For these foreign exchange students, Long Island is home away from home.

Italian exchange student Federico Malagigi is the talk of Newfield High School in Selden, says his American host brother, senior Dylan Gonzalez. “Everyone’s talking about him because he’s foreign; he has an awesome accent,” Gonzalez says.

While teenage exchange students spend a semester or a year in the United States to learn English and immerse themselves in American culture, the Long Island students benefit as well, host families and high school officials say. “I love when our kids get to see how much bigger the world is than Selden,” says Newfield High School principal Scott Graviano. “They just get so much out of that.”

The pandemic halted high school exchange programs temporarily, but they are back in motion and signing up Long Island host families now for spring semester 2023 and for the 2023-2024 academic year, says Iris Franklin, community manager for Youth For Understanding, which brings students from 60 countries. “A lot of the host families are still hesitant because of COVID and the after effects of COVID,” Franklin says.

One of the students whose stories are told here almost thought she wouldn’t be able to come because there wouldn’t be a family to host her — until her Bay Shore host parents “took the leap” on the last day to commit. But one exchange program says they had a few more volunteers than usual this academic year. “Maybe because people couldn’t host for two years,” says Veronica Murphy, regional coordinator for EF Education First, which brings students to the United States.

Meet five exchange students from Italy, Spain, Hungary, Japan and South Korea who are living on Long Island, and the families who have opened their homes to them. For some families, it’s the first time hosting; for one Plainview resident who welcomes two students at a time, this is exchange student no. 21 and 22:

MEET THE HOSTS The Guzman family of Coram

MEET THE EXCHANGE STUDENT Federico Malagigi, 17, of Milan, Italy

HIGH SCHOOL Newfield High School in Selden

On Malagigi’s first night in the United States, his host family ordered pizza. The 17-year-old asked what the sliced meat was on top. “Meatballs,” answered his host mom, Lauren Guzman, of Coram.

“I don’t know what a meatball is,” Malagigi said. Guzman was confused. Malagigi is from Milan. “Meatballs are Italian. You definitely know what a meatball is,” she says she thought.

Google saved the day. Guzman searched for a photograph of meatballs and showed Malagigi. Ahhh. In Italy, he explained, they don’t slice them on pizza. Meatballs are round, not flat.

The meatball lesson was just the first cultural exchange between Malagigi and his hosts, a family that includes Derek Guzman, 41, the director of an area restaurant group, Dylan Gonzalez, 17, Ethan Gonzalez, 14, Preston Guzman, 2, and two dogs, Sierra and Raia.

It was Lauren’s idea to become first-time hosts of an exchange student from August until January. When she was growing up in Lindenhurst, a friend’s family hosted an exchange student, and Lauren thought it was intriguing. So, when another mom posted in a local Facebook group looking for hosts through EF Education First, Lauren broached the idea with her crew of having a stranger move in.

“I thought it was more of like a joke,” says Dylan, a senior at Newfield High School. But he was on board. “I personally thought it would be a really cool experience, especially for my senior year.”

The family was able to see profiles of potential exchange students, and they thought Malagigi would be a match because he wrote that he likes food, music and soccer. Ethan plays on the high school’s junior varsity soccer team, which Malagigi joined. Dylan, Ethan and Malagigi play chess, or pingpong in the basement, or go bowling with Dylan’s friends from the school bowling team.

Malagigi says he was “scared” and “excited” to join the family here, where he has his own bedroom. “I think it’s normal because I was about to start an important experience in my life. I’m far from home. I came here, the only words I said were, ‘OK,’ ‘Fine’ and ‘Thank you’ because I didn’t speak English so well.” He could communicate enough because he had studied English in Italy, but excelling at back-and-forth conversation is always more challenging, he says. His English has improved over his three months on Long Island.

None of the Guzman family speaks Italian. “They are encouraged to only speak English,” Lauren says. “The purpose is to learn English better and learn our culture.”

