Posts tagged: student exhange

Dona Nobis Pacem (10 Ideas for Fostering International Understanding in Your Kids)

By , November 7, 2007 12:59 am

Sometimes I am a glass half-full type of person, and sometimes I am more inclined to be a glass-half empty type.

About peace…I think I am running on empty. I feel that throughout history there never has been peace. There never will be peace in the future either. It is just human nature to fight.

Religion, which is supposed to be all about peace (no matter what the religion), seems often to make matters worse. The Crusades, the Inquisition, etc. I’ll stop my brief list there so as to not get myself into too much trouble.

The glass half-full part of me says: “Hey, wait a minute! Why not start with the children?”

Well, why not start with the children? What an excellent idea. If all the world’s children could learn about and appreciate other cultures, races, and religions, then wouldn’t there HAVE to be peace?

Glass half-empty says: “There is no way to teach every child in the world these things!”

Glass half-full says: “Maybe not, but the way to start is with our own children. Let’s teach them about the beauty of diversity.”

Yes let’s.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Here are ten thoughts on how to do that:


1) Have your child learn a foreign language, either through their school or through home, online or language school study. The US is one of the only countries in the world where a child/adult can get all the way through school, and even college and beyond, without learning another language.

2) Take your children to local multicultural events such as Chinese New Year celebrations, Greek festivals, etc. Check your local paper for details.

3) Travel with your children, which leads to the next suggestion:

4) Get your child a passport now so that he or she can travel with you when old enough, and the opportunity for foreign travel arises. Passport processing is taking a long time these days, so why not simply put it on your to-do list and get it over with right away. (Most US post offices can issue passports and even take the passport photos, it is very easy). By the way, passports are now required for air travel to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda, even for infants.

5) If your children are teens and are interested…let them be an exchange student. I did it as a teen (twice) and it totally changed my life!

Youth for Understanding (the program I used)

AFS Intercultural Programs

ASSE

6) Host an exchange student in your home (it doesn’t have to be for a year, it can be a semester, a summer, or even less!) Check out links above, or Google “international student exchange.”

7) Get your child a penpal. Google “penpal” for some sites that can arrange this. Being the paranoid parent, I would check it out carefully first though before signing up. I would choose a “snail mail” penpal over an email one, and would monitor the whole thing very carefully. Check with your child’s school too. Often penpal arrangements can be made through a teacher at school. If a teacher has contact with a teacher in a foreign country, many times classes can exchange letters.

8) Go to the library and check out an international cookbook. Cook an exotic foreign meal together, talk a little about that country, and find it on the map or globe.

9) If you and your family are really in the mood for adventure, either rent a house in a foreign country or do a house swap. A house swap is where you trade a month in your house, for a month in someone else’s house for example. Sometimes the trade even includes the use of a car. There are many websites dedicated to rentals and home swaps. The classifieds in the back of alumni magazines are also a good source. Many college alums prefer to rent their foreign house or apartment to another responsible alum rather than a total stranger.

Here are some house swap websites (note: I am not personally familiar with any of these):

HomeLink International

Home Exchange

Home Xchange Vacation

10) And of course the simplest and cheapest way to expose your children to other cultures, is to read to them. Go to the library. Read multicultural books to your children. Check my International Children’s Book Day post for detailed suggestions of books and web links to books for some ideas.

For inspiration, here are some of our favorite multicultural/international books. The last one is a real eye-opener: Material World: A Global Family Portrait, is geared more toward adults, but children will find it fascinating too, when read with an adult.

(For more info on two of these titles: I have written posts about Wake Up World, and Let’s Eat – plus another here about Let’s Eat)

Dona Nobis Pacem…Grant Us Peace – PLEASE!!!

Please visit Mimi’s Blog to find links to many, many, many more Peace Posts today.

Also, for more thoughts on peace, please visit my June Dona Nobis Pacem post.

Unplug Your Water

By , June 28, 2007 8:34 pm

When I was an exchange student to France in 1983-1984 bottled water was simply not “done” in the US. Other than Perrier, which was “fancy water,” I had never seen such a thing.

My French host family bought 6-packs of liter-sized bottles of water at the local “hypermarket” (also new to me then, similar to today’s Super Walmart, but nothing like that existed in the US at the time). This is what we drank at home. We never drank out of a tap. The thought of such a thing horrified them! I think I really confirmed their belief that Americans were culinary barbarians when I confessed that tap water was the only kind we drank in my home.

The French were very particular about their water. Each person had their favorite, and disliked the others. My French family bought Volvic. I thought they were all kind of crazy to think that water actually had a flavor until, by the end of the year, I could tell the difference too! Rather like wine, I now realize that not all water is the same.

I confess to being a Volvic person myself. I think that Evian is an acceptable substitute, but that Vittel (another popular brand in France) tastes like chalk. I really think that I could successfully identify at least these three, maybe more, in a blind tasting.

Here, I drink tap water. If I am out and about and have no water with me, I buy a bottle of whatever is cheapest at the gas station. Why don’t I use a drinking fountain, or ask for a cup (or better yet, keep a reusable cup in my car) and fill it at the sink? I don’t know. I guess I have succumbed to the brainwashing that bottled water is pure and somehow better. It even looks better in those pretty blue tinted bottles with cool and refreshing little droplets depicted on the label. Really, I think it is simply the convenience. But why has filling a cup suddenly become “inconvenient?”

Tonight I learned something new (I love it when that happens). The two leading brands of bottled water in the US (the two combined make up 24% of the US market), Dasani (Coke) and Aquafina (Pepsi), actually “purify” local tap water and bottle it locally so as to save on shipping costs. Local tap water across the US is really pretty pure already. I know that there are those who would argue with that statement, but I wonder how much of a difference you would find in a chemical analysis of local tap water and local Dasani?

Anyhow, when we buy Dasani or Aquafina, we are buying tap water like the kind we get from our tap for free (or almost free depending on where you live). I guess we can credit Coke and Pepsi with reducing their carbon footprint by not bothering to ship water across the country or around the world, but I suspect that their motivation was more their profit margin that their “greenness.”

I learned this in an NPR interview (Bottled Water: A Symbol of US Commerce, Culture) with Charles Fishman, author of an article published in Fast Company magazine about the bottled water industry. His article is entitled “Message in a Bottle.”

In his article, Mr. Fishman calls bottled water “the perfect symbol of this moment in American commerce and culture. It acknowledges our demand for instant gratification, our vanity, our token concern for health. Its packaging and transport depend entirely on cheap fossil fuel.”

Other interesting stats from the interview:

– Bottled water was introduced to the US from France in the 1980’s by Perrier and Evian.

– Americans spent $15 billion last year on bottled water.

– Americans buy about 1 billion bottles of water per week.

– Think about the fossil fuels that are used in transporting all that very heavy water!

– Although the plastic bottles are recyclable, over 70% of water bottles are not recycled.

I found this story fascinating, and quite timely for me personally. I recently experimented with buying these cute little half-pint bottles of water to throw in the car for the kids if we were on our way somewhere. Well, unfortunately the cute little bottles were way more of a hit than I had intended. What happened was that the children helped themselves to the little bottles and I found them everywhere, indoors and out, usually with just one or two sips gone.

Bye-bye cute little bottles of water! They are potentially handy, but I find that they are wasteful, promote littering, encourage laziness (on the part of the kids and myself), and send a message that disposability is fine.

Who knew that there was so much to be said about something as simple as drinking water!

Listen to the interview here. Read the article here.

Thanks to morguefile.com and photographer ostephy for this photo.

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