Thursday, February 6, 2014

• EF Homestay: International Student Exchange

Have you ever wondered about foreign exchange students and the process involved in hosting one? I remember back in the '90s my grandparents hosting some Korean students and how much they enjoyed the experience. Last week I stumbled upon a local group that facilitates such opportunities and thought you might like to know about it.

Let me share some info I've learned with you about:
Here is a photo of last year's group.

Though "Murrieta" is in the title, they cover Wildomar and Lake Elsinore areas too. If you've considered, or wondered about, hosting an international student, but didn't know the first steps... here's a quick peek into it.
  • The student's family pays the costs and they are insured on the off chance they get hurt or break something in your home. 
  • The process strives to find the best compatibility between host families and students. 
  • You get to choose from the participating countries.
  • Summer program is for 3 weeks.
  • There are semester long programs too.

Terina Matthews is the Site Director for Murrieta Hot Springs Int'l - sort of like the principal of the program. She reminded me that even though Murrieta is in the title, they encompass the entire valley including Lake Elsinore, Wildomar, Canyon Lake, Menifee, Hemet, Temecula and Menifee. 

Their program is the short term Homestay summer program which gives their volunteer host families, and visiting students, just a taste of this wonderful experience. The students attend school with certified teachers and a structured curriculum for about 4-6 hours a day during the program, and then in the afternoons they attend different outings that give them a taste of the American/California experience.

I asked Terina to give me some thoughts on the program.

"What makes this an awesome experience for everyone is we encourage our Host Families to participate in the afternoon activities with their students, if they are available, and then the weekends the students are encouraged to really participate with their families —to get the real American family experience."

"Our Host Family kids, who are in need of community service hours for high school, can earn 15 hours a week of community service for participating as a volunteer host family. For our 3 week program that would equal 45 hours."

"It is a wonderful experience. We have been involved as a family for 6 years. In that 6 years we have hosted 11 students! We love all our kids all over the world. No matter if a host family has young kids, older kids, no kids...the experience is just incredible!"

"Our program dates this year is July 17 thru Aug 5...I really appreciate Jenni Botto for getting the info out to our community. She too has been a host family for several years and we just love her and her family."


I was asking Jenni Botto, another person in charge of the local program, how it works. She was telling me that the students arrive at LAX then to their destination homes in the evening. The very next morning they are off to school. All the kids in the program, from the various countries, meet at a "core center" for their schooling. 

Jenni told me how some hosts are concerned about "entertaining" the students for that period of time, and then explained that the schedule is filled with activities, and often the students are in activities that are away from their home base. Many families are like any other, meaning they have to go to work, and can't be there during the day.

I could try and write more about this, but the best way to find out more is to visit their website... which is very informative. They also are very helpful on the phone.

Here is the link to their website and and to their FaceBook page: 
facebook group: EF Homestay ~ Murrieta Hot Springs International

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  1. Thank you for your post Joseph. I have been hosting for 20+ years and my own kids and grand-daughter have grown up with the program. We have been lucky enough to go and visit most of our students in their home country and were treated like royalty by their parents. My own kids learned the gift of giving, volunteering, and the love of traveling. Hope some others will have this same opportunity that we were given 25 years ago. I look at it like this, it is only 19 days out of my year and what I receive in that 19 days is the love of a foreign student and their parents, the gift of giving of themselves (my kids) and not always being "me, me, me." The passion that I feel in my heart is not easy for me to express in print but hopefully someone out there can feel what I am trying to convey.

    Here's to all the volunteers out there that give of themselves to share their love of a young person in hopes of that student learning from us and using that knowledge and kindness as they mature and grow into kind and loving individuals.

    1. It is something that I'm interested in... I can see my wife and me hosting in the future. Thanks for reading and commenting.


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