind of questions. Is it really possible to prepare these students for the next few days, weeks and months? Our instructor guidebook thought so. We tried.
Being an exchange student isn't all glamour, believe me. I was one in Lima, Peru. Adjusting to a culture is work, hard work. It's also something that can't be explained. It must be lived, a fact these students I just met and worked with and listened to will learn soon enough.
As I've talked with the former students of Pilot Mountain School, I've caught a few stories about adjusting to a new completely different environment. Several people, as adults looking back, compared their experiences of moving into the community to that of being an exchange student.
Interview One: This was like coming to a different country, like going way back in time.
Interview Two: It was like a culture shock, I think that’s what they would call it now, even for children reared in the country. Not only the size of the school, but the people, they were just different. To seven and eight year olds, it was like going to a different world.
Interview Three: I remember the language was a lot different. The vocabulary was different, phrases that were said. I can’t remember any of them now because I’ve adapted and I use some of them myself, so they don’t sound strange now.
There, that comment from Interview Three, the one about the vocabulary not sounding strange anymore because he's adapted....That's what I wanted these modern day exchange students to realize. Some day soon they will wake up and realize nothing is strange anymore.
Then, mission accomplished.
Catch of the day,