Story by Barbara Russell• Photos of Pam Morris by Shelia Scott
The first time Pam Moore and her husband, Rusty, became a host family for a foreign exchange student, she didn’t know what to expect. “I thought I would just enjoy somebody from another culture,” she said, “but I got much more that that! It’s the love, the relationship, the travel,” she said. “It gives me another family!” She couldn’t hide her enthusiasm. Moore enjoys being a host so much that she has hosted four students, and she will host another student this school year. “Students love and become immersed in this country,” she says. And it’s obvious that they are immersed in her family and her heart. “I laugh a lot about their language,” she says, “and they laugh at
mine, as we try to pronounce words correctly. They are in awe of the WalMarts….so amazed that you can buy tires and food in the same store! And they want to go back home and open a Dairy Queen and a Krispy Kreme!” A group of photos hangs on the living room wall. Pictures of her exchange students are in the grouping along with pictures of the Moore’s children and grandchildren. These students have definitely become part of the family, and when they return home they stay in touch. “All of my students have come back to visit,” Moore says, with a delightful look on her face. She names them: Jamile, Marlene, Laura, Carla and Anna. “They work to pay for their airfare, and one worked in an ice cream shop to pay for hers.”
When Moore first became involved with exchange students, she didn’t dream that it would open the door for her to also travel to visit other countries. But when you’ve got friends who are like family in another country – you find a way to visit them. “Air fare is really all it cost,” she said. She has stayed with the families of each of her exchange students, and yes, she was treated just like family. “I never traveled before, but now I’ve been to Germany, Mexico, Jamaica, Panama, Portugal and France. I plan on doing that in Spain this coming year, so that gives me another country to visit.” Through the organization: International Experience (iE-USA), high school students from around the world are placed with carefully vetted host families while attending local, private or public high schools for a semester or a full academic year. Moore has become iE-USA’s local coordinator for Effingham County.
These students originate from many countries around the world including Germany, Thailand, Serbia, Montenegro, Italy, Poland, Finland, Spain, Colombia, Iceland, Austria, Switzerland, France, Russia, Myanmar and China! “It’s a great way to learn about another culture,” Moore says. Students provide their own spending money for all their personal expenses including school and sports fees, personal entertainment, clothes and souvenirs. Host families provide a safe, caring home, three meals a day and a private or shared bedroom (with a host sibling of the same gender). The students seem to adapt well in school. “We encourage them to participate in school sports and clubs, as 90% of their schools do not have school sports, only club sports,” says Moore, “and they like the school spirit.” On the downside, they love the culinary arts, which our schools don’t teach, and the humidity takes some getting used to for those who participate in sports. But they love being with their new friends, and many write to each other when they return home. Some even come back for a visit. Anyone interested in becoming a host family can complete an easy online application at iE-USA.org. Every effort is made to pair host families with students who will be compatible. An online application will ask for information about your community, home, family and special interests. Is your family active? Sporty? Musical? This information will be used to help suggest several students who will be a great fit with your family. “You can apply any time of the year, but Effingham County only takes exchange students at the beginning of the school year,” says Moore. “I always host, so I get mine (her application) in by June 1, which is the deadline.” iE-USA also has a program for American students who want to experience another culture. This summer they offer a three week homestay program in Germany during June – August. Students will stay with a carefully screened and selected German host family. Students must be between the ages of 15-18 and be able to travel solo. The cost is $1,000 (airfare excluded), and full scholarships are available for iE host siblings. With an organization like iE-USA, the world doesn’t seem like such a huge place, and with the special relationships that are formed, people may find out that even though we live in countries that are far apart, that we are more the same than different.
For more information about iE International Experience: