Foreign Exchange Friday: Fall Fun in the Mid-Atlantic

Here are some fun fall and Halloween related events going on throughout Maryland, Delaware and the surrounding areas that families and students can check out!


Jack-o-lantern (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you’ve already picked out your pumpkins, learn how to carve it into a jack-o-lantern!

Want to more about why Americans celebrate Halloween?
If you know of some other Halloween or fall events going on around Delaware or Eastern Maryland, leave a comment!


Foreign Exchange Friday: Travel Options for Students

Geographic center of the contiguous United Sta...

Geographic center of the contiguous United States is located in United States (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

EF offers safe, chaperoned tours of the US for our exchange students.  It’s a good time for students to look into this, as these tours fill up quickly!

Who can go on Discovery Tours?
In addition to EF exchange students, the trips are open to host siblings (ages 15-19) as well as any friends at school. EF students can travel on any tour within their host country. (Students living in the U.S. can go on the U.S. tours, students in the UK can go on the UK tours, and students in Ireland can go on the Ireland tours.)

What is the payment schedule?
For spring 2014 tours a $250 non-refundable deposit is due at the time of booking. The rest of the trip must be paid in full by 90 days before the trip departs. The regular deadline to sign up for the trip is also 90 days before departure; if you sign up after that point, you’ll have to pay a late fee.

U.S. Trip Options

The East Coast (8 Days):

See American history come to life and experience an amazingly diverse array of cultures on a trip to Boston, New York City and the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C.

DC and New York City (5 Days):

From the stately national capital to the one and only Big Apple, experience two of America’s most iconic cities.

The California Coast (8 Days):

The country’s most populous state is a treasure of famous sights, beautiful scenery, and rich culture. See everything from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco to the stars of Hollywood.

L.A. and the Grand Canyon (8 days):

From Los Angeles to Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon, experience glitz, glamour and nature at its most spectacular.

San Francisco (4 Days):

From Fisherman’s Wharf to the Golden Gate Bridge, discover why San Francisco is considered one of the most beautiful cities in the U.S.

Discover Florida (7 Days):

Visit Florida’s most beloved attractions, including Walt Disney World, Universal Studios and the scenic beaches of Fort Lauderdale.

Hawaii (7 Days):

Travel from the U.S. mainland to the tropical island paradise of Hawaii. Experience the alluring culture, rich history and natural beauty of America’s 50th state.

To book your trip, you can register online!

For questions about our EF Discovery Tours, call 1-800-634-8351 or email

Foreign Exchange Friday: Get Involved!

A Highschool American Football game

A Highschool American Football game (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now that school is started, it’s time to start settling into a routine.  Most schools have a wide variety of activities to join – sports, drama, music…all great ways to meet new friends who have similar interests.

Families – talk to your student about what kinds of things they are interested in and help them explore their options.  Have them speak with teachers, counselors or classmates to find out what they can join and when.  Are there tryouts?  Did the season already begin?  Do they allow late joiners?

Even if a student has quite found something that attracts them yet, encourage them to attend social activities such as football games.  Most students have probably never attended an American football game or are even familiar with it, so it’s a great way to experience the culture of the country and the school itself.  Check the school sports schedule and offer to drop off and pick up your student – or atten with them!

Another place students can get involved are with community groups, such as churches or other places of worship or volunteer groups.  If your student wishes to practice their religion, families should help them find somewhere to do so or ask the local IEC for help.  There, they can also meet people or join a youth group.  If your student enjoyed volunteering back home, see if that is a possibility in your area.  Food banks, schools or hospitals may allow them to volunteer a few hours.

Students are here to experience American school and family life, but they should also explore things they like and are interested in.  Encourage them in finding their place and their year will be better!  I know my best memories of both high school and college were of the “fun” things – sporting events, band – and some of my own best friends were made there.  This could be a great way for your student to bridge the cultural gaps and see that teenagers are all pretty much the same.

Foreign Exchange Friday: Creating A Bucket List

Bucket List word cloud #3

Bucket List word cloud #3 (Photo credit: mccmicb)

A good way to for students to experience the American and local culture is to create a bucket list.  A bucket list is a wish list – come up with some activities, events or short trips you want to experience together.  Both students AND families should come up with one and compare – see what kinds of fun things you can plan for the year.  It’s certainly not necessary to plan out every single activity for the year, but it gives a good idea of what is coming up during the year.  It gives everyone something to look forward to!

