Nonprofit seeks local families to host exchange students

Traveling is expensive and time consuming, so an organization is bringing opportunities to learn about other cultures and people to homes on Whidbey Island.

Kim Kunz, with Education First High School Exchange Year, is looking for Oak Harbor and Coupeville families to host international students.

“It’s a really rewarding experience,” Kunz said.

When her son was in high school, her family hosted a German exchange student. The two became such close friends that the former exchange student is traveling from Germany for her son’s wedding this year.

The nonprofit organization EF Exchange Year has a database of students interested in learning abroad and families interested in hosting these students. She, as an international exchange coordinator, helps select a number of options of students that would be good matches.

Approved families then read through the “catalogue” of students and choose who they think would be the best fit.

People who are over the age of 25, financially able to provide three meals a day and have a spare room and bed are accepted. Kunz said she also wants to ensure host families are able to create a “nurturing and caring” environment.

Oak Harbor High School has 10 places for exchange students and Coupeville High School has three, she said.

Families and students are screened and background checks are performed. When looking for matches, she’ll consider interests, household size and what the students’ and families’ preferences are.

One profile for a 17-year-old girl from Sweden indicated she’d prefer to be placed with a host family that had siblings near her age so they could hang out and potentially have more in common.

“It would also mean that I would get a better perspective on how American teenagers actually live,” she wrote in her profile.

Teenagers from countries including Italy, Spain, Japan, China, South Korea and the Netherlands are in the database for potential matches, Kunz said.

Once the matches are made, the host families and teenagers are encouraged to make contract through email, Skype or other means to establish a relationship before arrival.

The students come to their host communities in August and from there “everything happens for them like it would for any other high school student,” Kunz said.

Families with questions or who are untested can contact Kim Kunz at 360-721-8770 or kim.kunz@efexchangeyear.org

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