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Intercultural program in need of host families for international high school students

afs
Posted at 5:46 PM, Aug 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-11 19:01:06-04

CLEVELAND — The AFS intercultural program is looking for host families in Cleveland for international high school students.

For the first time, Ani and her family met Navya Thursday morning at the Cleveland airport. Their family waited with their sign that read, “Welcome Navya.”

“Our exchange student is coming from India and this is our welcome sign, my husband couldn’t make it so we have him here as well,” said Ani Karetka, a host family. 

When she finally came down those steps, you would think they were old friends, as Ani’s family embraced her. Over the past few years, they have hosted four exchange students.

“We would love for my kids to travel and you can’t always travel somewhere else, so this is a way to have somebody in our home from a different country and learning about their country as well,” said Ani.

They are a part of the AFS intercultural program that brings in hundreds of international students every year to the U.S., where they go to local high schools.

“We bring students in from over 40 countries worldwide. They live here with a local host family and attend the local school and they're here for the calendar academic school year,” said Christina Kowalski with the AFS international school exchange program.

But right now, they are still in need of host families.

“Nationwide we would be in need of a couple hundred host families — here in Cleveland, in Northeast Ohio, probably about 25 to 30,” said Kowalski.

Until they find them, students can't get on a plane to the U.S.

“Currently, the students aren't able to start their program until they have a family and a school,” said Kowalski.

They also won't be able to create bonds as Becky McDonald has with her students.

“I feel like we have family everywhere. So we just got back from a summer in Europe, and we were in Italy, and we got to visit with our first exchange students,” said McDonald.

This is her third year hosting and she, just like Ani, loves it.

“I think it's the funnest thing ever. It seems like forever because it’s a 10-month program, but really it goes by too fast,” said Ani.

They say anyone can do it and the fun doesn't stop. If you'd like to host a family, you can learn more here.

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