Technology and Cultural Immersion

Is Instantaneous Communication a Good Thing for Cultural Immersion?

We had a meeting a few days ago with one of our students and her host parents to talk about concerns the host parents had expressed about behavior. The student had also expressed frustrations. We learned that the student was spending so much time online with friends and family back home that she has not really integrated into her host family or community. If she has a question, she asks someone back home. When she is upset or anxious, she confides in someone back home. Whenever she just wants to chat about life, she talks to someone back home. She texts or talks to friends back home first thing in the morning before she leaves for school, and she texts them during the day.

This isn’t unusual in our experience, and we don’t intend to single out this student for any particular reason other than it’s just the latest example. We’ve written about technology concerns before — close to two years ago. We thought it is a subject that is worth reviewing again for our readers. We all assume that advances in technology are positive and talk excitedly about how we can do things that were not possible just a few years ago. But are new capabilities always an “advance”?

This week, we have published an updated version of the original blog post on BlogHer, a blogging platform, research hub, and social media publisher. Host families, students, and parents back home can all benefit from reviewing the pros and cons of having so much technology and instantaneous communication at our fingertips.

You can read our new post here: Technology is the Best Thing to Ever Happen to High School Exchange … or is it?

We welcome your comments and thoughts!

Young man with computer and phont Alejandro Escamilla

  • Jenny says:

    We hosted students the past 2 years who had close friends from home who were also on exchange in the United States. I have not seen any guidelines on how much is too much communication in that situation. Also, they want to make plans to go and visit the friend or travel with them. Our German student’s best friend was on exchange with another program a few states away. The friend called her frequently, more than she would admit. Our student would say she was at home and just watching tv (sometimes doing schoolwork) so it wasn’t taking away from her exchange experience. If she had invested the time she was spending talking to her friend from home every week and spent it on making American friends she would have gotten more out of her exchange.

    • Laura the Exchange Mom says:

      It’s difficult to monitor, that’s for sure! We try to encourage our host parents to feel that it’s OK to “be” a parent — that is, to put limits on Internet use in the evenings, early mornings, etc. It’s hard, I think, to expect teens to always make the right decisions on their own — it’s too tempting. Just think of how difficult it is even for adults to put their phone down, and multiply that a dozen times over for a teen!

  • What about host families that were never paid their stipend? There is no help.

    • Laura the Exchange Mom says:

      That’s a tough one, to be sure. If you were supposed to be paid a stipend, you are dealing with an F-1 visa student. The students we work with come on a J-1 visa and host families are not paid. For you, if you have an F-1 student, that may mean you do not have an exchange program that works with you during the exchange. If you do have a program, talk to them. If you do not, you will need to talk to the school. Good luck!

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