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Another CIEE Success Story

Updated on February 10, 2009

Fatima's Story

They say that there's nothing like a testimonial from an ordinary, average person to help advance a cause or a product. As a local coordinator for the Council for International Cultural Exchange, I receive communications about students who are looking for host homes all the time. But it's not every day that I receive a message such as the one that follows.

After getting clearance from the regional director for the Northeastern United States, I have decided to publish the message here to illustrate what a difference people have the opportunity to make in the life of a deserving young person, who has been carefully screened, and who is simply seeking a chance to experience the American way of life, even if only temporarily.

If, after you have read this hub, you feel compelled to seek more information about how to become a host family or how to become a local coordinator like me, feel free to leave a comment below. If you prefer privacy, you may contact me by email, so we can talk about details.

Speaking of privacy, in order to preserve the identity of the people mentioned in this email, I have changed their names. Everything else is unedited, so nothing will be "lost in translation," so to speak.

 

I am sorry that Fatima is not going to be there next week-end. As you already know, we will be in Disney World

 

As for suggestions or problems, I really can’t think of any. Fatima is such a good fit with our family, so helpful, kind, she and Gillian get along great. She tells us of her plans in advance so we can discuss rides etc. She never asks for ANYTHING. She does have her own money so that helps her. She does well in school and seems to enjoy her classes.

Being Muslim and this being Fatima’s first Christmas, she was so excited and appreciative. She brought gifts for all of us for Christmas from Morocco and was very generous. This has been a great experience for Fatima to understand more about Americans. Of course she, along with every other exchange student we have had, have pre-conceived notions of Americans and Fatima has said several times how nice it is to have them dispelled. When she came to us she would talk about her sister back home (older) and how her sister couldn’t understand how Fatima could come all this way. It is interesting now to see that her sister is a bit jealous at Fatima’s courage and how proud Fatima is of herself…very good.

We feel very fortunate to have Fatima in our home and know that she feels fortunate too (and isn’t that nice).

Thanks and have a good time next week-end.

June

 One of the things that struck me about this email was that the author referred to previous students they have hosted. That, in and of itself, is another testimony to the kind of experience host families can hope to have with a student from another country. At the end of the day, whether we are Muslim, Christian, Jewish or Agnostic, we're all people. I tell my students at the University of Phoenix online at the beginning of each course I teach that I expect to learn as much from them as they learn from me. That's not to say that I don't have plenty of information to present to them. But it has been my experience that people come from all kinds of backgrounds, and have different influences and traditions that we can learn about in order to gain a greater understanding of their culture. Once we have learned about their culture, it is easy to break down stereotypes. Fatima came to America with preconceived notions about us. I cannot speak for Fatima's host family, but I'm sure many people out there were surprised that a Muslim student would bring Christmas gifts for her host family. I am certain that Fatima's host family will come to have a greater understanding of what it means to be a Muslim, aside from the depictions we see of the fringe elements that attacked us on 9/11.

So the bottom line is that programs like CIEE help to break down barriers, and eliminate preconceived notions. If enough people could host these students, and tell their friends and family about their experiences, perhaps we could change our views on people who have never done anything to harm us. At the end of the day, when you agree to take in a carefully screened student, you'll be changing that student's life forever, as well as your own!

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