Western Pa. families sought to host exchange students
Western Pennsylvania families are being sought to host international exchange students in the upcoming school year.
A total of 36 students from a dozen countries are expected to arrive in early August for the coming school year, said Kathy Harenski, the AFS Intercultural Programs liaison coordinator for Western Pennsylvania.
They hail from Belgium, China, Spain, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Latvia, Switzerland, Thailand and Turkey.
Of the 36, Harenski said, 17 already are placed with families.
Hosts are needed for 19 more, consisting of 10 girls and nine boys.
They will be among more than 2,000 exchange students across the nation.
Hosting exchange students promotes peace and broadens understanding while enriching classrooms and communities, Harenski said.
“Intercultural exchange affords students and families the opportunity to live harmoniously, love, learn and grow despite cultural differences,” she said. “With so many misunderstandings that separate people these days, hosting a teenager from a different culture is a great opportunity for hosts to practice citizen diplomacy and learn about very different perspectives without leaving home.”
The deadline to complete paperwork to host an exchange student is July 25. There is an online hosting application, and an in-home interview is required.
Families should check with their local school districts to see if they are accepting exchange students, Harenski said.
In the Alle-Kiski Valley area, families in the Highlands, Fox Chapel Area and Deer Lakes districts have taken in students, she said.
Traditional and non-traditional families and individuals with or without children are able to host.
Families choose students based on interests, personality, academic record and motivation to adapt. Students are between 15 and 18 years old, need their own bed and are to be treated like a member of the family during their stay, including having chores and adhering to family rules.
Families receive the support of local AFS staff and volunteers, and students arrive with their own spending money and medical coverage.
Andrea Adolph of Harrison hosted one of seven exchange students in the Highlands School District last school year. She and her daughter, Ella, opened their home to Tehreem Komal, 15, from Pakistan.
“It was a really good experience,” Adolph said. “I think she had an amazing time and really embraced a lot of different activities at school. She made a lot of friends across different spheres.”
Hosting an exchange student is not difficult or costly, according to Adolph.
“These students are motivated to do well and most of them are exceptional students,” she said. “They’re eager to have good experiences here.”
Adolph will be hosting again, this time a girl from Switzerland. She encouraged others to consider doing it.
“If anybody has considered it in the past or is on the fence, I would say just go for it,” Adolph said. “It is really a unique experience.”
Brian C. Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Brian at 724-226-4701, [email protected] or via Twitter .