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ASSE and World Heritage International Student Exchange

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: International, International Cultural Exchange, International Exchange, Promotion of International Understanding

Mission: To foster greater mutual understanding in the world through cross-cultural exchange programs.

Direct beneficiaries per year: 1500 exchange students experience life in a family, community, and school outside of their home country.

Geographic areas served: The United States, and more than 40 countries around the world.

Programs: Become a Host Family
When you host a foreign exchange student, your entire family will discover a world of fun and enlightening adventure. Simply by sharing your home for as little as three months, a semester or a school year, you will be giving an exceptional young person from another country the opportunity of a lifetime—to live with your family and experience the language, customs and culture of our country. In return, your exchange student will bring to your family a bit of his or her homeland. Students come from Europe, Asia/Pacific, the Middle East, the Americas and Africa.
Become an Exchange Student
As one of the oldest and largest international student exchange organisations, ASSE is able to offer the most comprehensive programs with the lowest possible fees. A year away can’t be measured in days alone. You’ll only be gone for a school year but the experience will enrich the rest of your life. Living in another country for a school year is something most people never have the opportunity to do. You’ll return with new knowledge, cultural understanding, maturity and lifelong friends from your host country. The hardest part will be leaving your ASSE host family. They will have shared in your adventure and learned from you as will you have from them.

Community Stories

25 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I haven’t had any experience with ASSE directly, but my son had a wonderful year in U.S., thankfully to ASSE. The organization’s representatives were always helpful. I have no complaints and based on other reviews recommend it as one of the best.

Client Served

Rating: 5

I had an amazing experience with ASSE organization. I spent a wonderful year abroad having a great time with my host family and another exchange student. ASSE provided with everything I needed, and Area Representative was always there to help. I am really thankful for such a great year and would definitely recommend ASSE to everyone!

1 Denise W.7

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

We have hosted three students with ASSE. We have had great support from our Area Representative and so have our students. All of the students have been a big part of their school and our community by participating in different clubs and events. Our children have gained a greater understanding of different cultures through this program. We are looking forward to hosting again soon!

Raul Andrei R.

Client Served

Rating: 5

My experience with ASSE was an amazing one, they made my exchange year so much easier and everything worked great!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

We have been with ASSE from 2000 - 2007. We went with another organization in 2007. Our student ended up moving out with another family. She ended up going home in March of 2008. We have been back with ASSE 2008 and will be hosting our 20th student in August.
We love the kids as if they were our own. Nick our son has enjoyed being a little brother or big brother the past couple of years.

Norman Nancy and Nick Brown.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Love this program! I have been involved with ASSE since 2002 in various roles. Initially I became a host family, then an Area Representative and currently Area Coordinator. This program goes above and beyond to see that a students has the experience of their life! Fantastic leadership who are very professional. I have hosted so many students over the years and will be hosting this upcoming school year. I would highly recommend ASSE to anyone!

Liz W.3

Client Served

Rating: 5

My husband and I had a wonderful girl from The southern part of Spain 2019/2020. . She was polite, respectful, smart and willing to learn. She did well in school and followed our rules. I had the opportunity to take her on many trips such as Las Vegas to see some Cirque shows, Texas and Alabama to visit my family, Disney World and many parts of the south. We live in northern Florida so she had the chance to enjoy our beautiful beaches. She volunteered in the community and even joined my performing dance troupe. ASSE was very helpful especially during the Corona Virus outbreak. Unfortunately, our wonderful exchange daughter had to leave 2 months early but we know we are family for life. She’s continuing her education online and will get full credit for the year. We truly miss her and hope to participate in the program again.

1 Debbie Vincent S.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

My husband and I have hosted students with ASSE for 4 years. We have an enourmous passion for exchange programs and I feel that ASSE shares our passion. We have hosted 7 sons and daughters from around the world. I have also been an Area Representative to 6 other exchange students. All of my students have been amazing! They are always very respectful and friendly. ASSE has always been very supportive and available for any problems or concerns from me or my host families. They have provided lots of training to me as a host familiy and as and Area Rep. They are very diligent and follow all of the State Department and regulations. They sometimes go above and beyond the regulations to ensure the students have a safe and loving host family environment. I would recommend ASSE to anyone who is interested in learning more about the student exchange programs.

