Caution for the Parents and Students Wishing to go to the US on the Student Exchange Program

You might be just like most of the students and their parents, who are usually very glad to find the students' name on the list of the accepted or winning candidates for the US Student Exchange program.
 
During the past decades, there have been many happy stories aobut the wonderful experiences of being in the US as an exchange student living with the kind and knowledgeable families.  Thus, there is an increasing number of people want to become exchange students.  Also, many companies see the opportunities to profit from this market demand for students wanting to go to the US on the student exchange programs.
 
Naturally, when the number is large the quality varied.  Those good organizers and good programs still continue operating, but usually with very highly competitive criteria for selection of the students and very strict rules in selecting and matching the host families to the students.  They also have a huge team of hands on professional to look after the students' affairs while in the US to ensure the pleasant experiences while they are there.
 
On the contrary, there are a number of names frequently mentioned in relation with questionable practices in the name of foreign exchange students programs, such as, ASSE, ISE, CCI, ERDT Share, AISE, CHI, ASPECT, EF Foundation for Foreign Study,  etc.  Myself have had a very gravely disappointed experience with International Student Exchange Corporation, headquartered in New York operated through a network call SMG (Student Management Group) and INTO (Into-Edventure). the details of which already is available at:  
 
Another name that have been brought to my attention is ASSE.  For details please see the articles below and make your own judgement:
 
I am not making any judgement about ASSE here and now.  The points here are:
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1) This is a collection of cases of bad practices in Exchange Students Handling in which ASSE is either mentioned or involved.  I would like all potential exchange students and their parents to check these information.  Make a few telephone calls to the parents of other cases involved for first hand information before using any further services by ASSE.
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2) There were two articles here from ASSE one of which shows complete ignorance of the on going or pass problems involved its foreign students.  The other was simply wrecklessly libelous.
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3) Lets begin with the latest information from a shocked and displeased host family about ASSE's handling of the students, Dr. Peter C. Riley
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"I am a host parent for a Thai student who has been with us since 8/25/07.  My family and I are new to the exchange program, and this is our first exchange hosting experience.  I can tell you that I have not been pleased with the experience thus far, primarily due to the inadequacy of the agency we hosted through – ASSE.
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First, our student arrived on 8/25 and was met at the airport by my family—there was no ASSE rep to be found.  Not only that, we have yet to receive a call, visit, or other communication from a local rep for ASSE.  I have complained to Ms. Helga Brandt (Western Regional person at ASSE), only to be quoted about minimum State Department requirements and that ASSE was not in violation of any of them.  From day one, our student has shown a bare minimum of English speaking and communicating capability.  We were told by her high school that unless she raised her ability to a minimum level, she would be removed from school per the school district’s policy.  I voiced our concerns to Ms. Brandt and was told that our student had passed a ESL test (46 scored with 45 being a passing grade) and she sent me a PDF of a scanned test score sheet which had nothing more than multiple choice bubbles filled in.  I explained to her that a multiple choice test answer sheet does not constitute a minimum capability, and she replied that ASSE was not in violation of anything. 
 
I am not happy with the way ASSE has handled our situation thus far.  ASSE tells me that our student has a local rep, though none of us has yet to meet him/her.  Last night our student tells me that there are 5 exchange students in New Mexico that she went to English camp with that do not have host families or a school to attend.  She has been receiving frantic phone calls from them since Saturday to ask for help in locating host families. 
 
I find it appalling that a local rep was not present at the airport when our student arrived, and has yet to call us or our student.  I have spoken to other host families that have hosted through Rotary International, and they tell me a whole different story of what a wonderful experience their hosting is.  One gentleman and his family have hosted 27 kids over the years.  In the span of 4 short weeks,  have been soured by our experience and will not host again
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4) Three Thai students arriving in the US through arrangement of ASSE without any school nor permanent host families:
Dear Danielle,
 
I confirmed that the following two Thai students do not have a permanent family as of yet. I am unsure if the third student has a permanent family or not.  I’ve been out of touch with her for a week.  I’m including their ASSE IDs in case they are helpful.

 

  Student                     Phone          Address             ASSE ID            Current   
                                                                                                       Host  Family       

Chiraporn              716-834-1047     73 Newport Ave     TH112EE        Joanne         
Sermsuksantikun                          Buffalo, Syracuse,                     
(aka Ing)                                        NY 14216

Supharet              716-837-6331     12 Coburg             TH105EE      Costuros, Barb
Knampheeran                               St Buffalo,
  (aka Bew)                                   NY 14216 
 
Phonlaphat          716-692-3096     487 Deerfield Dr     TH106EE       Mike and Sandra  
Suriya                                          North Tonawanda, 
(aka Meen)                                   Widmer,  NY 14120     
You may also want to talk to Ms. Syracuse and Ms. Costuros.  I have heard that these women have felt pressured into keeping their students beyond the 30 days they agreed to.  In fact, the Donelson’s asked all the host families to sign the attached document without providing them a copy to keep. It was received as attachment by some host families, however, some of the host families were elderly persons and unlikely online or computer literate. I have heard that the Donelson’s then told these women that by signing this paper they agreed to keep the students for as long as it takes to find a host family.  If you read the agreement, it says nothing like that.  

