New Exchange student program looks for Tahoe-area sponsors | SierraSun.com

New Exchange student program looks for Tahoe-area sponsors

Sun News Service

Carol Berger has been hosting foreign exchange students for 20 years at her home in the Bay Area. Students came to live with her from places as foreign as Kazakhstan, teaching her about their culture while they learn about America.

Now the Academic Foundation for International Cultural Exchange, the nonprofit which Berger serves as media coordinator for, is looking for host families for high school exchange students in Incline Village.

She said students sign up for either a semester or whole year of living in America, learning about U.S. culture and attending school in the states.

“It’s an amazing experience for the host family and the student,” Berger said. “The host family gets to learn about another culture and their history. The student gets to see what life is like in the U.S., they get to experience a culture they hear so much about in their own country.”

Berger said AFICE brings high school-aged students from 14 different countries to study in the U.S., including: Albania, Bolivia, Brazil, China, Czech Republic, Kosovo, Mexico, Peru, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, South Korea, Spain and Vietnam.

The students come to their host family, enroll in the local high school and study in the U.S.

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“We use a pretty thorough process to find our host families and match them with our students. We interview both the host family and the student, looking at their interests to match up the best family with just the right kid,” Berger said.

Exchange students generally take to schoolwork here well, viewing it as a reprieve from education in their home country, Berger said.

“To be honest most of them think it’s easy,” Berger said. “For example, in some countries they go to school for 14 years, and here is only 12. Also many times in their own countries they are told what classes they have to take and don’t get a choice of classes. They love coming here and because they only really have to take history or civics and can choose the rest of their classes on their own.”

Berger said AFICE requires students to be proficient in English, testing them to be sure they are ready to interact with American life.

She said students are excited to see aspects of America, like the snowy weather and American cities.

“It’s so cool to get a kid from a country where it is never cold” some of them have never even seen snow- and watch them experience their first winter,” Berger said. “They are so excited about learning to ski and going to the beach, they really enjoy taking advantage of the things we usually take for granted.”

Berger said AFICE is interested in finding host families and a community representative to establish AFICE in Incline.

The community representative, Berger said, would help to identify and arrange for host families in Incline and assist in the placement program for students.

For more information on AFICE and to find out how you can get involved, Berger encouraged people to visit the organization’s Web site at http://www.afice.org or call (866) 462-3423.