Support and Supervision Manager teaches young students about the challenges of an exchange year in America
Support and Supervision Manager Lamese Hasan addresses the class.

PAX staff ready students for what's ahead

For those 2015/16 PAX students who already have an American host family and have arrived in the U.S., it was time to hunker down for the experience ahead last week (after a magical day in Manhattan, that is). With friends and family hundreds or thousands of miles away and armed only with “big dreams, big hopes, a little English, and big suitcases”—as PAX’s The Ostrich & The Giraffe exchange student fable goes—things were starting to sink in.

Sensing this, PAX staff sought the right balance between boosting their confidence and challenging them to get as much out of the day as possible. The students were asked to consider possible conflict scenarios in their host families and schools, imagine what culture shock may feel like, reexamine expectations, and explore hopes and fears. At day’s end, one Mexican participant confessed this last exercise was what she found to be most useful, especially sharing the hopes and fears with her two neighbors. “Seeing that others are worried about the same things was reassuring,” she explained.

Extremely excited upon arrival, one German student left feeling more confident and clearheaded. “I still see that this will be a great experience,” he said, “but I now understand better that it will not be easy. Luckily, I feel like I have the necessary tools.” Perhaps more important than the tools or information is the mindset taught during arrival orientations—summed up best in The Ostrich & The Giraffe: “Ask questions. Keep an open mind. Think about other people. Say ‘thank you.’ Stick your neck out—be a PAX giraffe.”

Best of luck, PAXers. We know you’ll do great!