1 Pamela Walker Shaw S.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I have been a host family, Area Rep and currently an ARea Coordinator for ASSE. I love this company. As a host family of 19 exchange students, I can tell you not every student is alike. Some experiences have been great. Some not so much. NOt because of the company but because sometimes in life things are not always fantastic. Through the not so godd times though, I felt extremely supported by my Area Rep and ASSE as a whole. They did a great job helping navigate through issues with students, or the school.
As an Area Rep, I was extremely motivated, challenged, and encouraged. I loved my job as an Area Rep. Working to find families for students and working with the families and students was very rewarding and exciting. When there were issues, we (ASSE) addressed them together. WE discussed a plan of action for each unique situation and we worked through it to find the best outcome for all parts invovled. Its tough pleasing so many parties at the same time. WE work with the students, their natural families, their host families and the host families. I always tell my Area Reps, families and students... sometimes things just do not work, it does not mean you are bad, or that the student is bad. It just means it did not go as plan. Let's access, regroup, and make a new plan. Does our plan always apease everyone? No, but we do the best we can which is all anyone can do.
As an Area Coordinator, I have had an amazing experience. I can see how hard everyone from Gwen and Mary in the home office, to Adriane and Rebecca in the Atlanta office, Coordinators from the Southern Region, to Area Reps in the field. We are working as a team, doing our best each day to make the most out of every situation. WE all love this program and WE all believe in it. The families, the students, the schools.... They are all important and the corner stone to why we do what we do. Sometimes it is a tough job but because of our passion, our zeal for promoting peace, kindness, and cultural tolerance is what pushes through the tough times and gives us reason to celebrate and delight in the good. If everyone could just see what goes on to make it work for just one student, you would be amazed and how large the puzzle really is and they are able to do this for thousands a year. ASSE really cares about their people, their family... Each person is such a unique piece from student to host family to schools to the different Boards of Educations to Area Reps to Area Coordinators to office staff to Directors to overseas partners to natural parents.... When you see it all working together, you can see how it truly takes a village. ASSE is my village and I want everyone to know they are a fabulous company for exchange students. We really care and we really love with big hearts from the top to the bottom and every one in between. If you want a company who really cares for its students, I would say ASSE is it. If you want a company who really cares about its people, ASSE is it. They are a fantastic company to work for, to host with, and to be placed through. Thank you ASSE for making a difference in the world.

2

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

My family has hosted 12 students through ASSE and it has been wonderful . I love what this organization has brought to our lives and the community. It is definitely something we will continue to do and hopefully as my own children get older they share with their families .

1 Roxie H.

Client Served

Rating: 5

We hosted an exchange student through ASSE and the experience was amazing the application process was flawless and our area rep was amazing and always there to help us. We loved hosting our new “daughter” I would recommend using ASSE if you are looking to host an exchange student, they have been nothing but professional.

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Our family has hosted 5 exchange students through ASSE in the last 5 years and we have had nothing but wonderful experiences. Our students were from Tajikistan, Mongolia, Spain, France, and Germany. I don't know where these negative reviews are coming from! Sure occasionally you're going to have a bump in the road, but no kid is perfect and they all make mistakes! We have loved every child we have hosted and have had wonderful communications with their leadership! I suggest that anyone who wants to host use ASSE!

Client Served

Rating: 1

I went with ASSE age 16 on the academic year programme to Quebec. It was twenty years ago, so of course things may have changed since then, but the fact that I'm still thinking about it shows the impact it had. It still ranks as one of the worst experiences of my life.

ASSE did not provide a suitable host family. I had to share a room (even though ASSE specified in all their materials that participants had to have a private room), and that still left the mother sleeping on the sofa in the living room. It was also made very clear to me that having me there put financial strain on the family. Despite how ASSE sold their hosts, she had no interest in learning about other cultures, sharing her own, or in caring for another child. Her eldest wanted to do the programme, but they could not afford it. The only way (at the time) was to host a student themselves for a year, after which they could get a free place. We were also a terrible match in terms of personality, interests and values (over and above any culture clash) and she had zero understanding that different doesn't mean wrong.