Malagigi has an additional goal: “I wanted to grow up. My goal is leaving [Italy] as a kid and coming back as an adult.”

Malagigi — who friends call Fede — says he thinks he’s been adapting well to high school in New York. “Actually, I think I am pretty popular in the school. At school they ask me questions. I have friends, and I am lucky because I have two brothers and they share with me their friends.” 

MEET THE HOSTS Mark Bartosik and Swati Srivastava of Bay Shore

MEET THE EXCHANGE STUDENT Iara Martinez de Aguirre, 15, of Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain

HIGH SCHOOL Bay Shore High School

Mark Bartosik and Swati Srivastava and their exchange student, Iara Martinez de Aguirre, 15, have dubbed themselves the “United Nations family.” Martinez de Aguirre is from Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain, Bartosik is originally from England and Srivastava is originally from India.

The married couple from Bay Shore, both now American citizens, greeted Martinez de Aguirre at JFK Airport with a big “Welcome Iara” sign (her name is pronounced YAH-rah). Bartosik, 53, is a software engineer; Srivastava, 45, is a filmmaker. They don’t have children. “We were ready to become parents,” Srivastava says.

The three have come to care deeply for each other in a very short time, they say. They’ve taken trips to Manhattan, celebrated Srivastava’s Diwali holiday by dressing Martinez de Aguirre in a sari and dancing and lighting sparklers, and they work out together in the basement on a treadmill, stationary bike and rowing machine to what the grown-ups refer to as Martinez de Aguirre’s “torture videos.”

Martinez de Aguirre attends Bay Shore High School, where she is planning to try out for the cheerleading team. “In Spain, they don’t do cheerleading,” she says. “All these films — ‘High School Musical’ — they made me want the American dream. I want to go to these huge high schools with loads of people. The girls are cheerleaders, the boys play American football. I want to try that. I think I always had something inside of me that said, ‘Travel.’”

“Coming here was her first flight in her life,” Srivastava says. “Six thousand kilometers to live with a family she had never met before. This is how courageous this girl is.”

Bartosik and Srivastava applied to be hosts through International Student Exchange after a neighborhood website posted seeking help. Martinez de Aguirre got to the point where she thought she wouldn’t be able to come to America because there wasn’t a family for her. “I kept waiting and waiting,” she says. “In August I already said goodbye to everyone. They all came back from vacation, and I was still there.”

She was at a memorial service for a friend’s grandfather in Spain just before Labor Day, and when she came out of the church, she had seven messages from her mother and “loads of texts,” she says. They told her she would be going to New York, and she burst into tears. “I was so happy,” she says.

“We’re going to just take the leap. Let’s do it,” Srivastava says she and Bartosik decided when they applied for the program on Aug. 31, the last day applications were accepted. “Great stuff comes out of leaps. That’s what the great learning of this is.”

MEET THE HOST Todd Marks of Plainview

MEET THE EXCHANGE STUDENTS Shusuke Kawakami, 15, of Yokohama City, Japan, and David Almasi-Fuzi, 16, of a suburb of Budapest, Hungary

HIGH SCHOOL Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School

Shusuke Kawakami, 15, of Yokohama City, Japan, is Todd Marks’ 22nd son.

That’s how Marks refers to the exchange students he’s been hosting since 2009 — as his children. “The first thing I learn every time I have a new student is how to say ‘my son’ in their language,” Marks says. When Kawakami arrived at Marks’ Plainview home in October, he joined ‘son’ No. 21, Hungarian David Almasi-Fuzi, 16, who is from a suburb of Budapest and arrived in August.

Marks, 53, who is the local area representative for Youth For Understanding, typically hosts two exchange students at a time who share a bedroom. “That way they can have an ally, an instant friend, an instant brother,” Marks says. Marks likes the activity that the students bring to his home, he says. “I don’t like a quiet house. I need action; I need something going on.”

