Exchange program seeks volunteer host families for this summer
–The North County will be host to more than 130 students from Russia, Finland, Italy, France and Sweden for three and four weeks this summer. Volunteer host families around San Luis Obispo County are sought for this program through Education First (EF) Educational Homestay Programs, a nonprofit.
“Traveling the world with kids is hard, so we decided to bring the work to our kids,” said Cristina Pires of San Luis Obispo. “We loved having two students from different parts of the world to give our kids a sense of cultural variety.”
Buses will transport students each weekday from the Five Cities/San Luis Obispo area and from San Miguel/Paso Robles to the study center, which will be in Atascadero or Templeton.
Host families are a vital part of the students’ time abroad and the experiences they have. The host families become the students’ home away from home, and EF host families provide a safe and comfortable environment for students to ensure they get the best experience abroad as possible.
“Hosting an exchange student is such a wonderful experience,” said Linda Napoli of Atascadero. “It’s difficult to describe since every time is different, but we get to meet such wonderful people and learn about how people in other parts of the world live. We get to share so much about our way of life and show them everything about living in a small town in the U.S. They share so much about their way of life and it helps to give us all a little perspective. The girls we have had have just been so fun. We play board games with them, we take them out to dinner with us, we play outside — there are always tears when we have to say goodbye and we keep in touch from afar. I look forward to hosting every year and I can’t wait to do it again this year and meet even more wonderful people.”
The local program will be led by Site Director Raechelle Bowlay-Sutton and Heather Young will return as a program leader. Jerissa Parkhurst and Sherry Gong will return to recruit host families.
“I started hosting students in 2010 and by 2015 I was working for EF as a program leader,” Young said. “My family continues to host a couple of students each summer and I have enjoyed getting to know the students both as a host mom and as a program leader. And my 8-year-old daughter loves having older ‘sisters’ to play with.”
The Atascadero program begins on June 16 when the students arrive. Students from France, Finland and Italy will depart on July 5 and students from France, Sweden and Russia will depart on July 12.
Host family responsibilities:
• A warm friendly welcome
• A clean, comfortable well-lit room, with sufficient heating, a bed or air mattress that can be provided, ventilation, natural light, storage for clothes and use of a table or desk
• Bed linen and towels which should be cleaned by the host family on a weekly basis
• Regular access to the bathroom as per a member of the family
• A key or access to the home at anytime
• Transportation to and from a local bus stop in the area, where EF will provide the student transportation to and from the school;
• Breakfast, a packed lunch, and dinner
• Access to laundry facilities at least once per week
Our hosts come in all shapes and sizes and we welcome such diverse families as single parent households, empty-nesters and families with small or grown children.
“Our family has gained a second family by hosting exchange students,” said Erin of Templeton. “Not only do we keep in touch with past students we have hosted, but with their families back home as well. We have gained so much more than we ever anticipated by hosting students. There have been priceless memories made during the students stays with us. Our biggest regret is that we didn’t host sooner.”
Each day, the students will get English and cultural lessons with a full activities program that students will take part in every day and in the evenings too as well as excursions on the weekend.
“I started working with EF in 1999 after my first time of hosting and just loved being around the students,” Area Manager Carina Hilbert said.
Host families will attend a mandatory host family orientation prior to arrival to help them get ready for their students’ arrival.
As a “thank you” to volunteer host families, EF has a passport program, where a host family gets one sticker for each student it hosts. A family can host up to four students at a time, no more than three children of the same sex sharing a room. One bonus sticker can be earned by submitting the host family application by March 12. Once five stickers have been collected, they can be redeemed for $200 in reimbursement for travel; 10 stickers can be redeemed for $500 in reimbursement for travel.
Families that host can also get a $250 discount or rebate to use for another program.
“We are seeking groups to talk to or to distribute fliers to as we seek host families,” Young said, “if you are a part of a group or organization and would allow us to come talk or give you fliers to pass out, please contact us.”
For more information, call Heather Young at (805) 975-3844 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In 1965, Bertil Hult, EF’s founder, was determined to develop a method of teaching English through discovery and activity – action learning. He took a small group of Swedish junior-high students to the South Coast of England to live the language – encouraging them to use their classroom language skills in real-life situations, and acquire authentic accents through contact with native-speakers their own age.
EF Language Travel was born and EF’s innovative concept of action learning spread quickly. EF now offers language programs in 54 countries on nearly every continent and is now the world’s leading educational travel provider; offering students the opportunity to experience a new culture abroad, improving their language skills and participating in a full activity program.
Full cultural and linguistic immersion is at the core of what EF does. By living in a homestay accommodation, interacting with local people and studying a personalized course, EF students don’t just learn a language, they live it.
Educational Homestay Programs is a nonprofit program under the EF umbrella. The families that host through this program volunteer their time and their homes to welcome students from around the world to the area.