FLEX (formerly A-SMYLE) FAQ for Parents – English

Home / FLEX (formerly A-SMYLE) FAQ for Parents – English

ON THE PROGRAM

 

What costs does the program cover? What costs does it not cover?
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The FLEX program covers the cost for:

US visa and round trip travel between students’ home town and host town in the US
Enrollment in a US secondary school
Monthly allowance of $125 for students personal supplies
One time allowance of $300 to be spent in consultation with the Host Family and Placement Organization
Medical Insurance (excluding dental care and long term treatment of pre-existing conditions)

The FLEX program does not pay for:

Medical Examinations required for the application
Travel within the US to visit friends or family
Telephone calls or emails home
Excess baggage costs
Medical Coverage for pre-existing conditions or dental care

 

Will our family be asked to host an American exchange student in return?
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
No, your family will not be asked to host an exchange student.

 

If my child wants to come home, will he or she be allowed to do so?
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Participants are encouraged to spend the whole year in the US. Short trips home may be allowed for the death or imminent death of an immediate family member. Requests for exceptions to this policy must be sent to the American Councils office in the US. If your child wishes to return home permanently they may do so at any time. However, we encourage you to work with your child and urge them to finish out the year, as they may miss out on a wonderful opportunity.

 

Who will monitor my child while he or she is on the program?
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The placement organization will be in direct contact with your child. Local representatives of these placement organizations have usually had some experience with exchange programs before. Many have spent time overseas and are dedicated to helping others have meaningful life experiences abroad. Many have hosted students themselves.

 

HOST FAMILY

 

How are host families chosen? What is the screening process?
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Based on the State Department’s requirements, all placement organizations must screen their potential host families. They must (1) use a standard application form which provides a detailed and summary and profile of the host family. (2) Conduct an interview with the host family in their home. (3) Insure that the host family is capable of providing a comfortable and nurturing home environment. (4) Secure two personal references for each host family from the school or community attesting to the host family’s good reputation and character. (5) Ensure that the host family has adequate financial resources to undertake hosting obligations.

 

Are host families paid?
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
No, host families are not paid. Americans choose to host exchange students because they want to learn about different cultures and share their home and culture with someone from another country.

 

How are students placed with host families? Will my child live in a large city? Will the family have children?
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The interests and preferences of host families and students, such as shared interest in music or sports, are taken into consideration during the placement process. Other factors, such as allergies to pets, the need to share a bedroom with a host brother or sister, or a strong religious preference are also taken into consideration.

Host families are varied, and come from many backgrounds and professions. Not all families will have children in the house. Some host families have older children who have moved away from home. The location of the host families will vary also. Most students will live in a small town or rural area. Usually this will be open land, with many farms. Your child will quickly be able to become part of the community. We encourage students to have an open mind about their placement with a family. Every situation has its advantages and disadvantages.

 

When should we expect information about our child’s host family?
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Information about the families will be available between the 1st of May and five days before the date scheduled for your child to leave.

 

What gifts are appropriate to send with my child?
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Handicrafts from your country or region, records, cassette tapes, CDs, picture books of your country or region, pictures of your family, country or region, special foods or non-alcoholic beverages of your region or country, such as fruit preserves or candy, and books about your region or country in English, if available, are all appropriate, as are posters, calendars, or postcards showing your country. DO NOT send: knives, swords, guns, alcoholic beverages, fresh fruit or food, or folk musical instruments. Minors in the US are not allowed to be in possession of alcohol even if it is a gift for an adult. Knives, swords and guns will not be allowed on the airplane. Some musical instruments are not allowed to be taken from your country, so please check the regulations before sending them. Fresh foods will not be allowed to pass through customs.

 

GETTING A PASSPORT OR VISA

 

How do I get a passport for my child?
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
To enter the US, your child needs a valid international passport issued by your country. Once your child has been selected you must start this process immediately. American Councils will be in contact with you regarding your process in obtaining a passport. If you have any problems obtaining a passport for your child, you should contact American Councils as soon as possible.