The second-grade teacher has hosted students from Belgium, Finland, Thailand, Switzerland, France, Germany, Estonia, Hungary and Japan. He’s got a collection of their photos on the back of a door, and he keeps in touch with them, rattling off what many of them are doing now back in their home countries, whether working or attending university or graduate school. He has visited many on summer vacations from teaching.

Almasi-Fuzi says he came to the United States because he wanted to explore the world. “I wanted to get out of the Hungarian sphere. I wanted to experience new things mostly.” He says he was “incredibly happy” to not only experience American culture but be exposed to Japan through his new roommate, Kawakami. “I am quite interested in the Japanese culture as well,” he says.

Kawakami says he was attracted to American education. “In America you can take whatever you want in classes, like computer or art. In Japan we have to take … conventional subjects. I couldn’t take something more creative. When I read though what subjects I could choose, my eyes just got stuck on gourmet foods.” He’s also taking guitar at the high school. The hardest subjects for him, he says, are English and social studies. He isn’t familiar with the American political system and history.

“I sometimes feel lonely in America because no one speaks Japanese in school, but I am trying to adjust,” Kawakami says.

The teens each cook foods from their countries one night a week; Marks takes the teens grocery shopping on Sunday nights. Almasi-Fuzi has made Hungarian goulash and chicken paprikash; he arrived in the United States with a brick of paprika homemade by his grandmother. Kawakami has made Miso soup. Marks has been taking them on a taste tour of hamburger offerings — they’ll hit Five Guys, All-American, Smash Burger, White Castle — and Kawakami says his favorite American food is cheeseburgers.

In the evenings, the three of them might play board games — Marks points out a stack of games in the dining room including Ticket to Ride and King of Tokyo. Previous students have liked Dungeons and Dragons and Magic the Gathering, he says.

The two teens will be in New York until June. 

MEET THE HOSTS The James family of Uniondale

MEET THE EXCHANGE STUDENT Jisoo Lee, 16, of Busan, South Korea

HIGH SCHOOL Uniondale High School

A light bulb went on for Jiovhannah James, 16, of Uniondale, when she saw a video of a random high school student performing a TikTok dance challenge with the exchange student she was hosting. “What if I had an international student? Wouldn’t that be fun?” she says she thought.

Jiovhannah asked her parents, Hannah Nelson-James, 55, a vice president of systems optimization, and Ronald James Sr., 58, an operating engineer, if they could become a host family. “She thought it would be a good experience for her and for the other person coming to live with us,” Nelson-James says. Jiovhannah selected Lee’s profile because Lee said she likes K-pop and she has a dog — the James family has four. Jiovhannah also has an older brother, Ronald Jr., 26, who is a SUNY Plattsburgh student.

“Building a bond with a new friend was really exciting for me. Teaching her about how we live in New York in our everyday life,” Jiovhannah says. “We do homework together and go to the mall. We go to church together and watch movies together.” In December, when the family vacations in St. Croix, they’ll take Lee along. They have yet to do their own TikTok video together, Jiovhannah says.

Jiovhannah’s friends have been welcoming to Lee, says Jiovhannah, who attends Kellenberg Memorial High School in Uniondale. “I brought her to a few of my football games. Everybody was excited to meet her and hug her, and everyone was trying to pronounce her name.” Lee has also joined clubs at Uniondale High School and has made friends there.

Lee says she wanted to spend a school year in the United States through International Student Exchange so she could learn English. “We encourage her to speak in sentences so that we can correct her if needed,” Nelson-James says. Lee keeps in touch with her family from South Korea through a video app.

Lee’s favorite thing about Long Island? “The sky. Here is very blue,” she says. “I always live in the city, so there is … too many apartment buildings. Sometimes smog.”

Hosting Lee has had an unexpected benefit for the family, Nelson-James says. Before, they didn’t always eat dinner together because everyone was so busy. “Now we really try to eat together with Jisoo at the dinner table. That has been a plus for us,” Nelson-James says. “She’s like a second daughter now.”

