Host families sought for exchange students


By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent



Walk the halls of the county’s largest public and private high schools and you will see a few students who have traveled thousands of miles for their educational opportunity.



Exchange student Carolina Garcia from Madrid going horseback riding. Special photo



Several local schools regularly accept foreign exchange students, young people from other countries who come to the United States specifically to live here with local families for a year or two and attend high school while absorbing American culture.

Sherry Coffman lives in Stockbridge and her family currently hosts a 16-year-old boy from Switzerland who attends Dutchtown High School. Three years ago she hosted a 16-year-old girl from Spain.

“Both have been wonderful,” she said.

Coffman is an international exchange coordinator with EF High School Exchange Year, a division of EF Education First. She helps find homes for exchange students in all parts of Georgia. The organization has placed current exchange students in Cobb, Fulton and Gwinnett counties.

All EF exchange students are between 15 and 18 years old, coming from one of 13 countries around the world. Students live in the U.S. for one or two semesters and attend the local high school. According to Coffman, host families come in all shapes and sizes.

“Host families really represent the diversity of American culture, coming from all kinds of economic, religious and social backgrounds,” said Coffman. “Some are parents looking to give their own children a glimpse of the world without having to travel themselves. Others have no children or their children have grown up and moved out, and they’re looking for new ways to connect to their communities. Still others just want to help promote global understanding right in their own backyard. There are so many reasons why families welcome a student into their home.”

EF High School Exchange Year has kicked off its annual nationwide search for host families. Last year EF connected nearly 3,000 exchange students from around the world with families across the United States, and they are expecting to place the same number for 2016-2017.

“Hosting an international student is a truly life-changing experience, and we’re excited to find wonderful new host families in communities all across the country,” said Dan Sodervall, president of EF High School Exchange Year. “The exchange experience is as rewarding for the host family as it is for the student. You bring a new culture into your family and community, you fulfill an international teenager’s lifelong dream of living in America, and you form a lasting relationship that spans the globe.”

EF High School Exchange Year, operated by EF Educational Foundation for Foreign Study, Inc., is a nonprofit corporation designated by the U.S. Department of State to operate a J-1 student exchange program. EF brings more students to the U.S. each year than any other high school exchange program, and since 1979 the organization has connected more than 100,000 international students with caring host families across the United States.

Families in Georgia that are interested in learning more about hosting an exchange student through EF can contact Coffman directly at 770-866-3884 or sherrycoffman@comcast.net, or visit efexchangeyear.org.