 

How do we get a US visa?
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
When your child is accepted into the FLEX program, American Councils will process a US government form DS-2019 (also known as “Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor [J-1] status”). This form will be sent directly to the American Councils office. You will bring your child’s external travel passport to the American Councils office and complete the DS-2019 form. This form will be submitted with your child’s passport to the US Consulate in your area.

The visa will be in the form of a stamp issued by the Consulate in your child’s passport. This will give your child permission to enter the U.S. The J-2019 visa requires that your child attend school and may not work at formal jobs.

 

Does this visa allow my child to stay in the US after the program is over?
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
No. The visa your child receives is not a tourist visa. It is valid only while your child is on the  FLEX program and cannot be extended or changed. The visa requires your child to return home at the end of the exchange program. Students will not be allowed to remain in the US after the end date for the program.

Officials in your country will not be pleased if students do not return home at the end of the FLEX program. This could jeopardize the participation of future students. You must encourage your child to return home after the program.

 

MONEY

 

What money will be provided by the program?
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
All of your child’s meals will be provided by the host family. Your child will also be given a $125 monthly allowance to pay for personal items.

A one time $300 allowance is additionally provided to help pay for special activities while in the US.

 

How much additional money should my child take?
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Your child does not need to take very much money. The allowances he or she receives will be sufficient to participate in activities in the US. It may make you more comfortable if your child has a small amount of money to use until he or she receives his/ her allowance. Students are not expected to bring additional money. If they bring large amounts of money they may be setting themselves apart from their host family.

 

Can my child take local currency or must he or she change it to US currency?
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
If you choose to send currency with your child, it should be changed into US currency before he or she leaves home. It will not be possible to change your country’s currency into US dollars once in the United States.

 

What are examples of expenses my child will have in the US?
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

 

Examples of school fees and supplies:

Lock for hall locker: $5.00

Laboratory fees for science and computer labs: $20.00

Calculator: $15.00-$90.00

Year Book: $40.00-80.00

Notebooks: $10.00

Paper: $5.00

Pen/Pencil $1.00-$2.00

Backpack $20.00-$50.00

Physical Education Clothes $30.00

Textbook Fee $10.00

Clothes:

Jeans $35.00-$70.00

Shirt/ Blouse $25.00

Sweatshirt $20.00

Sport Shoes $60.00

Winter Coat $50.00-$100.00

Swimwear $30.00

Social Activities:

Movies: $7.00-$12.00

Fast Food Meal $4.00-10.00

Meal at restaurant $10.00-$20.00

Ice Skating $7.00-$10.00

 

MEDICAL

 

What immunizations are needed?
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
US school authorities require immunizations for any student entering school for the first time. Each school district will have its own requirements for immunizations prior to school enrollment. On the health certificate your child submitted with his or her application, there is a list of the immunizations that schools require. They are the following:

A series of four against Polio
A series of four against Diphtheria, Pertussis and Tetanus, plus a booster within the past 9 years
A skin test for Tuberculosis or, in case of a reaction to the skin test, a chest x-ray result
In addition schools require a series of one immunization against Measles, Rubella, and Mumps (MMR)
Some schools also require a Hepatitis B vaccine
What is the medical insurance coverage? Does the insurance cover dental bills?

All FLEX students receive accident and health insurance for illness and medical emergency situations. Dental care is provided for “relief of pain” and emergency situations only. Insurance does not cover the cost of treating “pre-existing” conditions.

Some examples of “pre-existing” conditions are allergies, asthma, diabetes, cysts/tumors, poor eyesight, broken limbs (if it broken before departure to the US), and dental problems. The insurance DOES NOT cover dental bills or check-ups.

 

If the insurance does not cover something, who pays?
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
If your child needs treatment for a pre-existing condition that is not covered by insurance and if your child must receive treatment for that condition, she or he may be required to return to his/ her home country.

Is my child allowed to take medication with him/her?
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Yes. If your child takes medication regularly, send enough of the medicine for the period of time he or she will be away from home, if possible. If there is a physician’s prescription for any medication your child is carrying with him or her, please send a copy of this prescription along with your child, along with a full English translation of the prescription and description of the condition.

