Exchange students share culture, American experienceWritten by John Krudy | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Some women might be worn out after 10 months with a foreign exchange student in the house. Not Cindy Case.
“I don’t want her to go home,” said Case, who with her husband, Kevin, have hosted French student Lucile Desendos, 18, for nine months. “It’s just been really good.”
Case, of New Philadelphia, Ohio, said she found an advertisement in her local newspaper requesting host families for the nonprofit Students Travel Schools Foundation (STS). STS is based in Scottsdale, Ariz., and has been placing high school students with American families since 1986. It’s seeking families in the Toledo area to host students and usually places about 15 students a year in the area, and about 400 across the country.
“We don’t accept students who party,” said Lilian Clemente, Ohio’s regional coordinator for STS, and a former exchange student from Brazil. “We’re looking for the ones who want to experience the American way of life by following family rules and attending school regularly.”
STS isn’t the only program seeking host families in Northwest Ohio. Working in cooperation with the U.S. Department of State, AFS USA participates in the Youth Exchange and Study Program, which places high school students from countries with significant Muslim populations. Any type of family can host one of these foreign students, according to a press release.
While the Cases had to fill out an application form, participate in a phone interview and have an STS agent visit their home, the process was remarkably quick.
“It was less than a month, from the day I saw the ad to the day Lucille got there,” said Cindy.
Desendos will head back to France after traveling with them to New York City and Washington, D.C. She’s greatly enjoyed her time in the United States.
“It has allowed me to understand people better and learn the language,” Desendos said. “America is the main superpower of the world, so it’s good to get an idea of what happens here.”
Desendos said foreigners develop perceptions that can wrongly color their view of America.
“When you haven’t been somewhere, you get an image of it in your head,” she said. “My image of America was very different than what it really was.”
She was most surprised by the large cars and wide roads, both far bigger than they are in France.
Clemente said students come to the United States on a J-1 visa and added that families hosting students are eligible for a tax deduction of $50 for each month the student is with them.
Case said she learned “patience” having Desendos in the house, especially since her daughter is in college and her son is in Iraq.
“We were told [by STS] not to stress things like church, but I asked Lucile to attend with us, and she ended up joining the choir,” Case said. “And when we do something together, I ask, ‘how would you do that in France?’ We just talk about things constantly.”
“I’ve been in a musical, made friends and made friends with my family,” Desendos said. “And now I don’t have to watch [American] movies dubbed in French.”
For more information on hosting a student, call STS at (800) 522-4678 or AFS at (800) AFS-INFO.