Items on your list can be a simple as celebrating a holiday like Halloween, Thanksgiving or Christmas together.  It doesn’t need to be elaborate or expensive – just ideas of fun family activities that will allow students to get the most of their year in the area they are living in.  If you’re not sure what to do, ask friends, neighbors or Google.  Students can ask friends, teachers or other community members they meet (for example, if they attend church).

I’ve created an example of ideas for Northern Delaware as a jumping-off point.

Sample Bucket List

What are some ideas that I could add?  What would you include on your Bucket List?  I’d love some suggestions – feel free to add them in the comments.

Foreign Exchange Friday: Culture Shock


Anxiety (Photo credit: Rima Xaros)

According to TeensHealth, culture shock is “a common way to describe the confusing and nervous feelings a person may have after leaving a familiar culture to live in a new and different culture.”  This is extremely common, not just for exchange students, but anyone moving to a new country or even a new part of the country.

Culture shock may not set in immediately.  At first, feelings of excitement will probably be the most evident, but after being immersed in the new culture for some time, some common symptoms may arise, such as:

  • sadness
  • loneliness
  • anxiety
  • feeling left out
  • frustration
  • overwhelming negative feelings
  • extreme homesickness

It may be a natural reaction to want to withdraw and be alone or isolate yourself, but you should do the opposite.  Don’t dwell on it and talk to someone you trust if your feelings don’t change or sort themselves out.

Do your best to become comfortable with the language.  Some frustration could be coming from an inability to understand what’s being said.  Practice and immerse yourself in it as much as possible.  Resisting and speaking only in your own language will continue the isolation . Make yourself familiar with the culture you’ll be visiting.  It may not be as overwhelmingly different if you have an idea of what to expect.

Ask for help.  EF Foundation provides a great support unit for students, including host families, International Exchange Coordinators, Regional Coordinators and Program Support Managers.  Your school will also have counselors you can speak with.  You can also just talk to friends.  Friends who are part of your new culture can help you better understand it.  Meanwhile, you can educate people about your own culture.  That’s the best part of the cultural exchange experience!

Remember that your exchange year is a time to learn and grow and it may not always be easy.  Things aren’t good or bad – just different and your experience will depend on how you deal with these differences.

Foreign Exchange Friday: Overcoming Homesickness


Homesickness (Photo credit: Kalexanderson)

As students arrive to begin their exchange years, they may be excited to be here, but they may suffer a bit of homesickness as well.

Homesickness is very common and can pop up at any time.  It may be present right after arrival, a few weeks in, around the holidays or birthdays, or even several months into the experience.  Regardless of when it happens, it’s important to make sure it doesn’t stick around for too long!

There are some easy ways to keep homesickness from ruining your experience.

  1. Talk to someone!  Talk to your host family, IEC, RC, PSM, a friend…but talk it out!
  2. Keep busy!  Get involved in activities at school.  Play a sport, join a club, participate in a music group.  If you attend church regularly, find out what opportunities for involvement may exist there.
  3. Limit your contact with home and online.  While technology makes communicating with friends and family back home so much easier, it’s not healthy to spend all your free time online with them, especially when you’re homesick.  It will only make it worse and it will take away from time you could be spending with your “new” family here in the US.
  4. Share the things you miss about home with your host family.  This is a great way to open up the cultural exchange that can be such a great part of this program.  Talk to them about the differences you may be struggling with and see what advice they have.
  5. Do something that relaxes you and makes you feel better – listen to music, take a walk, exercise.  That can help to elevate your mood.
  6. Remember that being homesick is normal.  It’s okay to be sad or miss things about home.
  7. Give yourself time to adjust and get to know your new surroundings.
  8. You’re not alone!  You have a great support unit around you to help you.  We’ve all been there and are happy to help.

Host families, if you see symptoms of homesickness, encourage your student to talk about it.  If you have any difficulties or need advice, remember that your IEC, RC and Program Support Manager are always available to help you and your student through it.