 

What about glasses or contact lenses?
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Please send a copy of the prescription and an extra pair of glasses if you have them.

 

SUPPORT AND COMMUNICATION

 

Who can my child contact if he or she feels there is a problem with the host family or school?
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The best way to solve problems is to discuss them with the host family. If s/he cannot achieve mutual understanding with the family, your child should contact the local representative of his/her placement organization. He or she will receive the name and phone number of that person when s/he arrives at the host family’s home. Encourage your child to speak to the representative when a problem or question arises.

 

Who will contact me if my child has a problem?
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Representatives of American Councils in your country will contact you if your child is having a problem in the US. Sometimes they will call to get information from you or to ask for your help.

 

Who do I call if my child has a problem?
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
You should call the American Councils representatives in your country. They can help you either relay information to your child or assist you in getting accurate information about a problem. The representatives are in regular contact with their offices in the US, which can contact your child’s placement organization. Each of these organizations has individuals trained to deal with student problems. This communication chain can alleviate issues related to communication problems, language problems, and the considerable time differences. You should not contact the placement organization directly.

 

How soon after my child arrives can I expect a phone call?
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
As anxious as you are to receive a phone call, please don’t expect your child to call you immediately upon arriving in the US. Not only are there big time differences between your home and the US, but your child may have several stops before arriving at the host family’s house. There may not be a convenient time and place to call you for several days. Your child may become very anxious and worried if he or she has been instructed by you to call home immediately and there is not a way to do so. Be assured that your child is in good hands and will call as soon as it is possible. In the case of an emergency or serious accident, parents are notified by representatives of American Councils.

 

Should I write to my child’s host family?
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Yes, it is recommended that you send a letter to your child’s host family. They would enjoy hearing from you, learning about your family, and would welcome your expression of appreciation for hosting your child. If possible, send your letter in English.

 

May I send packages to my child?
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Packages may be sent to your child at the host family’s address. US customs requires that the contents and value of the contents be listed on the outside of the package. US customs will determine whether customs duty is due on each package individually. Customs duty charges vary on different items. If duty is assessed on the contents of a package, your child will have to pay the duty at the post office in the US before the package is released.

Sending packages may be expensive if they are sent by air. If they are not sent by air, however, they may take several months to get to the US.

 

TRAVEL

 

Who pays for domestic and international travel?
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The FLEX Program provides round-trip domestic and international travel (from home to the host family in the United States and back).

You will make domestic travel arrangements for your child once you know when he or she will depart. You will be reimbursed for the cost of domestic tickets for your child only, providing you present his/her used ticket. Please remember that the cost of any excess baggage is at your expense.

Your child will receive his or her international and domestic US ticket at the departure city.

 

How will we know the date and time of the international flight?
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Your child’s assignment to an international flight is based on your country of origin and when flights are scheduled for groups from your area. Students will travel between August 1 and August 25, approximately. Normally, they will know their flight assignment at least one month in advance.

You will be notified by American Councils from which international airport your child will depart and the date he or she is to be there.

 

Who will meet my child in the US?
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
All FLEX participants will overnight in Washington, DC, and travel to their host families the following day. American Councils staff will provide lodging, transportation and meal assistance for your child during this time. At your child’s final destination in the US, his or her host family or a representative of the placement organization will meet your child.

 

Is it permissible for my child to travel while on the program?
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
It is the policy of the program that only authorized student travel is permitted. Authorized student travel must generally meet these three criteria:

1. the student’s safety is assured to the greatest extent possible;

2. the FLEX program placement organization has knowledge of the student’s location; and

3. the travel does not interfere with school attendance.

Your child may have the opportunity to take a trip with his or her host family to another city or state. This may require permission from you. A representative of the nearest American Councils office would call you and ask that you give written or oral permission for your child to make the trip.

Students will not be permitted to travel unescorted. Unauthorized travel may result in a student being dismissed from the program.

 

Will there be vacations during the year? Can my child visit relatives during those times?
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
School vacations are determined by local school boards. School begins and ends at different times in different school districts. Generally, school begins between mid-August and the second week in September and ends between the end of May and the end of June.