-Jim Hale

5)  A Thai students arrived in the US through ASSE without a school nor a permanent host family.

 
Ravee Suksawat of Thailand 
Born:  20 May 89
 
Dear Ms. Melofchik, Ms. Dickerson, Ms. Findlay, Ms. Martin and Ms. Lawrence:
 
Please be advised that ASSE International participant Ravee Suksawat remains in Tennessee without a permanent host family; and remains without a high school to attend.
 
Mr. and Mrs. Wilburn of Knoxville, Tennessee have hosted Ravee Suksawat for the ESL program and have grown very fond of him.  
 
ASSE International provided Mrs. Wilburn the contact information for Ravee's next host family for the academic year; a Larry and Janifer Ball of Penokee, Kansas.  
 
On Sept. 1, 2007, Mrs. Wilburn telephoned Mrs. Bell to introduce herself and confirm that Ravee would be on a flight from Tennessee to Kansas departing at 5:44 am the following morning.
 
Mrs. Bell responded to Mrs. Wilburn that she didn't know that she and her husband had been accepted, assigned a student to host -- or anything.  This concerned Mrs. Wilburn who contacted her local ASSE coordinator Ms. Amber Wallen.  Ms. Wallen suggested that Mrs. Wilburn of Tennessee telephone CSFES.
 
Mrs. Wilburn decided against Ravee boarding the flight to Kansas the following morning.
 
I would like to provide you with the following contact information:
 
Mrs. Theresa Wilburn:  865-922-1858      Tennessee               
Mrs. Janifer Bell:         785-421-4118      Kansas
 
 
Mrs. Wilburn spoke with Laura Johnson of ASSE International of California.  Mrs. Johnson's focus was how long ASSE has been in business.  Mrs. Johnson's focus was how "very reputable" ASSE is" and finally, Mrs. Johnson's response to Mrs. Wilburn was, "I don't know why Mrs. Bell said that."
 
Kansas' ASSE area representative, Mr. Ron Fontenot can be reached at 785-737-4951.  It is Mr. Fontenot whose name is listed at Ravee's ASSE area representative on the ASSE Host Family Placement Form.
 
When I spoke with Mr. Fontenot; his response was that ASSE's Valerie Kampfer (785) 266-2715 tells him that 'this is the way it is supposed to be done.'
 
While these ASSE representatives appear to focus the blame on the neighboring ASSE representative, the fact remains that Ravee continues to live in Tennessee without a permanent host family or secured high school to attend.
 
Ravee has contacted his mother in Thailand.  She paid $300 for Ravee to fly to Kansas and also concerned.
 
Thank you for your immediate attention that this matter deserves.
 
Respectfully, 

Danielle Grijalva, Director
Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students
P.O. Box 6496 / Oceanside, CA 92052
www.csfes.org / 866-471-9203
6)  Bad host family received repeated assigned foreign exchange students from ASSE, and always find excuses to send the students home only after a very short time.
Regarding ASSE International participant:  Marc Jaubert of FRANCE
 
Dear Ms. Melofchik, Ms. Dickerson, Ms. Findlay, Ms. Martin and Ms. Lawrence:
 
Marc Jaubert of France left Knoxville, Tennessee on August 25, 2007 and is currently living with host family:
 
Stuart and Heidi Jackson
128 N. Van Brant Blvd.
Kansas City, MO  64123
816-418-3318
 
 
It has been reported to CSFES by ASSE International representative Amber Wallen that Marc has been crying uncontrollably since being placed in this home and feels unsafe in the neighborhood.  Amber Wallen's contact information:  home telephone:  865-947-2823. 
 
Marc Jaubert's ASSE International area representative in Missouri is:  Christina Evans, telephone:  816-617-5173.
 
Last week, Ms. Evans gave an ultimatum to Marc that he needs to adjust or he will be sent back home.
 
Please be advised that on Tuesday, September 4, ASSE International is repatriating Marc Jaubert.
 
At approximately 8:20 am on Monday, September 3, ASSE International Regional Director Shannon Cochran will remove Marc Jaubert from the Jackson residence and will depart Missouri to France on Tuesday, September 4. 
 
Note the names of former exchange students who were also not able to continue to reside in this residence Marc was placed:
  • Marianne of Norway
  • Rosario of Italy
 
Please be informed that a student from the Czech Republic has already been selected to be placed in the above-referenced residence.
 
It is an obvious pattern to blame the student for the placement breakdown.  This is not what the natural parents agreed to when they sent their son/daughter to the United States. 
 
Respectfully,
 

Danielle Grijalva, Director
Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students
P.O. Box 6496 / Oceanside, CA 92052
www.csfes.org / 866-471-9203
7) A very irresponsible reply from ASSE's partner in Thailand
Subject: RE: Concern for students from Thailand in US
From: "Artistarn Rimtong, YES, Thailand"
Date: Thu, September 06, 2007 10:59 pm
To: Dear Ms Grivalja,
 
Over our 10 years working in close partnership with ASSE, our office has never had any problem and it's more that a trust, which is a good relationship between our organisations.  If there should be something,  ASSE is always successful in finding solutions that work well for all of us. Your  action in sending this email is absolutely disturbing and your judgment is totally unacceptable and I myself strongly disagree with that.  We would therefore ask you to stop immediately sending your emails to us and even to our students or their natural parents in the future.  If you insist sending, I have to tell you your future emails will be definitely ignored.
 
