Christin Hall has a little experience with hosting international exchange students.
Her parents – Eva and Clint Beggs – started hosting exchange students in 2003 and have had 21 students from 10 different countries, so Christin, who graduated high school in 2009, grew up with exchange students as siblings.
Now she is an area representative for International Student Exchange, and she works for her mother, Eva, who is a state manager for ISE.
Hall, along with Tina Clark, another ISE area representative, told the Russellville Lions Club Tuesday that there is always a need for homes to host exchange students.
“It’s tougher than you’d think to find good, reliable families to serve as host families,” Hall said.
She was 14 when her family first started hosting exchange students, and two years ago Hall opened her home to a young man from Spain.
Hall shared a professionally produced video with the Lions which featured her parents’ story as a host family.
“This video was shared by a church organization, and it was really popular,” Hall said.
“When you host an exchange student, you’re doing more than making his or her dream come true,” the video description reads. “You also gain a new family member, experience a new culture firsthand, create lifelong friendships, and make a positive impact locally and globally.”
“ISE is looking for warm loving families like you to open your home to one of our students,” Eva Beggs states in the video.
“These kids need a family to love them like their own. People come in and out of your life, but an exchange student will leave footprints on your heart forever.”
Clark said she, too, has hosted exchange students, and one of them had returned to live with her while attending college.
The exchange program has three different offerings – one semester (5 months), a school year (10 months) and a full year (12 month) exchanges.
In all three cases, exchange students are expected to live as a family member.
“Each student has three to six years of English, and most have a high level of proficiency,” Hall said. “But they are not used to living in an English speaking household.”
Exchange students aren’t guaranteed they will graduate from their U.S. high school, and often the students will have to repeat their final year when they return to their home countries.
“Our exchange students never have a problem with the classwork here in their host schools,” Hall said. “Usually they are at the top of their classes, which is what we want.”
Students are allowed to also participate in extracurricular activities and sports if they wish, but their participation is not guaranteed – they have to try out and make the teams if they wish to compete.
Host families are expected to treat the students as one of their own children, setting curfews and boundaries. Exchange students are also expected to follow strict behavior guidelines to remain in the program. No drugs, alcohol or unsupervised overnight stays.
“We had one student who was at a party, and was photographed holding a bottle of alcohol,” Hall said. “He said he wasn’t drinking it, but he still had to face the consequences.”