Become A World Exchange Program Director
World Exchange, founded in 1985, is a non-profit organization concerned with international/intercultural student and adult exchanges and the development of educational and peace related projects. Our mission is to create international friendships and to improve understanding and respect between the various peoples of the world. The individuals and organizations who work with us share the same goals. We hope you'll agree that a friend in another country is another step towards world harmony.
The position of Program Director provides deeply satisfying, enjoyable, interesting and challenging work. Our International Headquarters in Putnam Valley, New York, works closely with a network of regional and local staff in the United States and Canada. We are a dedicated, warm, friendly and supportive group who have a good time with the people we meet through international exchange. We work hard to help make the students' and host families' homestay experiences as rewarding as possible. Many of us are, or were, teachers, social workers, business people, professionals, homemakers, retirees or volunteers. In one way or another most of us are involved with human and community concerns. This is a paid position and is likely to be one of the most incredible jobs your will ever hold. We would like to point out that this is a job that becomes easier and more enjoyable with each passing year, as you become known within your community and develop your own circle of families and contacts.
THE ROLE OF THE PROGRAM DIRECTOR
The World Exchange Program Director plays a key role in making homestays possible for the many international students who wish to visit North American host families. The position is part-time and seasonal, with the most active times of year generally being the spring and summer months. Groups usually visit for three weeks in July (arriving after the July 4th holiday) or for three weeks in August. Some areas welcome groups for 10 - 14 days in April. The Program Director is asked to do his or her best to ensure that students and host families enjoy themselves to the full in a spirit of true cooperation and friendship.
Each Program Director works cooperatively with, and under the direction of, a Regional Program Director in a given geographical area. They work closely together as a team to recruit local host families for visiting international high school students (and occasional adult Language Partners) and to arrange and oversee the actual running of the program.
World Exchange's students come mainly from France and are between fourteen and nineteen years old. They are required to have at least two years of English study. These enterprising boys and girls tend to be mature, interesting and delightful. Group leaders accompany each group and also require host families. World Exchange also receives occasional groups and individuals from other countries, such as Spain, Brazil, Japan, Turkey and the UK.
Each Program Director is given a detailed training manual and attractive program materials. Training and support meetings are held. The first part of the Director's job, without which the students' visits cannot occur, is the finding of host families to welcome them. It is typical for a Program Director to find five to ten families for students, although there is no required minimum number of families that must be found and some Directors routinely find homes for over twenty students. The Regional Program Directors count on you and other Program Directors in the area to find homes for one whole group of students--groups range from 15 to 75 students in size.
Networking is truly the essence of finding families. This can be done in a variety of ways: utilizing existing local contacts (friends, relatives, business associates), generating new contacts, working with local TV and radio stations, contacting newspapers, working with schools, PTAs, scout groups, church and civic groups, etc. It is helpful to be involved in your community and to be the type of person who enjoys public outreach.
It is not necessary for the host family to have teenagers of their own, provided they are willing to help introduce their student to neighborhood teenagers and to offer a warm, lively welcome and room and board. After interested families are found, the Program Director visits them in their homes to discuss the program and hosting experience in detail, as well as to make sure that the families will make suitable hosts. Each family is asked to complete an application, contained in the "Invite the World Home" brochure, supply two references and read and sign a Host Family Agreement. After the references are checked, the Program Director helps each family to select the student they would like to host. The students' application forms arrive between February and June: they include "Dear Host Family" letters, photos and information about the student's own family and life.
After the student/family match is made and prior to the students' arrival, the area Program Directors hold an orientation meeting for all families. Literature about hosting and cultural materials are handed out and plans for the homestay are discussed and finalized. The meeting is informal and friendly.
On arrival day, the Program Director and host families meet the students at the airport or at bus drop-off points, if the distance to the airport is too great. Approximately two-thirds of the student groups are transferred by bus. The day after the students' arrival, the Program Director meets with the overseas group leader, usually over a cup of coffee, to establish a cooperative working relationship. Together they oversee the well-being of the students and host families during the stay, ensuring that all goes smoothly. This is the phase where communication and counseling skills really come into play.
In addition to being available to families and students throughout the homestay for any needed support, the Program Director also plans and attends the daytrips (students pre-pay for these trips so there is a budget to work with) and a farewell party (a budget exists for this, also). During the summer the daytrips are usually to major cities or well known tourist attractions. April groups also spend two or more days visiting local schools. Frequently, Program Directors combine their groups for the trips. Guidelines for planning the daytrips and farewell party are provided in the training manual.
We ask Program Directors to be alert to any developing problems, ready to solve them quickly with the students, host families and group leaders involved. In the event of a transfer to a new family, homesickness, accident, illness, overnight travel, etc., you would be able to follow special guidelines, working closely with the Regional Program Director and National Headquarters staff, who will offer support seven days a week before and during the homestays.
On the final day, the Program Director coordinates planning with the Regional program Director, the host families, students and group leaders to make sure that the students arrive on time at the bus pickup point or the airport. Soon after departure, Program Directors and host families are sent a program evaluation, to help improve the program the following year. Many Directors develop strong friendships with their host families and also maintain links with the students and group leaders who visited. A surprising number of host families host again and many students and group leaders return to visit us on the following year's programs.
Over the years we have found that Program Directors benefit as much or more than the visiting students and their host families. Many have established life-long friendships with the visiting group leaders and the students they have hosted. We at HQ constantly hear about the international travels of World Exchange Program Directors.
For an information packet and a Program Director application form, please call 1-800-444-3924. We will be happy to answer any questions you may have.