My YES! to Becoming a Local Coordinator

I was a previous ICES host mom, so when ICES asked for coordinators to help place exchange students with host families, I didn’t ask questions.  I enthusiastically (and a bit naively) said, “Yes!”

I initially thought I was signing up for a volunteer position, so I started with the belief that these incredible kids deserved my time and attention.

family photo

Local Coordinator’s family with exchange daughter, Lola, from Spain, 2019

While I wanted other families to have the same transformative experience ours did, I felt very protective about these kids—their parents were entrusting them to strangers in a foreign country for up to ten months. It was a big responsibility to find them safe, warm and welcoming families.


Can I Really Do This?

Uncle Sam pointing "Do You Have what it Takes?"

Once I fully committed (and serendipitously realized this was an actual job, not just a volunteer role), I decided it was time to get organized and figure this out, because I really had no idea what I was doing. Or so I thought.


Just the Best People

One of the themes I kept hearing from everyone in ICES was “we really do have what it takes.”

Each new ICES person I met—from my regional manager to our director to our training lead to our policy reviewers—shined such positive energy that their support and encouragement kept me feeling upbeat even when I made mistakes!

My regional manager was so encouraging and incredibly patient as I asked question after question. Despite my question bombing and my realizations that, “I really should have known that” to “oops, you did tell me that already” and repeated, “can you explain it again, please?” she never got frustrated, rather she made me feel like she knew exactly what I was going through, having been a LC before.


Practice Makes Better (and perfect isn’t a job requirement)

My first time talking about ICES was in front of an audience of high school freshman during first hour. Tough crowd. To make matters worse, I had a very critical auditor in the room who’d be micro analyzing my every word, what I wore, how I laughed and every subtle facial expression: my 14-year-old daughter. Her French teacher agreed to let me speak about student exchange and I agreed to a special cookie box from Crumbl because it was assumed I’d totally and utterly embarrass her. There’s nothing like the stress of teen judgement to set you up for success!

bored teen girl at school

Because I had to, I dove in. I looked over the class of yawning students and started in on my presentation. Midway through I kind of stumbled and forgot my train of thought as I realized fourteen- and fifteen-year-olds don’t care one iota about the details of a J1 visa. Panicking would not help, and what I’d prepared was boring them stiff, so, I changed course and got personal and honest. “When we had an exchange student, we became better parents. Instead of just being lazy in front of the TV, we felt obligated to find cool and fun things to do in the city.” At that comment, my daughter nodded along and smiled. Other kids perked up and asked questions about the fun things we did. I found and shared a photo I’d taken of the girls at First Avenue, Prince’s club in Minneapolis.

3 girls in front of star wall

My exchange daughter, Lola and my daughters, Tora and Sierra at First Avenue, Minneapolis 2020

Afterward, my daughter and her friends, and some other kids came up to talk to me and ask questions. Later, my daughter found me at another class where I was presenting and told me I’d done a great job. That was my biggest win as a newbie Local Coordinator.teens in class raising hand


A Calling, Not a Competition

I’ve had a few intense corporate roles in my career, with management pressure and co-worker distrust, and lots and lots of stress where minute details were highly scrutinized, but coming into ICES was a breath of fresh air! Our monthly contests are fun and friendly. When we try something and it doesn’t work, we’re given feedback that our attempts may bear fruit in the future. Discouragement is understood to be temporary, and we all commiserate when something we try doesn’t seem to work. We genuinely celebrate others’ successes because with each placement, another kid gets to realize their dream of coming to the U.S. on exchange. That’s why we do what we do. Yes, the bonuses are nice, but that’s not what truly motivates us.

A Global World Opens Up

One of the best parts of exchange is meeting other host families, their kids, their exchange students and their families from around the world. These global experiences would never have happened for our family if we had never said Yes! to exchange. Now that I’ve said Yes! to being a local coordinator, my world is expanding with new ICES colleagues, new host families, and new students. It’s a joyous role and I’m so glad I’ve found it.

family on beach in Spain

My oldest daughter visiting our exchange student and her family in Spain, 2021


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Work with Us!

Are you ready to change your family as you change the world?  Consider becoming a Local Coordinator with ICES!

If you have some spare time and would like a flexible, work-from-home opportunity that truly makes a difference, this might be a great fit for you!

We'd love to talk with you more and answer your questions.

Learn more about working with us!






Tags: Host Families, Cultural Exchange, Exchange Student, Host an exchange student, Local Coordinator

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