Inspirations from being a Michigan 4-H International Exchange Program local coordinator

Being a Michigan 4-H International Exchange Program local coordinator provides inspirations, global friendships and so much more.

Local coordinator Jan Brinn with Nurken Akmaden from Kazakhstan during 2014-15.
Local coordinator Jan Brinn with Nurken Akmaden from Kazakhstan during 2014-15.

Opening your home and heart in hosting an international youth has many rewards for families. Being a Michigan 4-H International Exchange Program local coordinator has many rewards as well. I have had the honor of being the local coordinator for delegates from Japan, Russia, Kazakhstan and, currently, South Korea and Romania. Being a local coordinator is as rewarding as hosting an international youth.

In the role of a local coordinator, you are supporting the international delegate and the host family. It is so much more than being the local support person. You are learning about another culture, introducing them to the community for the cultural experience and building a lasting relationship.

As a local coordinator, my favorite part is the friendships created with the international youth and continued connections. I made a promise to Nurken Akmaden from Kazakhstan to find a great host family for his sister if she was selected to participate in the States’ 4-H International Exchange Academic Year Program. What a great feeling when a promise can be kept (except the part of a warm state) and you get to connect with a sibling that is perfectly matched.

Jan and Zhaniya

Brinn with Nurken's sister, Zhaniya Akmaden, during 2015-16.

As a local coordinator, you do run into challenges, and overcoming those challenges can be just as rewarding.

Renee Applegate, volunteer local coordinator, had this to say about her role.

"As a first time local coordinator, I have found the role very rewarding in many ways,” said Applegate. “I feel I am the first contact to answer questions about the program and protocol, head off problems and support the host family and student. Getting to know the student and her background, her country and her outlook concerning this exchange experience is a joy even when having to give advice that is not necessarily what she wants to hear, and seeing her grow in maturity when she does the right thing.

“Throughout the year, I have been able to view trials and tribulations—not many—and celebrations and successes—quite a few. I look forward to being a local coordinator again in years to come."

D’Ann Rohrer, Michigan 4-H International Exchange Program coordinator, had this to say about local coordinator roles.

“Local coordinators are very important to the success of an International Exchange Program,” said Rohrer. “Without local coordinators, there would not be a program. Local coordinators are required by the U.S. Department of State to receive a certification. The certification is called ‘Local Coordinator Training’ and is an online training with an assessment at the end. All local coordinators have to renew this certification every year to remain current on requirements set by our U.S. Department of State.

“Every exchange student needs to have a local coordinator within 125 miles of their host families home. The local coordinator checks in with the delegate face-to-face at least four times during their stay and every month by phone, email or face-to-face contact. The local coordinator also contacts the host family each month. Local coordinators log all their contact with both host families and delegates and complete a Documentation of Contact form, which is submitted to the state coordinator.

“Local coordinators are the first line of communication between the host family or delegate and state coordinator. They are the first person to help if assistance if needed or celebrate when goals are met or accomplishments are earned. This is a great opportunity to be involved with international exchange without hosting.”

Karin Stevens, Michigan State University Extension 4-H program coordinator in Grand Traverse County and local coordinator, had this to say about her role.

“My favorite aspect of being a local coordinator is getting to know a youth from another country and learning about their culture, family and interests,” said Stevens. “This year, my student, Jumpei Ohashi, wanted to learn how to downhill ski because of all the snow. We were able to provide this experience through 4-H! I have been able to connect with and learn from youth visiting from Belize, Ukraine, Russia, Japan and South Korea. I like to say I get to visit other countries without leaving the country!”

Karin and Jumpei

Local coordinator Karin Stevens with Jumpei Ohashi from Japan during 2017-18. 

Overall, being a Michigan 4-H International Exchange Program local coordinator provides inspirations, global friendships and so many unexpected rewards.

Michigan State University Extension and the Michigan 4-H Youth Development program help to prepare youth as positive and engaged leaders and global citizens by providing educational experiences and resources for youth interested in developing knowledge and skills in these areas.

To learn about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth leadership, citizenship and service and global and cultural education programs, read our 2016 Impact Report: “Developing Civically Engaged Leaders”. Additional impact reports, highlighting even more ways Michigan State University Extension and Michigan 4-H have positively impacted individuals and communities in 2016, can be downloaded from the MSU Extension website.

Other global educational opportunities can be found on MSU Extension’s Global and Cultural Education website. For more information about 4-H learning opportunities and other 4-H programs, contact your county MSU Extension office. If you would like to learn more about Michigan 4-H International Exchange Programs for hosting, traveling or being a local coordinator, visit the Michigan 4-H International Exchange Program website.

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