WADSWORTH, Ohio — Dozens of host family homes are needed across Ohio to host foreign exchange students for the 2021-22 school year.
What You Need To Know
- Ayusa is a foreign exchange student program
- Dozens of host homes are needed in Ohio
- The students are funded by their own families
- Host families choose their student and have no legal liability for them
Gigi Gerstenberger is the Northeast Ohio Community Representative for Ayusa Global Youth Exchange. She and her family have hosted an exchange student from Prague, the capital of Czech Republic.
Anna Vetrovcova came to America to live with them for her junior year of high school in the 2012-13 school year. It’s been nine years since and both parties said it was a life-changing experience.
“They were very close,” Gerstenberger said about her own daughter, Willow, and Vetrovcova. “They call each other sisters; I call Anna my daughter by fate.”
Vetrovcova said it changed her life.
“I can promise you that the children that are placed into families are forever grateful,” Vetrovcova said. “From my own experience, we really did become a family, and I love them all.”
It becomes a cultural experience for the student, host family and community.
“The family selects the student and many people don’t realize that, so you can drive down into religions countries, languages, hobbies, and interests,” Gerstenberger said. “It’s all about making that family’s student a perfect match. It changes your world and the people that get involved with that student.”
Gerstenberger is actively recruiting dozens of host families for the upcoming school year.
She said Ayusa expects as many as 750 students from around the world to study in America for the 2021-22 school year.
“What the families need to know is they have no liability for these students, they’re not students of need, they come over funded by their families, so they have money to do travel, do sports, Friday night football games, and things along that line,” Gerstenberger said. “They have local cell phones they have local health insurances.”
She said families just need to provide a safe home environment, a bed and three meals a day.
“One in every three world leaders has done a foreign exchange,” she said.
Both families and students apply for the program. There are stringent background checks for both.
“They follow your rules, they get to see how you celebrate Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and you see so many things your own America, your own life, through a different lens, through someone else’s eyes, and you’re sharing recipes and cultures,” she said.
She also wants people to know that all family dynamics are welcome. She said people don’t have to be married or have kids. They can be a senior citizen and LGBTQ households are encouraged to apply to become host families.
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