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Cultural Homestay International is looking for host families for foreign exchange students. The program is an opportunity to positively impact a youth's life while making memories and friendships that will last a lifetime.

CHI Academic Program Administrator Dorothy Whitefield said the organization has been placing students from all over the world for over 40 years. They have placed students in Wasco for the last 30 years.

Foreign exchange students come from Belgium, Brazil, China, Colombia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mongolia, Mexico, Poland, Spain, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam.

Students placed are age 15 to 18 and will attend Wasco High School for either a semester or an academic school year.

Host families provide a room and three meals a day. They undergo a vetting process that includes a background check for anyone over 18 in the household, provide references and participate in an in-home interview.

Students are required to purchase their own toiletries and bring spending money for any expenses, such as sports.

Whitefield said the purpose of the exchange program is to build bridges of understanding and peace.

"It broadens horizons for both the host family and students. All of our host families do it for altruistic reasons. It's bigger than them."

Host families learn about the culture of a new country from the student.

"The students bring their culture. It could be through food or how different holidays are celebrated and how we do it in our country versus how they do it there. It's a learning experience for both."

The students that come have a good foundation in English, and their level increases exponentially while they are here.

Whitefield explained, "They learn how wonderful Americans are, develop really close friendships with their peers at school and strong bonds with their host family who end up thinking of them as another family member."

She said it's that kind of relationship that makes it special.

"Many families keep in touch with their students years after hosting them. For students, they have a family at home but also love their family here."

Host families are surprised to see how close they grow with their students.

"Although students are only here for ten months, you see families crying because their new daughter or son is leaving," Whitefield said.

For more information on how to host an exchange student, call Whitefield at 805-944-2987 or visit chinet.org.

 

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