At some point during the last 2 months I've been thinking about needing to write— I swear. But let me explain why I've been so busy this summer...
At the end of May I got a promotion with the company I work for (yayyy!). But with it of course came more responsibility and work. What I do is I find homes that are open to hosting international students for 1-6 weeks during the summer for a private academy in Pasadena. The Chinese students anywhere from 10-16 years old came to our school along with American students from our local
Charter schools for a summer enrichment camp. Where classes like cultural literature and art, vocals, acting, dancing, chess, English, animation, fashion, film making, and photography were taught.
What I didn't realize I became- was a sales woman. We were short 10 homes to place students, so we had to do anything necessary to get homes: walk door to door, flier at farmers markets, put fliers on car windsheilds, post on craigslist, etc. In the desperation of being short homes, I called past hosts that said they could not participate this summer again and again- just to check that they were still unavailable, because, hey, you just never know.
If you are unfamiliar of the "host international students" shtick–let me explain and maybe sell you on participating. (kidding... kind of...)
Young, Chinese students come to attend our Summer camp, and on the weekends go on excursions with their group. You open your home to them to stay in their own bedroom, each with their own bed to live in and get the "traditional, American home" experience. You act as their parent, because remember the kids are 10-16 years old, drive them to school, pick them up after Disneyland, make sure they get to bed on time, teach them to spend their money wisely (because they carry $1,000 cash) etc etc. It's an amazing cultural exchange, especially if you have young children (plus you're paid!). They have minimal to excellent English skills, but their goal is really to practice their English. Sound like something you're interested in?????????
See what I mean....
Working with the community and with students was really rewarding and as difficult as it may seem. On call 24/7 and in the office 9-14 hours a day leaves little room for basic human routines (sleeping, showering ...kidding!, exercise, eating, blogging? what is that?).
Imagine managing 200 Chinese students, plus all 50 of the host parents. And the demands coming from every which way, like these: student lost a cell phone and $500 cash, a parent is repeatedly calling me to explain an issue between her 4 students, a parent calling because she needs to pick up her check, a Chinese group leader repeatedly asking for a solution to her student that doesn't like his homestay, coordinating chaperones for the groups going to the mall and my travel agent waiting for emails for the homestay information of groups arriving on the weekend. Just to name a few of the dozens of things that need to be done with a sense of urgency and immediacy.
I haven't even mentioned, that between all of that, I was also a host-sitter for a family that had a weekend trip planned long before committing to participating in the summer program. They were such a great family that for me to stay in their home with their 3 exchange students was an amazing opportunity to really get the feel of what it's like to host. And it's not easy, especially getting up at 3:30am to get them to the school at 4am to catch their flight.
The easiest thing I'll do this year is plan a wedding.
Well not really— but it will be easier than what I endured this summer.
One thing I wish I could have been better with was interacting with the students. Calls from host parents, paperwork and other coordinating and planning took all of my time that stepping out of the office to mingle with the kids in their classes was pretty difficult. As you can imagine the language barrier was difficult to manage, learning Chinese is my next goal after summer. And going to China is in the foreseeable future!
The program is still going on, but much more manageable, we're down to our last two groups here. I'm looking forward to getting to spend more time with the kids that are here and keeping in touch with the Chinese leaders I grew rather close to. We talk and share photos through WeChat (WeChat- Wēixìn, in Chinese, is a social networking, messaging, all-in-one app that is highly popular in China,)
What I got from my job, were truly, invaluable relationships created with amazing people across the world.... and that– was worth all of the work.