With the benefit of much hindsight, I can say that this situation gave me no chance of success. My host mother quickly began to resent the burden placed on her and every tiny thing I did wrong (or just different from how she wanted it done, even when she had not told me what that was) was treated as a major transgression. Leaving your family and living in a foreign country with a different language is tough for anyone, especially at such a young age, and I was increasingly miserable. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't make her happy.

I asked for help from my ASSE Area Coordinator on several occasions. I told him everything that was happening (and, as time went on, cried a lot). I got no help. He would speak to the host mother alone after we had spoken (I never knew what was said), and then leave. He would offer no advice, mediation or anything else, and nothing would change.

The host mother did not help me set up a bank account of my own, as she was supposed to do (internet banking wasn't what it is now, and my home account charged high fees to take money out from ATMs). She had me put money into her account instead. She kept paper records of what I put in, which ran over two pages. When I left she destroyed the second piece of paper and claimed I had only deposited a small amount, when in reality it was hundreds (meant to go towards one of the ASSE-organised trips). I told my Area Rep, but he did not help. I didn't have the emotional strength to deal with her again, and I never got any of the money back.

I finally begged for a new host family. All they could provide was a temporary one, who didn't really want to take anyone in. That lined up with what I'd heard and found since I arrived, that they struggled to find host families and would basically take anyone they could get, no matter how unsuitable for the students. Anyway, by that time I was too low and emotionally drained to try very hard to build a relationship.

I finally left just before Christmas. My ASSE Area Coordinator dropped me off at the airport and left me to make my own way home. I wasn't warned that I had to pay a charge to change the date on my return ticket (fortunately I had enough in the bank). I nearly had to dump stuff at the airport because my suitcases were so close to the weight limit and I had no-one there to help. After I returned home, ASSE made no attempt to reach out for any kind of follow up or feedback.

My host family blamed me for the problems, it certainly felt like ASSE did too, and for years I blamed myself. Now, I can see that it wasn't my fault. I did the best I could in a tough situation with minimal support. The experience did major damage to my mental health that still hasn't fully healed and there is absolutely no way that I would allow my child anywhere near this organisation.

2 Jill R.4

Client Served

Rating: 4

We had a good experience with ASSE. Our daughter spent an academic year in China. The school placement was appropriate (mixed English and Chinese). Although there were issues with her first host family (personality issues with one of the children in the family who seemed to resent my daughter's presence), the matter was proactively resolved, and her second host family was wonderful. I strongly suspect that the experience depends in large part on the in-country host organization and on the expectations of the participants. If you are wanting close supervision of your child, you are probably not going to be happy. If are simply expecting reasonable screening for family placement and school -- and the paperwork to be handled, which for China is extensive -- you'll be satisfied. My daughter grew a lot during her year there, and we have no complaints about how ASSE managed the situation.

1

General Member of the Public

Rating: 1

Our son spent the summer of 2019 in Antibes, France, through ASSE. ASSE sent information on the host family ahead of time that included their address. Minimal information was sent about ASSE's sub-contractor, CIA (centre international antibes), where the language portion of the program is based, and for which we paid through ASSE. We were led to believe that we had signed up for a language "camp," when in fact, there is no camp at all. The summer student(s) (there were only 2), were simply blended into other students already at this school. There was one social event that was planned per week, and otherwise students were entirely on their own. Our son was placed into the wrong level of language class, and it took two weeks before the school even agreed to address it. There were supposedly curfews for the teenagers, but no enforcement from school or ASSE. ASSE simply collects your money and passes it to a second party. Would not trust this organization.

1 B.C.

Volunteer

Rating: 1

This was our first and last time hosting an exchange student. Due to our experience with ASSE, I doubt we would consider hosting again, even with another organization.

