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American Values

April 2017

Dear Friend,

Well, here’s some good news. In a research study I just conducted, newcomers living in the US during the 2016 presidential election – you know, the one marked by unprecedented accusations and mind-boggling rhetoric – say they have more new respect and admiration for American values than newcomers in prior years. And hold on – these newcomers are from either Muslim-majority countries or former Soviet Union countries.

Is that possible?

I’ve been doing springtime workshops for the past few years with high school exchange students studying in the US, preparing them to return to their home country. (“Re-entry” is a known challenge for many people who return to their home country after living elsewhere, regardless of the circumstances of their home and host culture and lifestyle – see sidebar for some reasons why.) Because of the special program they’re on, about half the students in our workshops are Muslim; about half are from former Soviet Union countries.

We do a pre-training online survey asking about values that are important (a) to them, (b) to people in their home country and (c) to US Americans. And we ask them to say how much they agree with these three statements:
I have grown and changed in positive ways.
I have new respect and admiration for my home country and its people’s values.
I have new respect and admiration for the US and Americans’ values.
I have been concerned about what thoughts about the US these 16-18-year-olds are taking home, having lived here during the 2016 presidential election rhetoric. (About half, we learned from informal discussion, are placed with host families who voted Democrat, half with Republican-voting families.) What do they make of what they read in the US news and social media? What are they hearing from their classmates? From their host families? Have they experienced hurtful comments or actions and if so, how have they handled it? And bottom line, what are they going to remember about their year in the US?

In short, how does living in this current political environment affect you when you’re young and away from home, and supposed to go home to be global leaders of the future?
Preparing to share the values survey data with the students last week, I realized I had a data-based answer at my fingertips. I compared the 2016 and 2017 students (who were in the US at the peak of the election discourse) with those (from the same countries, here through the same sponsoring organizations) who were here in the prior year. And here’s the good news:

The students who lived in the US throughout the 2016 presidential election have significantly MORE new respect and admiration for the US and Americans’ values than those who studied here in the previous years.

Wait, what? I know. I went back and double checked, to be sure I hadn’t mis-coded something. But it was right.

And furthermore, when you look at how they view US values, it makes sense. Students who said they had more new respect and admiration for US values also tended to say they thought the following values were among the most important to Americans
Helping other people
Trying new things
Standing up for what you think is right
And that these values were less important to Americans:
Working hard and being productive
Gain goods and wealth
The students I spoke with about this finding said things like, “Yeah, the election has forced Americans to put into words what their values are, and to fight for the things that are important to them. They’re really passionate about their beliefs.” They seemed to be hearing the ‘resistance’ loud and clear. And they said the practice they’d had in explaining their religion, describing their country and defending their values – which they’d had to do a lot – was invaluable to them and led to a positive view of the US. Whew.

I still worry about them. But this finding gave me hope for the wisdom of the next generation.


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About us

The work of understanding others and helping others understand us is our mission. 

We design and deliver specialized cross-cultural training workshops, train and consult to professionals in the field, conduct research on the process of intercultural transition, produce publications to assist newcomers to the US.

The Interchange Institute is a not-for-profit research organization established in 1997 by Dr. Anne P. Copeland. The work of smoothing intercultural transitions has never been so critical.

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Dr. Tasha Arnold is an experienced leader and researcher in the field of education specializing in cross-cultural training, transition support, and program development for schools, universities, and global teams. She co-founded The Academic Achievement Bureau where she worked with international schools and universities conducting research on their organization and providing services to aid intercultural understanding, transition adjustment, and student achievement. She is currently the Executive Director of The Interchange Institute, a NEASC and CIS school accreditor, and serves on the board of The Namibia Project.  

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Terri McGinnis, M.S.

Senior Trainer​

Terri is an independent cross-cultural trainer specializing in helping families moving overseas, assisting those coming from overseas to live and work in the U.S., and providing group business briefings on China, Brazil and USA. Terri has worked with large automotive companies, automotive suppliers, oil companies, national office supply and furniture companies, the construction industry, electronic companies, IT companies, chemical companies, not to mention many other national and international companies.

