CS Knowledge Exchange


CS Knowledge Exchange
Posted January 15th, 2010 – 4:27 pm

by Rachel Smith

Want to receive WWE articles in your mailbox? Head to the News Channels home page and change your subscription to instant!

When you first created your CS profile, what did you put under Teach, Learn and Share? This information helps make CouchSurfing more than finding a place to rest your head. Everyone has the chance to be a student or a teacher, and events are ideal opportunities for knowledge exchange.

What can you teach, learn, or share? Popular ideas to get you started:
Arts & Crafts (origami, knitting)
Travel Advice & Experience
Exercise (yoga, hiking, martial arts)
Music & Instruments
Science & Philosophy
CS 101

Teach, Learn, and Share Events

In Europe:

In Manchester, England, CouchSurfers meet monthly at a low-key bar in town to practice origami, knitting, poker and languages such as French, Turkish, Italian, and Spanish. Janis, the event organizer, firmly believes that everyone has something to share. “People who say, ‘I don’t have anything anyone would want to learn,’ are often surprised to find that something they undervalue can be really interesting to another person.”

The folks of Lisbon, Portugal, organized their first Knowledge Exchange Meeting this past December. The event had workshops on topics as diverse as self-defense, Austrian cooking, Pilates, Tui-Na massage, laptop recovery, and using Google Sites.

In North and South America:

A small group in Florida, United States, meets to share their common interest in travel writing. Freelance journalist and author Kerry facilitates the workshop, passing on what she knows about the writing industry.

In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, CouchSurfers met twice this January for a discussion of modern physics, moderated by philosopher and engineer Márcio Galvão and by physicist Lucas Savi. “Pleasant afternoons spent in the company of educated people,” was how an attendee, Paula Paz, described these meetings.

Language Lessons

A Dutch game lesson
photo by Liza

For over a year, the Weekly Dutch lessons in Utrecht, Netherlands, have brought CouchSurfers together for casual evenings of education and fun.

The lessons have given expats such as Jim Hart and Graham Wright the opportunity to make friends with locals and experience the Dutch culture. “It surprises me how detached most foreigners can be from the local language and culture,” says Jim. Graham credits his new friends for the extra motivation to attend classes. “I made some of my best CS friends through these lessons because there is a stronger bond between people who go through something difficult, like learning Dutch, together.”

Travel Advice

As CouchSurfers, there’s one thing we all know a lot about: travel. Montreal’s CS travel conference “gave CouchSurfers an overview of China, from the big metropolitan cities to the countryside,” says Carlos, who presented with Stephanie Wang.

In San Francisco, United States, How to Get Lost featured presentations by CouchSurfers who taught English in Chile, researched flora in Indonesia and traveled solo in Iran.

CS 101

Events designed to turn inexperienced members into savvy CouchSurfers are also popular. Mario, Ambassador for Heredio Centro, Costa Rica, believes New Member Meetings “encourage members to become more active and empower them to make CouchSurfing safer for everyone.”

Derek Wallace has organized New Member Orientation events in the United States which, he claims, have turned CS newbies into “kung-fu masters” — in terms of CS knowledge, that is.

Martine, Ambassador for Brugge, Belgium, taught workshops at the Independent Women’s Meeting and the Utrecht Midsummernight. She says, “it’s a wonderful feeling when you notice that one of the CouchSurfers you ‘trained’ ends up an experienced member who helps others.”

Ready to organize a teach, learn, and share event?  Here are Janis‘ tips:

1. Recruit several core members in your area to help organize the event.

2. Find a friendly, welcoming venue that supports your group.

3. Choose a visible location. Greet newcomers!

4. Match skills and interests beforehand.

5. Keep tabs on the event attendance list, and encourage new people to come.

6. Create areas for different interests as groups begin to form.

7. Hand out name tags. Have people write their names and what they want to teach/learn.

Surfing at the Smiths

December 9, 2009

By JENNIFER ZIMMERMAN jzimmerman@pioneerlocal.com

The Smiths of Elmhurst very much resemble your typical nuclear American family.

With two kids and a beloved pup named Shadow, the couple’s three-story home sits at the end of a bustling neighborhood block where children’s bikes can be seen more frequently than cars, and young and old families have quietly settled in.

Rachel Smith poses with her dog, Shadow, on the couch of her Elmhurst home Friday. Smith is a member of the Web site couchsurfing.org, where she opens up her family’s couch to interested travelers passing through town.

CouchSurfing.org: Rachel’s page

Those visiting for the first time are usually met by lively family conversation and an invitation to a warm meal rather than the typical distractions of television or music.

“You want to be hospitable,” said Doug Smith.

But the Smiths have taken “hospitable” to a whole new level.

Earlier this year, upon the recommendation and request of his daughter, Rachel, Doug Smith literally opened up his family’s home to the entire World Wide Web.

Both his spare bedroom and downstairs couch are available for occupancy to some of the more than 1.5 million users of the Web site, couchsurfing.org.

Stretching across all areas of the world, the Web site allows users to create profiles and either offer up their own couches, free of charge, or search for one that is available in the area they are planning to visit. Or, instead of opening their couch for a night or week at a time, couch surfers can opt to instead have guests over for coffee or a drink.

About 1.6 million people have successfully “surfed” since the nonprofit organization was first created, according to the Web site.

“If it wasn’t for Rachel, I really wouldn’t have gotten involved at all,” Doug Smith said.

Rachel Smith runs her own profile on couchsurfing.org, where people can comment, leave recommendations or share their own experiences visiting with her family. So far, she has hosted three surfers, two of whom traveled halfway across the globe from New Zealand and Australia for a one-night stay with the Smiths.

The two men, both in their mid-20’s, were coming into town to do some recruiting work for a Christian college they worked for and needed a quick place to crash without having to spend a lot of cash.

“That was pretty exciting to have someone from halfway across the world stay the night,” Doug Smith said.

“And they loved the bunk beds,” his daughter added.

Although open to hosting more surfers, the Smith family is particularly choosey about who they welcome into their home, with both safety and convenience being major factors.

How long a person may want to stay, who they are and their intentions in passing through the area are all important considerations.

Having little to no information on a user’s profile page raises immediate red flags for the family, who will only welcome guests that provide sufficient background information, a phone number and have received good recommendations from fellow couch surfers. The Web site also has many verification systems built in to help ensure that those signing up are who they say they are.

“The last place you want to feel not safe is in your own home,” Doug Smith said. “Ask lot of questions. Find out if your kids have really done their homework on this.”

Having recently graduated from college, Rachel Smith is interested in experiencing the other side of couch surfing and will hopefully visit some foreign, but safe, couches of her own in the spring.

For now, though, she continues to attend couch surfing meet-ups in the city. She also keeps in touch with surfers she has already connected with, one of whom she regularly salsa dances with.

Both Rachel Smith and her dad are anxiously awaiting their next guest.

“I had the wrong impression of it,” said Doug Smith, who once called it the couch potato club. “But it’s no different than hosting a sleepover. You just don’t know the people.”