The student came into our home, thinking she was coming to America for a vacation. She literally said that. She put forth no efforts with our family, her school, making friends or even exploring our area. She spent her entire time here upstairs in her room, video chatting with guys from dating sites back home. She did NOTHING that was required of her through ASSE and the FLEX program - not her projects and not her volunteer time. She posted regularly to a “private” yet very public blog, talking badly about us, her school, her rep, ASSE, the states and Americans in general. She would do things purposely to hurt and anger our family. The rep tried desperately to rehome her, but had zero help from ASSE in doing so, which left us stuck with her the entire time. This kid even admitted in her blog that her mother cheated to get her the FLEX scholarship. She all but assaulted one of the faculty members at her school. I could write an entire list. Zero consequences. In fact, they sent her a certificate of completion after fabricating volunteer hours and assignment (that she never did) scores for her. We were lied to and manipulated, not only by her, but by ASSE.

Our hearts are broken because we truly were excited about hosting and welcoming this girl into our family. We treated her like one of our own. It’s just too bad she appreciated none of it and ASSE did nothing to help us, even when my mental health came into jeopardy.

Hannah K.1

Client Served

Rating: 1

I was an exchange student with ASSE from 2015 -2016, in Italy. Was initially supposed to go to Japan, but due to circumstances surrounding my medical condition, I was turned down to go to Japan months after I'd been accepted to go. So I chose Italy instead.

Where do I start? I'll try to keep this concise, because there's A LOT to unpack. For the amount of money I paid, there was very little I got out of the program...I'd expected there to be planned trips and activities included, since I've heard most other programs do that. Nope. There were two short trips throughout the year, which both cost hundreds of dollars out of pocket from what we already paid to even be there.

Communication sucked on so many levels. There was no communication between ASSE and Mondo Insieme (the program that received us in Italy), no communication between Mondo Insieme and the schools, no communication from reps to host families and students, etc. I didn't get enrolled into my school until last minute, because my host family was under the impression that the program was taking care of that, and the school had no idea what to do with me. They were expecting some form of guidance from the program. I spent the entire year doing nothing, or helping teach english classes, because there was no plan. Couldn't even get my credits because the school refused to give them for no work, and had to have my parents get on the phone with the school superintendent and practically yell at them to give me something.

My host family, as nice of people as they were, were too busy to be hosting an exchange student. They lived pretty remotely, and I had no way to really get out on my own once I came home after school. Because of the isolation and lack of things to do in school, I became extremely depressed for the space of several months. I tried to reach out to my rep and others at Mondo Insieme, but I was met with very rude responses that blamed me for my problems, even going as far as accusing me of being lazy and refusing to learn the language (I was very diligent in my studying and always requested people speak Italian to me). I asked to switch families a few times, having even talked to my own host family about it and them okaying it, but was met with opposition by the program. Students have no rights in that decision process, it seems.

I made it home alive, but the depression and distress I experienced for that year still affects me now, 3 years later. I'm still depressed, still anxious, and am often reminded of how much I regret going abroad with ASSE. I don't even know how long it'll be until I can finally visit Italy again without the constant nag of what happened in the past.

This program has a complete lack of care when it comes to the students it takes under its wing. They will say whatever they need to to get families to host for them, and won't put in the work to help prepare them for that responsibility. Their promise of support is pretty hollow, as I found none when I desperately needed it, instead being ignored or flat-out shamed for calling out. I don't know what this is about them being a nonprofit, because money is the only thing they appear to care about.

If you're thinking of an exchange, go with Rotary. I've heard good things about them, and had several friends I met on exchange that went with them and had a nice time! Don't let my story scare you too much, because a foreign exchange CAN be a great adventure!
Just stay FAR away from ASSE.

1

Client Served

Rating: 1

Terrible and incompetent organization. They are greedy, period. They do not do the required checks, they do not perform regular home visits and they will place a student anywhere just to keep them from not getting their money. Also, ASSE does not care about the host families at all. They will use and abuse you and place you at risk with troubled kids that should be relocated or sent home. We have hosted 10 students and used 3-4 different organizations and found ASSE to be the absolute worst.

