Program for exchange students seeks host families

Tomeka Sinclair Features editor



LUMBERTON — The American Scandinavian Student Exchange is seeking host families across the nation that are willing to “open their heart and the homes” to foreign exchange students.

At present, ASSE works closely with the Canadian provincial ministries of education. It maintains 38 offices in 31 countries and accommodates more than 30,000 high-school-age students and host families annually in its programs in participating countries. Students come from Europe, Asia/Pacific, the Middle East, the Americas and Africa.

The goal of the program is for families to receive a bit of the student’s homeland, while students are provided the opportunity to learn about the culture of the country they have been placed in by living as a “native” rather than as a guest.

Debbie Garbon, the ASSE state representative for North Carolina, believes that cities like Lumberton would be an ideal place for exchange students.

“We love the smaller communities. Some of our students are from sprawling cities,” Garbon said. “Smaller towns like Lumberton are more laid-back and relaxed. It’s not rushed.”

The agricultural history of Robeson County would also be a draw to students in the program, Garbon said.

Committing to a student means providing room and food for the student. Students pay for their own airfare and provide their own medical and liability insurance. Spending money is considered the responsibility of the student and his or her natural parents.

Students are required to be enrolled in the high school within the district in which the host families are staying. Garbon said this is why teachers would also be ideal hosts.

“They are already in the schools, so they’re familiar with the system,” Garbon said.

Families have the option of hosting two or more high-school-aged students for either a school year or a semester. While staying, representatives complete monthly check-ins with the host families and exchange students.

ASSE students are at least conversant in the language of their host country before their arrival, having studied it for a minimum of three years. In fact, many have studied the language for six or seven years, Garbon said.

Students are selected based on interviews, written recommendations and academic records. Students and families are paired by mutual interests, Garbon said.

The host family will be involved in the selection process by reading an autobiographical essay or “Dear Host Family” letter by the student. Once approved, a photo collage of the student in his or her home environment among family members and friends will be available for viewing. Hosts and students will have an opportunity to correspond with each other before each student’s arrival.

“These families are required to open their hearts and their homes,” Gabon said.

Hosts looking to apply can do so online at Hosts are required to complete a background check and must have references.

Tomeka Sinclair can be reached at [email protected] or 910-416-5865.