IC Spotlight / Life in the U.S.

A day in the life of an International Coordinator – Mid-Stay Orientation in Texas

Have you ever wondered what an International Coordinator (IC) does throughout the year? Our local coordinators are the primary point of contact for our students and host families. They check in with each of their students and families at least once a month, they may offer non-mandatory get togethers but they also bring their students together for three mandatory orientations. Today we’ll join Glenda, one of our wonderful IC’s in Houston, TX, as she takes her group of students to visit fellow IC Starla in Corpus Christi for a joint mid-stay orientation.

Glenda initially started out as a host mom in 2015 and quickly joined Aspect as a coordinator. Glenda says, “Three months after hosting, I KNEW I wanted to be more involved. I wanted to make a difference with more than one kid at a time! So, I became a coordinator! Now I get to make a difference in about ten kids’ lives per year!” This year Glenda’s family is hosting a young lady from Spain and additionally, she is mentoring 12 students from 9 different countries as an International Coordinator (IC). For this year’s mid-stay orientation, she decided to team up with fellow IC Sheryl from San Antonio, and take their joint group of students to visit fellow IC’s Starla and Debbie in Corpus Christi.

Enjoying dinner! (left front to back) Mahmure from Georgia, Sofia from Italy, Elisa from Italy, IC Glenda’s husband Jason, IC Glenda, Marta from Spain, Ivana from Spain, Maja from Germany, (right back to front) Lav from Serbia, IC Starla’s husband Frank, IC Sheryl, Lea from Belgium, Dinara from Kazakhstan, Rebecca from Germany and Maria Luisa from Brazil

The group drove down to Corpus Christi on Saturday and started off their mid-stay orientation weekend by having lunch at Whataburger, a fast-food chain that originated and is based in Texas. As Glenda explains laughing, “It’s a Texas thing!” The students were also excited to visit the replica of the very first Whataburger location and couldn’t believe that back in 1950 a burger was only 35 cents!

The students getting ready for lunch and having fun visiting the replica of the original Whataburger location

Back at IC Starla’s home, Glenda, Starla, Debbie and Sheryl and all their students held their mid-stay orientation. During the orientation, the students have the opportunity to talk about their experience so far, how they’ve grown, how their expectations may have changed and what they still want to do with the short time that they have left in the US. Overall, the orientation gives the students a chance to share their feelings with others who know and understand perfectly what it feels like, namely other exchanges students and of course, their coordinators. As Sofia from Italy, who is being hosted by Starla and her husband, describes it: “What I enjoyed the most was the fact that I was able to talk to other exchange students, and to have the opportunity to reflect and think about what we’ve done during these 5 months, and what will come in the next ones. ”

The next day Glenda’s husband, Jason, and Starla’s husband, Frank, took the group of students to visit the USS Lexington while Glenda, Starla and Sheryl had an IC work lunch. The students had fun learning about the long history of the USS Lexington first watching a 3D movie and then afterwards being able to tour the ship and see the areas where the sailors used to sleep, cook, eat, train and even where they went to see the dentist and doctor! As Sofia from Italy describes it: “The visit at the USS Lexington was amazing: even though I’ve been in Corpus for 5 months I could’ve never imaged the ship to be like that. We were able to see how a society could have survived there for a long time. It was really unbelievable!” In the meantime, Glenda was able to offer advice and encouragement on how to find host families for the upcoming school year as well as answer any questions that Starla and Sheryl had. Starla and Sheryl joined the Aspect team this past fall so it was fun for all three of them to be able to get together and just talk about “coordinator stuff”, as Glenda calls it with a laugh.

The students having fun exploring and learning about the USS Lexington

Once the kids came back from their exciting excursion, they all talked about what they had seen and learned and what they found most interesting. For evening entertainment, Glenda says “We had games, we had movies, we had puzzles, we had all kinds of things to do. The kids all chose karaoke again, just like the night before! We were all sitting around in the living room and had the words up on the big screen TV. They all had fun singing at the same time!” What a perfect ending to a social, fun and informative mid-stay orientation weekend in Texas!

Would you also like to work with students from across the world? We are always looking for great candidates in many communities, large and small, across the U.S. For more information about the International Coordinator position and how to apply check out our website!