By Kelsey Ryan
With the start of school about two months away, students from other countries that want to study in the United States are looking for placement with families across the country.
Nancy Hardy, local coordinator for the American Institute for Foreign Studies’ Academic Year in America program, said families who would be willing to have foreign students live with them for a semester or full school year are still being sought.
Hardy has personally been the host for 34 students over the past 20 years from a variety of countries, mostly in Europe and South America.
“You just treat them as one of your own children,” Hardy said.
This year, she’ll be the host for two girls that will attend Carl Junction High School. She said they keep in contact with most of the students who have stayed at her home.
Through the AYA program, students are required to have at least three years of English courses. She encourages first-time host families to try one semester before committing to a full school year.
The program requires students to have their own health insurance and spending money, she said.
Angie Besendorfer, Joplin School District assistant superintendent, said her family will open her home for the first time this year to an exchange student from Germany. She said her aunt and uncle had an exchange student from Puerto Rico when she was growing up, and she’d like her kids to have a similar experience.
“I want to show my kids the whole concept of a bigger world, and for them to learn about different cultures and people,” Besendorfer said.
Joplin High School usually takes one to three students per year, Principal Kerry Sachetta said. This is just the third year JHS has allowed exchange students because of past crowding issues, he said.
“If all parties have the right interests in mind, it can be a lifelong friendship,” he said.
Carl Junction High School averages about three or four foreign exchange students per year, said David Pyle, principal, and most of those students in recent years have been from Germany and Brazil. He said they often work with AYA and other organizations in placing students.
“It’s been good for our students to have the opportunity to interact with someone from another country and culture,” Pyle said. “The kids we have tend to get very immersed in the high school experience here and it’s a benefit to them and to our students.”
American students at Carl Junction occasionally have opportunities to travel overseas. Pyle said that a group recently returned from a trip to the United Kingdom.
At Webb City High School, there are usually two or three foreign exchange students each year, said Tim Davied, principal. He said that more recently, students have been from Germany, Mexico and Spain.
“We usually try to limit it to two or three because of the details of the language barriers,” Davied said. “All the students we’ve had have come in and just done a great job. After you meet them and they get going, they follow procedures and seem to fit right in.”
For more information on becoming a host for students, people may contact Nancy Hardy at firstname.lastname@example.org.