Client Served

Rating: 1

If I could give this company ZERO stars i would. This company is the absolute WORST. My minor daughter just came back from 6 months in Spain. Once she was there, she was now in the care of another company named She Herencia. There is terrible communication between ASSE and She Herencia. I attempted to speak with her area rep in Spain due to the fact that we were having issues with her host family and she stated that she was unable to even speak with me AND HUNG UP on me. This was the direct person that was near my daughter and would not even speak to me. She was threatened to be sent home twice during her 6 month tour and i had to prove that she was not breaking rules by sending the ASSE rep screen shot text messages of her host brother asking to have sex and attempting to sell her drugs. With the 17 students that went with my daughter 4 students were placed in different families due to poor conditions. My daughter returned 2 months ago and i have sent 5 emails attempting to get her transcript from school (stating it is important due to her college acceptance) and they basically told me that they cannot get me the required documentation needed. I guess since they got their money from me they could care less to help anymore. Please look into AFS company or the Rotary Club...that is who i wish i went through.

3 Julie287

Volunteer

Rating: 1

TERRIBLE experience! We were first time host parents. ASSE did not follow the handbook on rules, they made up rules as they went along, lied, deceived us and provided NO support for a troubled student.

4

Client Served

Rating: 1

After sending my daughter abroad with ASSE in 2015-2016 I would strongly caution anyone with trusting their child to this company. The women that work for ASSE are uncaring, unprofessional, rude, condescending and untrustworthy. From the minute they received our deposit until the month after my daughter got home they made our time working with them hell. Just to make my point. At the end of my daughters stay none of the employees were aware of her location or safety. No one followed up to make sure she arrived home from her host family in Italy. There were many other problems including placing her with a fluent English speaker and thus she got in trouble with the school for not knowing Italian. I could go on with more examples but I think you would be best to look at other companies.

10

Client Served

Rating: 1

IMPORTANT!!! ASSE is the worst organization I have encountered by far. I had a student in my home who sexually harassed me, stole from me, and assaulted me, and ASSE simply chose to place him in another home. Even though I took out a Stalking Protective Order (a restraining order for someone you have not had intercourse with) and the police in both Washington and Oregon were wanting to press criminal charges against him. The exchange program even hired him a criminal defense lawyer. I urge you to please read up on this organization, as you'll find there are many abuse and negligence cases with this program.

6

Client Served

Rating: 5

I'm ASSE Exchange Student and I'm living with my host family in Alaska USA. I have a great experience here in Fairbanks Alaska USA and everything is good and new to me. On the first weekend I had a lot of first times. I went on my first camping trip ever. This was lots of fun and just an amazing experience. We went into the mountains where I saw snow for first time in my life. This trip was with the boy scouts with whom I never done something like that either. We put up the 'camping houses' (tents) and slept in our sleeping bags. I can remember that it was cold that night. We made rice and other food for dinner and then I had my first S'mores, Those are so delicious. I never have been skiing before either but I really want to go sometimes.

8

Client Served

Rating: 5

Becoming an exchange student was one of the best decisions that I have ever made. Because ASSE fulfilled that dream for me, I believe that anything is possible with faith. If I am able to travel half-way across the world, then anyone can.
I find difficulty in enumerating the effect of last year’s trip on my life. I have a family in Taiwan that cares for me; I possess heightened Chinese-language and martial arts skills and a new level of discipline. I have refreshing goals for my future and the faith that I need to reach them. I am more polite, patient, and understanding.
I thank all those at ASSE who helped me achieve my dream of going to Asia. You all have changed my life. I will always remember your generosity.

Review from Guidestar

19 Kimberly10

Donor

Rating: 1

ASSE is perhaps the worst organization I have encountered. I am currently serving overseas in the USA Peace Corps and I have worked overseas with voluntary organizations 8 times. However ASSE gave me what I consider a crazy/emotionally traumatic student exchange experience during my junior year of high school in New Zealand in which I was bounced around like basketball to multiple host families in a 3-5 month timespan. Everyone should be aware before doing/allowing their child to do an ASSE program- is that ASSE receives yearly complaints from students and their families on their failure to provide adequate care to students studying abroad.

