Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Student Exchange Program Not Always Cool

19 Year Old Polish exchange student Michael Gromek spent a year in America. The first six months, which were as long as he could stand, were with a Christian Fundamentalist family in Winston-Salem. He writes an account of the experience for Der Spiegel Online.

Things began to go wrong as soon as I arrived in my new home in Winston-Salem, where I was to spend my year abroad. For example, every Monday my host family would gather around the kitchen table to talk about sex. My host parents hadn't had sex for the last 17 years because -- so they told me -- they were devoting their lives to God. They also wanted to know whether I drank alcohol. I admitted that I liked beer and wine. They told me I had the devil in my heart.
See, here's the thing about exchange student hosting. They are supposed to learn about their culture, you are supposed to learn about theirs. Behavior like this kinda violates the host/guest equilibrium:
They woke me every Sunday morning at 6:15 a.m., saying 'Michael, it's time to go to church.' I hated that sentence. When I didn't want to go to church one morning, because I had hardly slept, they didn't allow me to have any coffee.
The dude is EUROPEAN, for God's sake! They need coffee more than Seattle residents!

Michael was eventually relocated to a more tolerant host family, where he stayed out the year presumably waking up in a cold sweat fearing he was surrounded by exorcists.

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