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Exchange students learn Hoosier ways


Throughout this month, 40 AFS international high school students from 21 countries are scheduled to arrive in Indiana. They'll be traveling by bus, train and car to meet their host families in the coming days, after which they'll settle into a daily routine and, like many U.S. students, get excited about the first day of school. The organization is grateful to those area residents who have opened up their homes to so many of these deserving students.

There are still students to be hosted in the community.

It's not too late to take advantage of this great opportunity. AFS-USA is still recruiting host families in Indiana and encourages all types of families to apply — traditional and non-traditional family units including single parents, divorced couples and empty nesters are welcome.

Your family can host a student for 6-12 weeks, a semester or a full academic year. AFS-USA provides 24/7 support from local staff and trained volunteers, and students arrive with their own spending money plus medical insurance. All they need is a bed of their own and three meals a day; all they want is the chance to experience their daily lives with families in Indiana — no frills required.

“Hosting was one of the best, most rewarding and life-expanding activities we ever did,” says Judith Matanic of La Porte. She and her husband, Randolph, first hosted with AFS-USA 12 years ago, and since then, they've welcomed three international daughters into their family from Hong Kong, Denmark and France. The Matanics stay in touch with all three: Siegy, their Hong Kong daughter, came back to Indiana for her American brother's wedding last year; Veronique, their French daughter, paid a visit three years ago simply to stay in touch; and Emilie, the daughter from Denmark, brought her entire family back for two weeks after her stay. Emilie also plans to attend Notre Dame when she graduates from high school.

Indiana educators support AFS-USA intercultural learning programs.

Not only do exchange students have an effect on the families with whom they live, they become assets to the school communities that have agreed to host them. Since global competency is now a critical skill for high school students to attain before college, there is no better way to teach young people the importance of tolerance and diversity than by inviting international students into their school.

AFS-USA partners with educators nationwide to foster intercultural learning and annually recognizes schools that stand out as leaders in this field. This year, Clay High School in South Bend received the 2014 AFS Top School Award for its achievements in furthering international education. In 2013, Plymouth High School received the award for its intercultural initiatives, including hosting five students and sending a group of Plymouth students to Panama on a community service program.

Make this the school year that you host an international student – it's an experience you, your family and your community will cherish for years to come.