Frequently students are sent to the USA without any permanent host families set up(which is currently a violation of US law). And there was even a situation in 2000 in which ASSE was sued by a German student who had been sexually assaulted by her host father(Kristin Beul vs. ASSE).

When I was a ASSE student in NZ they did not have a host family set up for me until 1 week before my scheduled arrival which made getting my visa extremely difficult. Not only that- but they placed me with a single mother with a two-year old daughter- who couldn't afford to properly heat her home and who quite literally had someone living in her backyard in a trailer. It was uncomfortable to say the least and when I complained to my area coordinator and program officials they refused to move me... so I finally brought up my complaints/concerns to my school- who eventually convinced the organization to move me to another family (much to ASSE dissatisfaction).

My 2nd host family- then tried to emotionally extort money from my parents- mentioning that the cost of living in New Zealand was so high and ASSE host families are paid so poorly- that they needed more money to support me. When my parents approached ASSE wether this would be acceptable- to provide additional funds. ASSE contacted the host family and essentially insulted them which sort of ruined the relationship we had established- resulting in a scene in which my host father was verbally attacking me in front of my area coordinator.

I was then uprooted to the end of the north island(3 days before the end of the school term) to live with an elderly couple who had been involved with the organization for years. I was told immediately after I arrived that they didn't want to host an exchange student, but ASSE NZ had begged them too, and that essentially I was an 'inconvenience' to them. ASSE had failed to get my new student visa before I moved so I was essentially a 'student' without a school to attend to for the next semester. Not only that but the couple told me to give them my cell-phone so I wouldn't be able to contact my parents directly(which looking back at it- is a huge safety concern- what adult would want a 15 year old wandering around a foreign country without a cellphone?). The organization also limited me to only one weekly phone call with my parents, all my weekly phone calls were monitored by my host mother, and there were at least 3 cases where my parents tried to contact me out of concern for my emotional well-being where they were quite literally 'hung up' on by my host family.

In my case, they had no compassion, no empathy and they certainly didn't care about how I was treated... I was continually told by the organization that I was doing something wrong- when it is their legal duty to provide adequate/safe living conditions for the students in their care. (Especially when it is a 15-year old, frightened little girl very far from home).

My family honestly couldn't take anymore of their abuse- we had lost all faith in their organization. So my father came and collected me in New Zealand after 4 months thus ending my ASSE New Zealand experience. I eventually returned to New Zealand 3 months later(with another organization) to fulfill my lifelong dream of studying abroad in New Zealand *without any problems*. I think ASSE is a clear representation of gross mismanagement in a industry which has no oversight- the end result being the needless suffering of children.

In my situation I was moved to 3 different families within a 3-5 month period and I'm not alone. I've heard from ASSE students who have encountered similar problems related to homestays(some of them far worse then mine-including one student who was essentially forced to be a domestic helper for her summer stay in the USA).

I was even frequently told by teachers at my high school in New Zealand- that ASSE has a long history of not providing adequate housing to students that the school is entrusted with- to the extent where teachers have felt obligated to 'take in' ASSE students placed in bad homestays. People that work for the organization that I encountered all seemed to be a little crooked and dishonorable-for instance when I was in NZ I observed my area coordinator serve alcohol to some ASSE students under the age of 21(a clear violation of their program policy). The communication between ASSE New Zealand and ASSE USA headquarters also seemed to be horrible at best- I could not imagine what it would be like for a student in a far less developed part of the world (like Mongolia for instance-which is a designated ASSE sight).
For students interested in studying abroad: if you're looking for a good study-abroad program look into AIFS- they continually receive superior reviews/ratings when it comes to student experience, cultural immersion, and housing. I studied with them for a semester and they definitely do watch out for their student's well-being, safety, and comfort in country( which is something I did not experience with ASSE). Student exchange is definitely a rewarding experience- it gives youngsters the chance to improve their foreign language skills, gain a new sense of independence, and the chance to learn about a different culture... just be sure to do your research and check complaints made about various organizations on the "Committee For Safety Of Foreign Exchange Students" website. We need to start reporting these experiences so that organizations like ASSE do not get away with their systematic abuse due to lack of international exchange oversight.

Review from Guidestar