Italian exchange student Federico Malagigi is the talk of Newfield High School in Selden, says his American host brother, senior Dylan Gonzalez. “Everyone’s talking about him because he’s foreign; he has an awesome accent,” Gonzalez says.

While teenage exchange students spend a semester or a year in the United States to learn English and immerse themselves in American culture, the Long Island students benefit as well, host families and high school officials say. “I love when our kids get to see how much bigger the world is than Selden,” says Newfield High School principal Scott Graviano. “They just get so much out of that.”

The pandemic halted high school exchange programs temporarily, but they are back in motion and signing up Long Island host families now for spring semester 2023 and for the 2023-2024 academic year, says Iris Franklin, community manager for Youth For Understanding, which brings students from 60 countries. “A lot of the host families are still hesitant because of COVID and the after effects of COVID,” Franklin says.

One of the students whose stories are told here almost thought she wouldn’t be able to come because there wouldn’t be a family to host her — until her Bay Shore host parents “took the leap” on the last day to commit. But one exchange program says they had a few more volunteers than usual this academic year. “Maybe because people couldn’t host for two years,” says Veronica Murphy, regional coordinator for EF Education First, which brings students to the United States.

HOW TO HOST

Host families do not get paid or pay to be hosts; the exchange student’s family pays the organization and has his or her own health insurance and spending money. Typically, host families must provide three meals a day and no more than one roommate of the same gender sharing a bedroom.

Here’s how to get more information on hosting through organizations featured in this story:

EF — Education First

Contact Veronica Murphy, regional coordinator LI/NJ/DEL 631-767-2559; ef.edu

ISE — International Student Exchange

Contact Lauren Heath, regional manager, 631-375-6427; iseusa.org.

YFU — Youth For Understanding

Contact Iris Franklin, NJ/NY/PA community manager, 856-543-4967, yfuusa.org.

Meet five exchange students from Italy, Spain, Hungary, Japan and South Korea who are living on Long Island, and the families who have opened their homes to them. For some families, it’s the first time hosting; for one Plainview resident who welcomes two students at a time, this is exchange student no. 21 and 22:

MEET THE HOSTS The Guzman family of Coram

MEET THE EXCHANGE STUDENT Federico Malagigi, 17, of Milan, Italy

HIGH SCHOOL Newfield High School in Selden

Frederico Malagigi, 17, third from right, an exchange student from...

Frederico Malagigi, 17, third from right, an exchange student from Italy, poses for a photo with his host family, from left, Dylan Gonzalez, 17, Preston Guzman, 2, Derek Guzman, Lauren Guzman, and Ethan Gonzalez, 14, at his host family’s home in Coram on Nov. 1.
Credit: Barry Sloan

On Malagigi’s first night in the United States, his host family ordered pizza. The 17-year-old asked what the sliced meat was on top. “Meatballs,” answered his host mom, Lauren Guzman, of Coram.

“I don’t know what a meatball is,” Malagigi said. Guzman was confused. Malagigi is from Milan. “Meatballs are Italian. You definitely know what a meatball is,” she says she thought.

Google saved the day. Guzman searched for a photograph of meatballs and showed Malagigi. Ahhh. In Italy, he explained, they don’t slice them on pizza. Meatballs are round, not flat.

The meatball lesson was just the first cultural exchange between Malagigi and his hosts, a family that includes Derek Guzman, 41, the director of an area restaurant group, Dylan Gonzalez, 17, Ethan Gonzalez, 14, Preston Guzman, 2, and two dogs, Sierra and Raia.

Frederico Malagigi, 17, right, an exchange student from Italy, plays...

