Delta County resident Tammy Holden recently became the local coordinator for a nonprofit organization that places foreign exchange students in a host home for all or part of a school year.
Each year, international high school students representing more than 60 nationalities come to the U.S. to experience American culture as part of the Council on International Education Exchange program. Students live as typical American teenagers, attending a U.S. high school, living with an American host family, and participating in extracurricular activities and sports. During their stay, students also give back to their host communities through community service opportunities.
Holden has hosted two foreign exchange students. One had to return early because a family member became very ill. The other, a student from Thailand, is currently living with Holden and her family. She is a sophomore at Delta High School.
"She is a joy to have in our home," Holden said.
"Before I decided to host a student I was unsure as to what impact it would have on my family. I wondered if I/we would have the time, I worried about having to watch after, guide and regulate a teen," Holden explained. "I was not sure if I was up to entertaining someone for a year and I didn't want to give up my privacy. On the other hand I missed having kids running amok in my home, running them to events and celebrating their successes or helping them when things get difficult."
After visiting with a friend who had hosted, Holden decided to go for it, with the support of her family.
"I found that my concerns and worries were for the most part unfounded," Holden said. "Of course there are rules and expectations in place and between the two students I have had few problems with them being broken.
"Our student, 'Nine' as she likes to be called, is very mature and needs little regulating. I still wish I had more time, but this girl keeps herself very busy with school and friends. Having her in my home is not like having a guest that needs to be entertained, it is like having a new family member with the excitement of learning about her and where she is from. My family has not lost anything by participating in this; it has opened my family up to new experiences, diversity and cultural exchange.
"My 7-year-old daughter absolutely loves having a big sister to talk to and hang out with. My husband and I love learning all she can teach us and helping her have a wonderful American experience. We hope she will take good things about America back to her country and share the fact that we are all very similar even if we are a world away."
Nine is active in the DHS Key Club and since January has donated over 10 hours of community service.
To become a host family you need to be over the age of 24 and all members of your family age 17 and up need to pass a background check. You must be able to provide three meals a day and the student needs his/her own room or be able to share a room with a child of the same sex and within four years of age. The student should be treated as a family member and participate in household chores. The student pays for school fees and activities and will have their own health insurance. Couples, singles and retirees are welcome to host.
Founded in 1947, CIEE is the country's oldest and largest nonprofit study abroad and intercultural exchange organization. Visit www.ciee.org for more information.
Holden is available to help the host family and the student with any needs, issues or questions. She can be contacted by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or via messenger on her Facebook page.