Sincerely yours,
Artistarn Rimthong
Director of YES/ASSE partnership
8)  A Letter from ASSE to the exchange student's natural parent containing completely groundless lie and libelous statement.
Ústředí ASSE zjistilo, že paní Daniela Grijalva je soukromá osoba, která si
založila nějaký výbor, který se skládá jen z její osoby. Nikdy si žádné
stížnosti neověří a podle ostatních e-mailů, které ASSE dostala od různých
osob je zřejmé, že ji vůbec nejde o blaho studentů, což je škoda.
Několik organizací v USA i v zahraničí si již na ni oficiálně stěžovalo
Státnímu Departmentu USA. Dělá to prý tak, že pohrozí organizaci, že odešle
stížnosti a pokud dostane příspěvek pro svůj vlastní výbor, tak nic nepošle.
ASSE je největší organizací tohoto typu v USA a má velmi dobré kontakty se
Státním Departmentem, na mnoha projektech s ním spolupracuje.
ASSE tvrdí, že v žádném případě neporušila pravidla a všechny kroky si
napřed u Státního Departmentu nechala schválit.
To nám bohužel nepomůže, ale věřím, že Michal bude mít rodinu a školu brzy
tak, jak šéfka regionu slíbila.
Ing.Josef Motyčka, ASSE-CZ
 
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English translation:
 
The head office of ASSE found that Ms. Grijalva is a private person who founded some committee which consists of her person only. She never verifies any complains and according to other E-Mails which ASSE received from different persons, she isn’t interested in well being of students at all, this is a pity.
 
Some organizations in the USA officially complained about her at The Department of State. She is said to work in such a way that she threatens the organization to send off complains and if she gets a contribution for her own committee she doesn’t send anything.
 
ASSE is the greatest organization of this type in the USA and has very good contact with The Department of State and works together on many projects with it. ASSE claim that they didn’t violate any rules and all their steps have been confirmed by The Department of State in advance.
 
Unfortunately, this will not help, but I hope Michal will find a family and school soon as the Regional coordinator (female) promised to us.
Joseph Motycka, ASSE-CZ
If you have read as far as here, my we the concerned parents and citizen of the world thank you for your attention.  We hope that with the bad practictioners eliminated, the student exchange programs would remain as the great media of goodwill of the people of the US and the youngster of the world providing a pleasant and memorable experiences to many youngsters from around the world.

Read comment

comment 6
Piset date : 04/10/2007 time : 01.42
http://blog.nationmultimedia.com/mahwatthai
Piset
ip : 218.81.104.125
I have to show many copies of the original documents about some of these organizations, so that the parents would have more information to check on.
comment 5
Piset date : 04/10/2007 time : 01.25
http://blog.nationmultimedia.com/mahwatthai
Piset
ip : 218.81.104.125
Please be most cautious about any "deal" that is too good to be true! For example, "Work and Travel"

In most of the countries, including the US, UK, China, Thailand, Japan, travellers on the travelling visa are not allowed to work. Thus, unless the company that you work with now send you to travel in the US, chances is it is a "fake" .You must have a social security number in order to work in the US. And, if your are on tourist visa, they will not give you any SSN.

Many years ago, I had to go out of my way to stop the three daughters of one of my friends in China from taking similar kind of work. Later, they learned from those who deported back by USINS that, they were sent to work long hours in the hiding chopping up vegetables all days and nights on very very low wages and without any social security arrangement.

Thank you Khun Poomjai for your support. I only hope that my efforts will help some children and their parents avoid those suffering days and nights in the hand of those bad operators of the student exchange programs.
comment 4
Poomjai date : 03/10/2007 time : 15.44
http://blog.nationmultimedia.com/poomjai
ip : 125.24.84.105
Piset,

You know, this is a really interesting subject and I commend you for trying to publicise the shoddy practices of organisations such as ASSE. If I were a parent of a student travelling on an exchange program to the US I would be very alarmed to read about this.

Good luck with your quest!
comment 3
PasaNINJA2499 date : 30/09/2007 time : 16.09
http://blog.nationmultimedia.com/PasaNINJA2499
ip : 192.168.1.132/125.26.147.57
Yup, it is nice to the information before going abroad. My fiend will join Work and Travel program this summer. Hope she won’t get any troubles and have to call ASSE.
comment 2
Piset date : 29/09/2007 time : 23.29
http://blog.nationmultimedia.com/mahwatthai
Piset
ip : 218.81.102.129
I have been an injured party in the hand of these bad operators of student exchange program. I am determine to prevent other parents and children from suffering in the hand of these greedy and unethical people, as much as I could.
comment 1
PasaNINJA2499 date : 29/09/2007 time : 18.20
http://blog.nationmultimedia.com/PasaNINJA2499
ip : 192.168.1.132/125.26.144.43
informative blog !!
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