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 American exchange student starves in Egypt

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Adventure Seeker

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PostSubject: American exchange student starves in Egypt   Mon Mar 03, 2008 6:17 pm

U.S. teen returns from Egypt after dropping from 155 pounds to 97

HALLOWELL, Maine (AP) -- Jonathan McCullum was in perfect health at 155 pounds when he left last summer to spend the school year as an exchange student in Egypt. But when he returned home to Maine just four months later, the 5-foot-9 teenager weighed a mere 97 pounds and was so weak that he struggled to carry his baggage or climb a flight of stairs.

Doctors said he was at risk for a heart attack. McCullum says he was denied sufficient food while staying with a family of Coptic Christians, who fast for more than 200 days each year, a regimen unmatched by other Christians. But he does not view the experience as a culture clash. Rather, he said, it reflected mean and stingy treatment by his host family, whose broken English made it difficult to communicate.

"The weight loss concerned me, but I wanted to stick out the whole year," he said in an interview at his family's home outside Augusta. Friends and teachers at his English-speaking school in Egypt urged him to change his host family, but he stayed put after being told the other home was in a dangerous neighborhood of Alexandria. After returning to the U.S., he was hospitalized for nearly two weeks. The 17-year-old has regained about 20 pounds, but his parents say he's not the same boy he was when he left under the auspices of AFS Intercultural Programs. "He was outgoing, a straight-A student, very athletic. Now, he's less spontaneous and more subdued," said his mother.


Did any of you hear about this in the news? What did you think about it? Would you send your kid or would YOU go to other countries to study?

When I first heard about this... I kept thinking how can that boy who is 17 keep on loosing so much weight without really working on getting help. I mean... we are in an advanced world... and I'm sure he could have found ways to communicate with his parents or w/ the exchange program, send them pictures .... something!! lol Also... maybe he should have done more research on the customs of the family he was staying with... etc... so you know what to expect... what is so hard about this?

If I could, I would love to study abroad... I think it is a great experience... because it really opens your eyes to the rest of the world.
I didn't study abroad but I was born in a different country and I'm really grateful to have experienced different cultures, food, people... etc...

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Ingalls Friend for Life
Ingalls Friend for Life

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PostSubject: Re: American exchange student starves in Egypt   Tue Mar 04, 2008 10:24 am

Wow, that is just shocking. Who knows what he went through emotionally while there. It could be a learned helplessness type thing.

I'd have to give it serious consideration if my kids wanted to do this. For one, I would miss them terribly, but I wouldn't want to hold them back if this was something that they felt strongly about. I would have to really look into it before I let them go though.

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"Psalm 34"

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PostSubject: Re: American exchange student starves in Egypt   Tue Mar 04, 2008 10:34 am

There's something seriously wrong with the way that AFS Intercultural Programs runs their exchange program when something like this can happen. Don't they screen the families? Don't they check on the students occasionally to make sure that they're adjusting well to their environment? Weren't his parents in contact with him at all? That's just a bizarre situation.
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Somewhere in Time
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PostSubject: Re: American exchange student starves in Egypt   Tue Mar 04, 2008 10:36 am

OH...MY...GOSH. No, I hadn't heard about this Carol. I just don't get it. Like you said, SOMEONE should have been monitoring him. I'm sorry, but he's 17...he's not a college foreign exchange student, he's a high school student, a minor. His parents are obviously complete morons and the exchange program he was sponsored by dropped the ball big-time. If his parents weren't going to protect him, then they should have. It should not have been this kid's CHOICE to stay there...if his health was suffering (my GOD, he was malnurished for crying out loud!!), then he should have been pulled. This just really upsets me.

I would definitely send my son away if he was interested in studying abroad, but only if he was plannig to do something with the language in the future. He's taken German for four years and has an interest, but I really don't think he's going to put it to use. But sending him to Germany is certainly different from sending him to Egypt. :think:

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”

~Mother Teresa
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