Frederico Malagigi, 17, right, an exchange student from Italy, plays chess with Dylan Gonzalez, 17, at his host family’s home in Coram on Nov. 1.
Credit: Barry Sloan

It was Lauren’s idea to become first-time hosts of an exchange student from August until January. When she was growing up in Lindenhurst, a friend’s family hosted an exchange student, and Lauren thought it was intriguing. So, when another mom posted in a local Facebook group looking for hosts through EF Education First, Lauren broached the idea with her crew of having a stranger move in.

“I thought it was more of like a joke,” says Dylan, a senior at Newfield High School. But he was on board. “I personally thought it would be a really cool experience, especially for my senior year.”

The family was able to see profiles of potential exchange students, and they thought Malagigi would be a match because he wrote that he likes food, music and soccer. Ethan plays on the high school’s junior varsity soccer team, which Malagigi joined. Dylan, Ethan and Malagigi play chess, or pingpong in the basement, or go bowling with Dylan’s friends from the school bowling team.

Malagigi says he was “scared” and “excited” to join the family here, where he has his own bedroom. “I think it’s normal because I was about to start an important experience in my life. I’m far from home. I came here, the only words I said were, ‘OK,’ ‘Fine’ and ‘Thank you’ because I didn’t speak English so well.” He could communicate enough because he had studied English in Italy, but excelling at back-and-forth conversation is always more challenging, he says. His English has improved over his three months on Long Island.

None of the Guzman family speaks Italian. “They are encouraged to only speak English,” Lauren says. “The purpose is to learn English better and learn our culture.”

Malagigi has an additional goal: “I wanted to grow up. My goal is leaving [Italy] as a kid and coming back as an adult.”

Malagigi — who friends call Fede — says he thinks he’s been adapting well to high school in New York. “Actually, I think I am pretty popular in the school. At school they ask me questions. I have friends, and I am lucky because I have two brothers and they share with me their friends.” 

MEET THE HOSTS Mark Bartosik and Swati Srivastava of Bay Shore

MEET THE EXCHANGE STUDENT Iara Martinez de Aguirre, 15, of Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain

HIGH SCHOOL Bay Shore High School

Swati Srivastava, left, and her husband Mark Bartosik, right, with...

Swati Srivastava, left, and her husband Mark Bartosik, right, with their exchange student Iara Martinez de Aguirre, 15, center, at their home in Bay Shore on Nov. 3.
Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

Mark Bartosik and Swati Srivastava and their exchange student, Iara Martinez de Aguirre, 15, have dubbed themselves the “United Nations family.” Martinez de Aguirre is from Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain, Bartosik is originally from England and Srivastava is originally from India.

The married couple from Bay Shore, both now American citizens, greeted Martinez de Aguirre at JFK Airport with a big “Welcome Iara” sign (her name is pronounced YAH-rah). Bartosik, 53, is a software engineer; Srivastava, 45, is a filmmaker. They don’t have children. “We were ready to become parents,” Srivastava says.

The three have come to care deeply for each other in a very short time, they say. They’ve taken trips to Manhattan, celebrated Srivastava’s Diwali holiday by dressing Martinez de Aguirre in a sari and dancing and lighting sparklers, and they work out together in the basement on a treadmill, stationary bike and rowing machine to what the grown-ups refer to as Martinez de Aguirre’s “torture videos.”

Iara Martinez de Aguirrel of Spain, learned about the Indian...

Iara Martinez de Aguirrel of Spain, learned about the Indian holiday of Diwali from her Bay Shore host parents, Swati Srivastava and Mark Bartosik.
Credit: Bartosik/Srivastava family

Martinez de Aguirre attends Bay Shore High School, where she is planning to try out for the cheerleading team. “In Spain, they don’t do cheerleading,” she says. “All these films — ‘High School Musical’ — they made me want the American dream. I want to go to these huge high schools with loads of people. The girls are cheerleaders, the boys play American football. I want to try that. I think I always had something inside of me that said, ‘Travel.’”

“Coming here was her first flight in her life,” Srivastava says. “Six thousand kilometers to live with a family she had never met before. This is how courageous this girl is.”

