WLAA spotlight: Educational exchange organization offers life-changing experiences for students and host families

It’s an exciting and emotional and memorable moment. A young student who has never been to this country walks through the terminal at Detroit Metro Airport and meets for the first time their “United States family.”

It’s more than a win-win situation – it’s an amazing-amazing situation and even a life-changing experience for both the student and host family.

Education Travel & Culture (ETC) is a non-profit educational exchange organization whose purpose is to promote international understanding and goodwill by providing high quality educational and cultural exchange programs in the United States and abroad.

“Most of our students come for the full school year, but we have some that choose to only do a half year program,” said Teresa Thompson, Senior Field Manager for ETC. “We are currently seeking good families for these students to live with from January through May.”

ETC provides inbound program opportunities for high school students throughout the world to study in an American high school and live with an American family. Host families provide room and board, a quiet place to study, and an American family experience for guest students during their semester or academic year in the United States.

“Hosting an exchange student is a wonderful opportunity for any family,” Thompson says.  “I can’t think of a better way to learn about another culture and a world outside of the U.S., while making a lifetime friend and being a diplomat for our own country.  Hosting is an amazing experience and an unforgettable time for the whole family.”

Thompson says that most people walk away with a new member of the family, new traditions, menu ideas, great memories and even a vacation invitation from abroad.

Education Travel & Culture is well respected in the exchange industry because of its exemplary compliance with all the US Department of State regulations. 

“We actually take things a step up from these requirements by asking our Local Coordinators to have face to face meetings with the students each month and more contact with the host family,” says Thompson.

Hosting is such a wonderful opportunity for your own children to be exposed to other cultures and a lot of fun for you to have an extra teenager in the house.

My family has hosted 10 students and now we have family all over the world,” Thompson says. “We started when my son was in fifth grade and hosting made a big impact on his life, too!  The students at school benefit from making an international friend and learning about another culture, too.

ETC students bring their own spending money and insurance and totally integrate within the family.

“They are not a guest but part of the family,” Thompson says. “You can expect them to do chores like American teenagers and they participate in all of your usual family activities.”

The “requirements” to host are quite simple.

“You would need to provide a bed, three shared family meals a day (student would pay if they chose to buy school lunch), some transportation, and allow the student to become part of your family,” Thompson says. “All types of families can make great host families – those with young kids, no kids, empty nesters, with teens, single parents or families who homeschool. Busy host families are great, too!  The most important characteristics of a good family is one who will provide love and guidance for the student during their time here.”

The application process is very simple and is done on line.  After the application is complete, a local coordinator will come out to your home for a visit, meet the rest of your family and you can ask more questions. 

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