SPRINGVILLE—In an effort to prevent another World War, the United State Department of State set up a student exchange program between Germany and the U.S. The idea was to bridge that gap between the two and bring the world closer, according to iE-USA local coordinator Joe Bissell.
Since then, more than 300 students per year have flocked to the United States to gain a cultural experience. And this year, Bissell said, will be no different.
The non-profit iE-USA places exchange students with families who are willing to open their homes to a student from Germany, Spain, Switzerland or Thailand. Bissell explained that the organization is in need of host families in the area for the upcoming 2014-15 school year and encourages everyone to look into hosting a student.
“It’s important that these students find families,” Bissell said. “Otherwise we can’t accept them into the states.”
Host families can be traditional, singles, empty nesters and just about everything else, Bissell said, as long and they are 100 percent volunteering.
“The type of Visas these students come over on have a lot of restrictions,” he said. “One is that the families can’t receive any compensation. We just ask they accept these students as one of their own kids.”
The students go about the daily life of their family, including attending school and family vacations.
“A lot of host families we get are repeat families because they enjoyed it so much,” Bissell said. “But there are some people who don’t host again because they don’t think another student could replace the one they had.”
Bissell encouraged families to look into the iE-USA program and consider hosting an exchange student. He said that the host family learns just as much form the student as the student does the family.
Joan Tedesco-Blair, a high school teacher in the Western New York region, has hosted many exchange students. Tedesco-Blair is currently in Sweden visiting Per, an exchange student she hosted in 1976.
“Hosting is just as valuable for the American host family, who learn more about their own culture and values by sharing them with someone from another country,” she told Bissell.
“For host families with their own children, it is such an intense time of growth and maturation for both their own children and the exchange student as they learn and share each other’s cultural,” she said.
Bissell invited anyone who is interested in hosting a family, or anyone who is looking for more information, to visit the website at www.iE-USA.org, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (517)-388-8948. A list of exchange students can be found on the website as well. Applications to host an exchange student must be submitted by Aug. 15.