Several years ago, I went through a Club Interview and a District Interview in order to become an exchange student. Yesterday, I got to see the interview process from the other side. It was an interesting experience.
Several weeks ago, one of the Rotarians in charge of the district exchange program got a hold of me and said "Do you want to help interview potential outbounds?" I answered with a very enthusiastic "Yes!" The interviews were yesterday. I was on an interview team with three other people and we interviewed four students, two guys and two girls. Three of the students were interested in Spanish speaking countries, and one was interested in India. It was a really fun experience. The interviews themselves were tiring, but it was fun to interact as well. We interviewed two students, broke for lunch and then interviewed two more. In some ways, my favorite part was that break for lunch. It gave me a chance to walk around and talk to some of the potentials that I wasn't interviewing, see where they were interested in going, and share some of my stories. Actually, what's great is everyone knows me as "The girl who went to Russia last year and almost got deported."
There was a meeting during the noon hour for all the parents and their students. One of the Rotarians told me that he was going to tell my Korea story. I went to eat lunch and then I popped into the meeting to see what was going on about half-way through. The Rotarian had already told my story, but he had me talk a little about the training program that the students will go through before leaving, and told the crowd that I was the student he'd mentioned earlier. I also got to talk a little bit about the orientation things that go on in-country. The Rotarians embarrassed me because they said that they'd heard from people in my Russian district about how integrated I became and how well I spoke the language. If it was Eleonora saying this, she had a tendency to exaggerate, and if it was the Alaskan in charge of Youth Exchange, he didn't know Russian and wouldn't know. I did mention though how one of the most interesting experiences I had on exchange was at district conference. It was interesting because I was able to speak Russian to the Russians and feel completely Russian and then turn around and speak English and deal with Americans no problem. It was cool how I was able to slip between cultures.
An interesting thing about the interviews was seeing it from this side. We'd call the kids in and they'd be all nervous and that sort of thing, and they're all so naive in some ways. Naive not in a bad sense, but because the unknown is before them. They don't have those experiences yet. Part of me just wanted to be like "wipe those expectations out of your head because it's completely different when you're there" But I doubt it would do much good. I didn't listen when I was in their place, so why should they be any different. It's one of those things you just have to experience and see for yourself.
Our team kept up more of a dialog with the students rather than an actual interview. We asked them questions, of course, but we also just kind of talked to them as well, about their interests, things they'd written on their applications, expectations for exchange. That sort of thing. My favorite question to ask was pulled from my own experiences "What do you do if you get there, and you hate the city and you go to school and you have no friends and feel like no one likes you?" Most of the students had to stop and really think about this question. This is something most of them don't think about when they're getting ready for exchange. They're prepared for questions about homesickness, tolerence, and why they want to do exchange but the fact that they might get in-country and not have the time of their lives from the very beginning is something they never considered. I sure didn't.
It was odd. Several of my exchange buddies, people who trained with me and went out in 07-08 were there, but I didn't spend a ton ton of time talking to them. I didn't quite feel connected and I don't know why. Is Russia that scarring? (Ha!) Was my exchange that different? Did it mature me in different ways? Or am I just at a different point in my life now? One thing I did enjoy was talking to a student who was in the Czech Republic in 06-07. The languages are similar and the cultures in some ways are similar and so it was a very enlightening conversation.
I enjoyed yesterday's experience a lot. It made me feel like I was being useful and using what I learned in Russia to help people out. I'm hoping to go to some of the overnighters that are coming up in the next few months.