A well-read and traveled individual, Terri has lived in and navigated different cultures successfully. Ms. McGinnis lived with her family as an expatriate in Beijing, China. In China, she conducted cross-cultural training programs, studied Mandarin, worked for the International School of Beijing providing classes to their staff, and provided Pilates training to individuals in the expatriate community of Beijing.

In addition to her overseas experience in China, Ms. McGinnis also lived with her family as an expatriate in Brazil for three years where she studied Portuguese. In addition to her language studies, she worked for Fiske School teaching English as a second language to Brazilian nationals. While in Brazil, the International School of Curitiba engaged her services for curriculum and staff development.

Prior to her international assignments, Ms. McGinnis was a high school teacher teaching vocational business skills. She also has eight years of experience in the automotive industry working in various HR positions.

Ms. McGinnis graduated with a Master of Science degree in Instructional Technology and a Bachelor of Science degree in Education.

Her experiences in Brazil and China have taught her to appreciate the world’s diversity and to cross cultures successfully. Her hobbies are reading, sea kayaking, paddle boarding and travel. She has two daughters attending university. She actively volunteers for her a local national club swim team.

alt="Tasha Arnold Executive Director of The Interchange Institute"

Tasha Arnold, Ed.D.

Executive Director

Dr. Tasha Arnold is an experienced leader and researcher in the field of education specializing in cross-cultural training and development for schools, universities, and multicultural teams. As the Executive Director of The Interchange Institute (TII), Tasha is responsible for overseeing the administration, programs and strategic plan of TII, while also serving as an evaluator for the Intercultural Training Expertise Certification (ITEC) Board and being actively involved in the training of emerging and experienced interculturalists through the Crossing Cultures with Competence Train the Trainer program.

Tasha is a certified teacher and principal/head of school and accredits schools worldwide with the New England Association of Schools and Colleges and Council for International Schools.

Prior to her work at the Interchange Institute, Tasha held positions in both public and private schools and co-founded The Academic Achievement Bureau where she worked with international schools and universities conducting research on their organization and provided services to aid intercultural understanding, transition adjustment, and student and staff well-being.

Tasha has directed several research studies in the UK and Qatar on educators’ experiences and perceived needs with regards to transition at their international school in order to improve the transition experience for educators, students and families in these cultural contexts. These findings have helped her to develop and deliver school-wide transition and intercultural development programs.

Originally from the USA, Tasha relocated in 2011 to the UK and currently resides with her husband near London. She serves on the board of The Namibia Project Charity.

Anne P. Copeland, Ph.D.

Founder of The Interchange Institute

Dr. Copeland is a clinical psychologist with expertise in family and cultural transition. During her tenure as Executive Director of The Interchange Institute, she provided cross-cultural training for individuals and families moving to and from the United States. She also trained almost 500 interculturalists around the world to deliver tailored, individualized cross-cultural orientation programs through the Crossing Cultures with Competence program that she developed.

Dr. Copeland has written several books on families and transition (Studying Families, Sage 1991, Separating Together 1997, and In Their Own Voice 2011), and has authored over 90 research articles, chapters, and professional presentations.

Prior to founding The Interchange Institute in 1997, Dr. Copeland was Associate Professor of Psychology at Boston University, where she conducted research and research supervision in psychological aspects of family process assessment, ethnicity, cultural influences, immigration, development, developmental disabilities and affective development. During her tenure at the University, she relocated with her family to work in London in 1988, where she was the academic advisor for Boston University’s British Programmes.

Dr. Copeland has directed many research studies on expatriate families’ experience, including multinational in-depth analyses of the social, familial, and personal aspects of moving to a new country, including a focus on the personal and family side of international short-term assignments, the role of one’s home – its design and layout – on one’s expatriate experience, on the challenges of moving to a country that is perceived as very similar, the experiences of high school exchange host families, and the ways in which having experienced being different as a child has an impact on the expatriate experience. Recent work focuses on how interculturalists have built and nurtured their careers.

Dr. Copeland lives with her husband in Boston, MA, and Barters Island, ME.