Hosting a foreign exchange student is an experience that ultimately impacts not only the student, but also the host family and the local community.
“It is amazing,” said Savannah Bradley, recalling her own experiences with the exchange program.
She said that her parents hosted a Japanese student, Kosuke Tabuchi, when she was about 15 years old.
“Learning about Japan … and the different culture was … so unique,” Bradley said. She added that Tabuchi later went on to attend Wilmington College.
Bradley, who is now a community coordinator with the Council for Educational Travel, USA (CETUSA), summarized the exchange program, saying that it is “definitely a cultural enlightenment.”
CETUSA, she said, is a nonprofit organization. Its mission is to promote a “lifelong journey of peace and understanding,” she added.
Bradley described CETUSA as “very community-oriented.”
Overall, CETUSA has over 400 students waiting for host families, she said. And currently, CETUSA is looking for local volunteers to host students
“We just ask that they treat them as family,” Bradley said, adding that hosting is volunteered and not paid in the hopes that families will welcome students out of “the love of their hearts.”
Hosting a student, she said, means providing “a bed and a plate,” as well as transportation to and from school. Students have their own medical funds and spending money.
Foreign exchange students are between ages 15 and 18. Both male and female students participate. They are placed with a family for 10 months.
CETUSA is seeking volunteers for school districts within a 60 mile radius of the local area, Bradley said.
She added that a student from Thailand has been placed at Fairfield Local Schools. Most districts, she said, typically accept two placements.
Students come from a wide range of countries, such as Vietnam, Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, and Italy.
And the exchange experience, Bradley added, has a “very big impact” on the students who come to the United States.
“Just learning the language … gives them a big advantage” later in life, she said.
A CETUSA flyer adds that hosting a student offers numerous opportunities for the host family as well, some of which are: making a difference in the world, increasing cultural awareness in the community, learning about a new culture and language, and supporting cross-cultural understanding.
The flyer adds that hosts “create an international friendship that lasts a lifetime.”
And that is true, Bradley said, of her own experience with the exchange program.
Fifteen years after Tabuchi was an exchange student, he is still a part of their family, Bradley said. She added that he visited them earlier this year for Father’s Day.
Bradley described a picture taken during Tabuchi’s visit, which shows Bradley’s father (Warren Hester) with his son (Ben Hester) on his right and “with his son from Japan” on his left (Tabuchi).
Her parents, Bradley said, see Tabuchi as “one of their biggest accomplishments.”
“He’s considered family,” she added.
To learn more about volunteering as a host family, contact Bradley at 937-509-3829, or at [email protected].
Reach Sarah Allen at 937-393-3456, ext. 1680, or on Twitter @SarahAllenHTG.