No announcement yet.

Exchange students

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Exchange students

    Host families learn from exchange students
    FRI., APR 27, 2007 - 11:31 AM

    Wanted: Wisconsin families willing to share their lives with a teenager from another country, perhaps from a very different culture.

    "It's not how we're different that is important. It's when you learn that we're the same," said Dick Schultz of Fort Atkinson, a coordinator for the Aspect Foundation student exchange program.

    "People who host are people who are willing to learn more about the world and are interested in the differences," said Holly Dowe of Beaver Dam, a volunteer with the AFS student exchange program.

    AFS hopes to place about 90 high-school students with Wisconsin families in this area. Aspect will host about a dozen teens, three of them Muslims. Students will arrive in August for the school year.

    If it sounds daunting to welcome a stranger with new dietary requirements and different prayer habits, host mother Cheryl Daniels of Madison can offer reassurance based on hosting five exchange students, plus three children of her own.

    "It can be just a great experience," she said.

    Her family's current exchange student is Prahallad Badami, 17, from India, who describes himself as a non-practicing Hindu. He loves fast food and finds McDonald's hamburgers taste the same here and at home in Bangalore.

    Nicknamed Prada by his soccer coach at La Follette High School, where he also plays tennis and writes for The Lance, he's embracing American life. He dyed an Easter egg the saffron, white and green colors of the Indian flag, and was thrilled with a class field trip to the Chicago Auto Show.

    Except for one incident of harassment on a bus, Badami said he's been welcomed in Madison. He's enjoyed even the surprises, such as rats as family pets and the April weather.

    When the Daniels family hosted a Muslim boy from Indonesia a few years ago, they set aside a prayer area at home and helped him determine the direction toward Mecca. East High School provided a room for noon prayers and he arranged his schedule to go to the Islamic Center of Madison for Friday prayers.

    At home, it was easy to add some chicken brats to the menu, Daniels said, and "we just made sure he could observe the dietary part" of his religion.

    Exchange programs offer resources, as do organizations such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

    Non-Muslim families may fear a student will be harassed, Schultz said, but that hasn't been a problem. "What they deal with is a lot of curiosity," he said

    The Muslim students arriving through his program are participating in the competitive Youth Exchange and Study Program sponsored by the U.S. State Department.

    Families that host international students often send their own teens to other countries and make lifelong friends of their guests. Daniels' son, Owen, 17, is an AFS student in Denmark this year, and her older daughter, Marianna, 18, a college student in Montreal, spent a year in Italy. Alaina, 13, has enjoyed older "brothers" who, in her view, are nicer than her own siblings, her mother said.

    When Daniels' husband, Chris, died suddenly of a heart attack in March 2006, the family wasn't sure about hosting a student this year. But they decided to participate again in honor of his memory.

    Daniels enjoys cooking and likes hosting teenage boys, with their big appetites and endless energy.

    "People can see the human side of Americans, not the evil superpower, but just everyday Americans, what we're like, and that we're good people. They take that home," she said.

  • #2
    I LOVE exchange students... it's so cool and fun seeing them "adapting" to this environment - and they're so cute when they start telling us stories of back home .... our shocked faces, their smug looks


    Unconfigured Ad Widget