“The number one excuse I hear for why people say they can’t host an exchange student is because they are busy,” says Tiffany Adams, state director for International Student Exchange. “But busy is good! These students are coming to live the American culture; to experience it. A busy lifestyle is good for the kids.”
Adams, of Akron, is currently searching for host families to house 20 foreign exchange students in Kosciusko, Whitley, Elkhart and Fulton counties. Those students represent approximately 8 countries including Brazil, Thailand, Germany, Denmark and Belgium.
“Kosciusko County has always been a supportive county, but there are still a lot of misconceptions about being a host family,” says Adams.
Students brought to the United States under ISE come with their own money and insurance and they speak English, Adams explains. Host families are simply asked to provide meals at home, a place to sleep and some transportation as the students are not permitted to drive in the U.S. “But the kids are also encouraged to make friends who can help with transportation and they’re asked in return to buy them a (drink) or give them $5 for gas, just like other kids do.
“We tell the families do not treat them like guests,” she continues. “They want to be part of the family and learn the true American experience … become fluent in English.” With that, she says families should also give the exchange student chores and other obligations.
Adams and her own family have served as hosts to a dozen exchange students in the past 16 years. “They become my sons and daughters,” she tells, even noting she and her family have traveled to other countries to visit the students.
Host families can be of any age and social status, they can have children or be empty nesters. And, with Adams living locally, she is available to families at any time.
The exchange students coming for the 2012-13 school year are between the ages of 15 and 18 years old. In some cases, they are losing a year of studies in their own countries for this experience.
To inquire about becoming a host family, or for more information, visit the ISE’s local website where student profiles and applications are available. Or, call Adams at 877-283-5470 or 574-893-1744.