Bartosik and Srivastava applied to be hosts through International Student Exchange after a neighborhood website posted seeking help. Martinez de Aguirre got to the point where she thought she wouldn’t be able to come to America because there wasn’t a family for her. “I kept waiting and waiting,” she says. “In August I already said goodbye to everyone. They all came back from vacation, and I was still there.”

She was at a memorial service for a friend’s grandfather in Spain just before Labor Day, and when she came out of the church, she had seven messages from her mother and “loads of texts,” she says. They told her she would be going to New York, and she burst into tears. “I was so happy,” she says.

“We’re going to just take the leap. Let’s do it,” Srivastava says she and Bartosik decided when they applied for the program on Aug. 31, the last day applications were accepted. “Great stuff comes out of leaps. That’s what the great learning of this is.”

MEET THE HOST Todd Marks of Plainview

MEET THE EXCHANGE STUDENTS Shusuke Kawakami, 15, of Yokohama City, Japan, and David Almasi-Fuzi, 16, of a suburb of Budapest, Hungary

HIGH SCHOOL Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School

Todd Marks, center, poses for a portrait with his foreign...

Todd Marks, center, poses for a portrait with his foreign exchange students David Almasi-Fuzi, of Hungary, 16, left, and Shusuke Kawakami, of Japan, 15, at his home in Plainview on Nov. 2.
Credit: Barry Sloan

Shusuke Kawakami, 15, of Yokohama City, Japan, is Todd Marks’ 22nd son.

That’s how Marks refers to the exchange students he’s been hosting since 2009 — as his children. “The first thing I learn every time I have a new student is how to say ‘my son’ in their language,” Marks says. When Kawakami arrived at Marks’ Plainview home in October, he joined ‘son’ No. 21, Hungarian David Almasi-Fuzi, 16, who is from a suburb of Budapest and arrived in August.

Marks, 53, who is the local area representative for Youth For Understanding, typically hosts two exchange students at a time who share a bedroom. “That way they can have an ally, an instant friend, an instant brother,” Marks says. Marks likes the activity that the students bring to his home, he says. “I don’t like a quiet house. I need action; I need something going on.”

Foreign exchange student Shusuke Kawakami, of Japan, 15, prepares rice...

Foreign exchange student Shusuke Kawakami, of Japan, 15, prepares rice in the kitchen of Todd Marks’ home in Plainview on Nov. 2.
Credit: Barry Sloan

The second-grade teacher has hosted students from Belgium, Finland, Thailand, Switzerland, France, Germany, Estonia, Hungary and Japan. He’s got a collection of their photos on the back of a door, and he keeps in touch with them, rattling off what many of them are doing now back in their home countries, whether working or attending university or graduate school. He has visited many on summer vacations from teaching.

Almasi-Fuzi says he came to the United States because he wanted to explore the world. “I wanted to get out of the Hungarian sphere. I wanted to experience new things mostly.” He says he was “incredibly happy” to not only experience American culture but be exposed to Japan through his new roommate, Kawakami. “I am quite interested in the Japanese culture as well,” he says.

Kawakami says he was attracted to American education. “In America you can take whatever you want in classes, like computer or art. In Japan we have to take … conventional subjects. I couldn’t take something more creative. When I read though what subjects I could choose, my eyes just got stuck on gourmet foods.” He’s also taking guitar at the high school. The hardest subjects for him, he says, are English and social studies. He isn’t familiar with the American political system and history.

“I sometimes feel lonely in America because no one speaks Japanese in school, but I am trying to adjust,” Kawakami says.

The teens each cook foods from their countries one night a week; Marks takes the teens grocery shopping on Sunday nights. Almasi-Fuzi has made Hungarian goulash and chicken paprikash; he arrived in the United States with a brick of paprika homemade by his grandmother. Kawakami has made Miso soup. Marks has been taking them on a taste tour of hamburger offerings — they’ll hit Five Guys, All-American, Smash Burger, White Castle — and Kawakami says his favorite American food is cheeseburgers.

