Travel lovers and cultural enthusiasts maintain that the best way to understand another culture is to live there. Such is the goal of World Exchange, an international nonprofit organization that seeks to foster world peace by connecting people of different nationalities.
The program brings high school students, mostly from France, to participate in short-term homestays with North American host families.
Nevada County World Exchange program coordinator Linda Turner, who has facilitated the program locally for 16 years, said she still needs to place five students with host families for the August program.
This year’s students are aged 16 to 18, speak at least basic English, and have filled out an application explaining their interests, home life and why they want to be part of the program.
Many wrote that they enjoy sports, American cuisine, movies and music.
One prospective student, Alexandre Losito, from Bretagne in western France, has visited the U.S. previously on a trip to Florida through his school and with family.
“I’ve appreciated every day I spent there, you really live in a nice country!” his essay said. “It was a great opportunity that made me want to discover the American way of life.”
Another student, Larcher Mickael, stayed with a host family in Spain with his parents and wants to recreate the experience in the U.S.
“I liked to be in another country, see different cultures,” he wrote. “Back in France I promise myself to (retry) this experience, but on my own.”
Jeremy Carvalho, from Gennevilliers, said he wants to become a financial analyst, has been accepted to European Business School and ESG Management in Paris, and seeks to attend an American business university as part of the ESG program.
“I wish to make a full-immersion stay in California’s family to improve my English writing and speaking to success in the studies,” he said. “I wish to live 21 days in an American family and discover ‘the American way of life.’”
Lancelot Harel, 15, from Pierre-Benite, wrote how he is social and talkative.
“I am very open-minded, I like to meet new friends. That’s why I would like to travel to meet different people all around the world,” he said.
“The travel is like a passion for me, because it’s necessary to look how the world works,” Harel said, adding, “I like pasta and pizza, which is my main food to survive.”
Recent Nevada Union graduate Samantha Schultz and her mother hosted a French student last year and said the language barrier was a little challenging, but the experience overall was interesting.
“I learned a lot about her high school and the classes you take and how specialized education is there,” said Schultz, who used her high school French skills to communicate with host student Celine.
The other difference Schultz found was the way that smoking cigarettes is a widespread sociocultural part of Paris, where Celine lives.
“Celine didn’t see people smoking in high school and asked why,” Schultz said. “I thought that was interesting that it’s a big part of their culture. They’re not even doing it because it’s an addiction; it’s a social thing.”
Schultz also found similarities, such the way Celine often socializes with friends at coffee shops.
“That’s one of her favorite things to do; that’s what my friends and I love to do.”
Schultz said Celine had taken English classes for four or five years while other exchange students studied for about eight.
Schultz had already planned to study abroad, but said the world exchange program fortified her decision.
“Everyone always says the best way to learn a language is through complete immersion,” she said.
To register, contact Turner at 530-477-7706, and she will mail a copy of the World Home brochure with information to fill out.
Turner will also visit the potential host families’ homes and see where the student would sleep to ensure a comfortable and safe environment.
The host family can review the student applications and choose which one they would like to host.
There is an orientation meeting and the student stays for 20 days, acting as part of the host family, paying for any entertainment or food and cleaning up after themselves.
Host families receive support from Turner, who serves as an advocate to host families who need guidance.
“It’s like you have a cousin you haven’t seen since they were 5,” Turner said. “They become a part of the family, are expected to pitch in, and they come with ample spending money, liability and insurance.”
Turner has seen lifelong bonds built through the program, including a time when members of a host family passed away and the exchange student flew from France with her mother to the funeral.
“You’re making an impact on somebody’s life,” Turner said. “It introduces a whole new culture to families here who can see a different world view.”
Turner releases an exit survey to question the exchange students’ experience, which is always positive, she said, adding, “They say they didn’t know how fun it was going to be and they would love to do it again.”
For more information, contact World Exchange at 1-800-444-3942.
To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4230.