I went horseback riding this weekend, catching what is possibly the last
of the blazing gold aspen on our Northern Colorado ridges before the
trees turn and the snow starts to fall.  On the ride, I enjoyed the
company of several teenagers, all of whom fell into a respectful silence
as we journeyed across meadows and through the woods. 

A respectful silence?  Does that sound like a group of teenagers?

Riding with me were a Brazilian, a German, and a Thai high school
student.  They’ve come to the U.S. to study for a year
and experience American life. 

They take a lot of pictures. Balancing on horseback while
trying to snap scenic photos takes a lot of concentration.

I enjoy some very interesting part-time work besides my writing.  I
help American families and international teenagers get to know each
other, sometimes for a year, and sometimes for a lifetime.  On our
non-profit program, an international teen lives with an American family
and attends an American high school for a semester or a full school

Managing my local piece of this program is one step I can take to help
the world become a smaller place.   I’m discovering that
international teens are not so different from American teens.

Sure, they may have different accents, skin colors, holidays, and
traditions.  But in the real, day-to-day living, they share the same
concerns as our children. When we gather for meetings I hear how it
bothers them to eat lunch alone (which is very common for the first
month).  They worry about making and keeping friends.  They need
social connections to be comfortable. Most of them want to be part of
a club, activity, or cause.

Here is very common feedback I hear from the international students
year after year:

“The kids at my school are friendly to me on the surface.  It’s a big
smile and a hi, how are you. But after that, they already have their
circles of friends, and they don’t usually make an effort to include me.
So I have to work really hard at making friends.  I thought I would
have more friends more quickly.”

Some students are fortunate to have a high-school-aged brother or
sister who mentors them through the start of the school year and
helps them get connected with interesting people.

What I have to hope for is that other American teens will become less
self-centered and show more global curiosity.  Then they might take
the time to learn that Eduardo has a great sense of humor.  They
could witness Sophia’s athletic ability and invite her to play a sport. 
Or someone might notice that Pantana can pick up any one of four
instruments and play it masterfully.

I guess one of the fundamental differences about these international
students is inquisitiveness.  They want to know so much, not only
about American culture, but about the cultures of their fellow
international students.  For example, through their questioning this
weekend, I learned that the Thai as a culture don’t celebrate

The international teens I work with are bright models of the global
spirit we need to have a more peaceful world. 

Mama J (Diane Fromme) is a writer, parent, and stepparent located in
Northern Colorado.  For more information on her stepparenting book,
go to



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