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Deplorable treatment of 17 year old exchange student from Portugal while in the USA

This organization is an ASSE.

We received an impassioned email from the director of the Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students (CSFES) asking us to highlight and publicize the terrible treatment of a foreign student from Portugal in America.

Here below is the director's email to the U.S. Department of State outlining complaints against the (rather aptly-named) ASSE International Student Exchange organization.

Email to the U.S. Department of State

Please accept this complaint against:

ASSE International Student Exchange
Mr. Bill Gustafson
228 N. Coast Hwy
Laguna Beach, CA 92651

Below please find an email received this morning from the natural parent, Teresa VillasBoas, regarding her son, a former ASSE participant from Portugal, placed in Wisconsin on August 28, 2023.

I left a message for Mr. Bill Gustafson of ASSE at 7:44 am by calling 949-494-4100 ext. 300.

Additional information to follow.


Danielle J. Grijalva, Director
Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students
660 Joshua Tree Street
Imperial, CA 92251


Email from Parent

Dear Mrs. Grijalva

My son arrived in the USA on 28 August 2023 at 9:30 pm (USA) after an intercontinental flight from Lisbon, Frankfurt, Chicago and then Maddison. He was very excited and happy because this was his dream.

He was supposed to be in America until 3 June 2024. The sending organization is Multiway, in Portugal, and I don't think they have anything to do with my son´s treatment, even though they didn't help him either.

He went home with the host family and he fell asleep due to the long flights and jet lag. The next morning they woke him up at 5:30 am, drove him into a ranch, 20 minutes by car, no breakfast or any kind of food, and put him to work until 6 pm.

He didn't tell me immediately because he thought that was just one time. Later he became aware that this happens everyday and was also informed by the family that he couldn't talk to his family or friends from Portugal. He was also informed that school wasn't important, that he must do this work in that ranch, that no one seems to know where it is. The family told him that he must do this everyday, including on school time and weekends.

He must go to the ranch before and after school and he wasn't allowed to hang out with his new friends from school and American football. After the conversation with the host mother, who was very rude, he was told by Multiway representative from Portugal that he should contact the ASSE local coordinator, Melissa. She didn't answer any of his calls or messages and removed him from the WhatsApp group. He went into despair. Locked in a room, without any help, unable to talk to anyone... We have paid more than 15000$ to these organizations, flights and other expenses. He went there as an international student not as an illegal immigrant.

A few days later he received a call from a man named TROY, from Poynette, telling him that he was the new local coordinator. He went to see him, forced to sign a lot of papers, that we don't know what are and told him that the family no longer wants him at the house. My son discovered that TROY works with the host father...

At school, the school counselor helped him and the Headmaster also told him that they will help him. They tried to talk to TROY but he didn't talk to them. They were his salvation! A family from Poynette also gave him a place to sleep and went with him to pack his things at the house.

ASSE Regional coordinator Brittany Dusek, called my son, made a lot of threats, and spoke to him on the phone for more than 20 minutes, always making threats! He is 17!!!

ASSE didn't find any kind of solution and left him by himself. We were forced to buy new plane tickets and he called Troy asking him to take him to the airport. TROY didn't answer and text his friend's mother, who told my son that this was very strange. He left him at the airport and left him there without knowing which flight he was going or any other type of information.

Yours sincerely,

Teresa VillasBoas



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