Vacation times vary during the year, but all students will have at least one week at the end of December (around the US Christmas holiday, December 25) and at least one week in March/April (“spring break”). Thanksgiving (the fourth Thursday in November) offers a long weekend, as do Columbus Day (October), Martin Luther King Day (January), President’s Day (February), and Memorial Day (end of May). Independent visits to relatives or friends are permitted only when Placement Organizations authorize them. Each organization has a different policy on how these visits are reviewed.

 

Are there excursions planned by the placement organizations? When are they? Are they mandatory? Who pays for the excursions?
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Regional excursions or outings may be organized at program expense by placement organizations. Optional excursions may be offered to your child through the school or the placement organization. These usually require some financial contribution from the student. He or she may choose to use the monthly allowance for this.

 

When will my child come home? From whom will I obtain this information?
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Your child’s return travel will be scheduled for the last half of May or the last half of June. In early December your American Councils representative will contact you and ask you to find out if your child has exam obligations. If so, you are responsible for providing a signed and stamped spravka to your American Councils representative from your child’s school director confirming the exam date. Your child and their host family will choose a return date and submit it to American Councils in Washington , DC, where flight assignments will be made. You can expect information on your child’s return travel from your American Councils representative. If you move during the year your child is away, you must inform your local representative of your new address and phone number.

The program requires all participants to return to their home country on the assigned date and flight. The sponsor, the US Department of State, will not approve any extensions of stay in the US after the designated return travel date.

 

SAYING GOODBYE AND WELCOMING YOUR CHILD BACK HOME

 

What adjustment issues are common for exchange students?
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Separating from everything and everyone known to your child may be confusing and troubling for a while. Each of us has developed over a period of time “support system” of family and friends, common activities, and places on which we unconsciously rely for security. Your child, leaving behind his/her own support system, may for a time feel at a loss, especially if things don’t proceed as hoped. With the help of the host family, as well as the placement organization representative, your child will begin to develop the new “support system” he or she needs to be successful in his/her overseas exchange experience. Your child will also learn to rely on him/herself. You may receive a letter or a phone call in which your child sounds somewhat depressed. Usually what happens is that during a sad moment your child writes to or calls you, as you always have been the closest person available for support. In the majority of cases, within a day or two the situation described clears up or is no longer as serious. Your child may be feeling much better and be busy again. You, however, may remain concerned because you do not know that. If you are especially concerned by what you read or hear from your child, please contact your local American Councils representative to discuss the situation.

 

What changes may my child exhibit when he or she returns?
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Each child changes in his or her own way. Exchange students often must rely on themselves for a great number of decisions – major and minor – and learn to live with the results and consequences of those decisions. Your child may have developed greater independence, a sense of adventure, and maturity.

Your child may grow to love a second set of parents, and you may feel some jealousy toward those people, especially as you read and hear about them in letters and phone calls. Your child will also have developed a new set of friends and acquaintances whom you do not know. Just as your relationship with your child has changed throughout his or her life, it will continue to change. The changes are ultimately positive but may take some time to get used to. Being open and accepting of the inevitable differences you see will allow you and your child to negotiate the inherent tensions that come with change.

 

How can my child use the skills learned through the exchange experience?
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The intention of the FLEX program is to provide students a global perspective and, with it, a bright future at home, at work, and in international relations.

The first skill that may be very helpful is your child’s English ability. Your child may find that the exchange experience has created a new interest that will affect his or her choice of studies or future occupation. For example, interests in international relations, diplomacy, business, or law are common among former exchange students. Many seek ways to apply their international interests by working in environments where they have contacts with foreigners: such as teaching, hotels, restaurants, or tourist agencies. Your child may be motivated to work on common problems that all countries face: poverty, crime, ethnic misunderstandings, and the environment. A positive result of living in another country is knowing that all people in the world have common problems and concerns.

 

MORE QUESTIONS?

 

Feel free to send any questions about the program to belgrade@americancouncilssee.org