Keeping Everyone Organized - Meet Danielle, United Studies new Program Compliance Manager

15 July 2020

Danielle's journey with United Studies started as a host mom, but her passion for student exchange led her to working full time with United Studies.  

You have recently taken on the role of Program Compliance Manager and ARO for the United Studies High School Program. Can you tell us more about it?

My new role with United Studies is exciting and challenging. The best way to describe it is as a hall monitor!  The Department of State and CSIET have rules and best practice procedures and my new role is to make sure we are always taking the best care of our students, host families, coordinators and schools while always following and documenting compliance of the regulations. We have been entrusted to care for international students who are minors so it is so so important that we are always following the rules to keep them healthy and safe. 

How did you first become involved with United Studies?

My first interaction with United Studies was as a host mom 2016-2017! Previously, my parents hosted 2 students while I was in high school so I was already familiar with exchange. In 2016 I saw a Facebook post about hosting a student in our community and I convinced my husband and children it was time for us to host! Our family hosted Edoardo from Italy and he immediately stole our hearts. While hosting, a friend of mine decided to open her home to a student and I spent a couple hours preparing her for her new journey. Our Local Coordinator at the time, Candy, said "you'd be really great at this"! I was always volunteering and helping with cheerleading, church activities, PTO, community events and more so I immediately said, "I'd love to help you". Candy eventually let me know how great that was because she was hoping to retire but hadn't found the right person to replace her! My family then went on to host Luz from Spain and have had a couple students stay with us temporarily. Working as a coordinator is a wonderful way for my family and I to learn and connect with students from around the world without having every one of them living in my home! 😉 Cultural exchange and United Studies have now taken over my life and I wouldn't want it any other way! I'm so lucky to be a part of this journey. 

You’ve been a Local Coordinator for several years, both for academic year and summer groups. Why do you like being a Local Coordinator?  What are some of your favorite moments as a Local Coordinator?

For me, the best part of being a coordinator is the relationships! I get to form my own relationships and friendships with families in my community and with students from all around the world. I also get to play a role in forming and nurturing their relationships that I hope will last a lifetime. My goal is to facilitate the best relationships and memories possible, encourage growth and compromise so that at the end of the experience, everyone has learned something and hopefully taken away great memories and life lessons. This can actually be the most rewarding when I help a student and host family through a struggle or hurdle. We all get to work through the challenge together and come out of it stronger than before. 
Some of my favorite moments as a coordinator involve laughter. Watching one of my students hang from a basketball net after someone held her up to dunk, listening to rap music from another country, a car load of students all laughing and singing the same song or when I try to remember how to do the 2 kiss cheek greeting and never seem to get it correct! The moments with my students and host families are priceless.

You’ve also hosted a couple of exchange students over the years. Why do you like hosting?  What are some of your favorite memories as a host family?

Hosting is an opportunity to learn more about other cultures, beliefs and ways of life but also a great chance to grow as a core family unit. In the chaos of life, we often forget to spend time with one another and focus on the important things like game nights, parks and local museums. When we host an exchange student, we want to show them what our community has to offer so we make a more conscious effort to do those things as a family. Not only does this give the exchange student a new experience, it helps my core family unit grow and bond as well. The students we have hosted have become a real extension of our family. We speak to them often and see them whenever we can. The students who have lived in our home are siblings to my kids and my children from another mother! Some of our favorite memories are silly family moments like taking our Italian son fishing and him being scared of the worm, watching him sit on the kitchen floor with pride as his homemade lasagna cooked, seeing my husbands reaction when our Italian son kissed him on the neck, seeing our Spanish daughter form an extremely close bond with my daughter and seeing them laugh and joke in their own language, giving her a Christmas present of half drank water bottles that she had left all around the house or laughing when she got sick and had to go to the doctor because she had overloaded on Starbucks' coffee, Mountain Dew and chocolate! These memories didn't require money, only love! 

Tell us about yourself outside of United Studies.

My life outside of United Studies is hard to describe. Cultural exchange has seeped into my pores and has become as important in my life as water and air. My family enjoys traveling, watching movies, going to new restaurants and community events and having new experiences. I love working in my perennial flower garden, spending time with my family and trying out new wines. 

Want to start your own journey with United Studies?  CLICK HERE to learn how you can become a host family or Local Coordinator!  

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