By Nikki Garrett Metzger
High Desert Daily
(Victor Valley) — Hosting a foreign exchange student can be an exciting and rewarding experience. The Center for Cultural Interchange (CCI), the nonprofit student exchange organization, seeks volunteer host families to host exchange students for the 2011-12 school year.
“Over 900 students from over 50 countries come to the U.S. each year. They are paired with host families in all 50 states,” said Allison Graham, Outreach and Training Manager for CCI. “The host family takes them in and treats them as a member of the family. The student goes to the local high school, is encouraged to get involved with school activities, and make friends. They are also working on their English, so being immersed in it is very helpful to the student.”
Students have their own accident and health insurance and bring their own spending money, according to CCI’s website.
“The requirements to become a volunteer host family include being able to provide a separate bed for the student. It can be in a shared room with another person of the same gender within the same approximate age range,” said Graham. “The family also needs to provide 3 daily meals, and a place to study. Local transportation since students are not permitted to drive while in the program, and treatment as a member of the family, which may include household rules, responsibilities and privileges.”
Host families come from diverse backgrounds. “They can be retired, single, working professionals that don’t have any children, or parents with young or high school aged children. They can be same sex couples as well. Families must pass our approval process, which includes a background check and references,” said Graham.
Katherine and Aaron Biewend hosted Katharina Udod from Germany this past school year. “My husband and my sister-in-law grew up with exchange students. My sister-in-law and her family hosted a student last fall. When it was time for her to leave we were all so sad. So my husband and I decided we wanted to host a student, that it was our turn,” said Katherine.
She continued, “It was worth it. Our student came from Germany, she was 16, she was really cool and the kids loved her. My step son was actually born in Germany, so he thought it was super cool to have someone from his birth country come stay with us.”
While host families are not compensated, the Internal Revenue Service has authorized families to claim a $50 per month charitable contribution deduction on their itemized tax returns, according to CCI’s website.
“The benefit to the host family is more than they would ever expect. They’re offering such a great experience and wonderful opportunity for the student, but every host family gets so much more in return,” explained Graham. “They’re always pleasantly surprised at how they become connected with the rest of the world. Not just with that student, but also with the student’s natural parents and how they adopt a new family across the world.”
Katherine Biewend said, “If you are thinking about hosting an exchange student, do it! If you have the time and the space, it’s worth the experience. It really, really is. Its only 6 months, but at the end you look back and the time went by too fast.”
Host family applications are being accepted now through August 15.