In the evenings, the three of them might play board games — Marks points out a stack of games in the dining room including Ticket to Ride and King of Tokyo. Previous students have liked Dungeons and Dragons and Magic the Gathering, he says.

The two teens will be in New York until June. 

MEET THE HOSTS The James family of Uniondale

MEET THE EXCHANGE STUDENT Jisoo Lee, 16, of Busan, South Korea

HIGH SCHOOL Uniondale High School

Exchange student Jisoo Lee, 16, of South Korea, center, with...

Exchange student Jisoo Lee, 16, of South Korea, center, with her host family Hannah Nelson, right, and her daughter Jiovhannah James, 16, left, at their home in Uniondale on Nov. 2.
Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

A light bulb went on for Jiovhannah James, 16, of Uniondale, when she saw a video of a random high school student performing a TikTok dance challenge with the exchange student she was hosting. “What if I had an international student? Wouldn’t that be fun?” she says she thought.

Jiovhannah asked her parents, Hannah Nelson-James, 55, a vice president of systems optimization, and Ronald James Sr., 58, an operating engineer, if they could become a host family. “She thought it would be a good experience for her and for the other person coming to live with us,” Nelson-James says. Jiovhannah selected Lee’s profile because Lee said she likes K-pop and she has a dog — the James family has four. Jiovhannah also has an older brother, Ronald Jr., 26, who is a SUNY Plattsburgh student.

“Building a bond with a new friend was really exciting for me. Teaching her about how we live in New York in our everyday life,” Jiovhannah says. “We do homework together and go to the mall. We go to church together and watch movies together.” In December, when the family vacations in St. Croix, they’ll take Lee along. They have yet to do their own TikTok video together, Jiovhannah says.

Jiovhannah’s friends have been welcoming to Lee, says Jiovhannah, who attends Kellenberg Memorial High School in Uniondale. “I brought her to a few of my football games. Everybody was excited to meet her and hug her, and everyone was trying to pronounce her name.” Lee has also joined clubs at Uniondale High School and has made friends there.

Lee says she wanted to spend a school year in the United States through International Student Exchange so she could learn English. “We encourage her to speak in sentences so that we can correct her if needed,” Nelson-James says. Lee keeps in touch with her family from South Korea through a video app.

Lee’s favorite thing about Long Island? “The sky. Here is very blue,” she says. “I always live in the city, so there is … too many apartment buildings. Sometimes smog.”

Hosting Lee has had an unexpected benefit for the family, Nelson-James says. Before, they didn’t always eat dinner together because everyone was so busy. “Now we really try to eat together with Jisoo at the dinner table. That has been a plus for us,” Nelson-James says. “She’s like a second daughter now.”

WHAT THE PARENTS SAY

The overseas parents of Long Island’s exchange students say they are grateful for the opportunity for their children to have “such an incredible experience” in the United States.

“We believe it is highly educational, a reason for personal growth,” Federico Malagigi’s Italian parents, Nadia and Francesco, wrote in an email to Newsday. While Nadia says she misses her only child “like air,” she says she feels fortunate that communication nowadays is simple, and they can contact each other whenever they want.

“We feel serene, and we thank his host family, parents and children, for this very much,” Nadia wrote. The Malagigis also feel grateful to the hosting school, they say. Nadia plans to visit the United States in January to celebrate her son’s 18th birthday with him.

Ainhoa Triviño Perea, mother of Iara Martinez de Aguirre of Spain, wrote in an email to Newsday in Spanish that not a minute goes by that she isn’t missing her daughter, but knows that Martinez de Aguirre is fulfilling one of her dreams. As a mother, she is proud of being able to give her daughter this opportunity and proud of her daughter for taking it. She says she expects her daughter’s U.S. host parents “will be in her heart for the rest of her life.”

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