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Host a foreign exchange student and MAKE A DIFFERENCE PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 10 March 2018 09:35


Program seeking host families and homes locally

• Leader & Times

Studying abroad is a great opportunity for students to take in a new culture and meet new people. For those students who are fortunate to have that opportunity, they need a place to reside. 

The International Student Exchange program in Liberal is looking for host families and homes for students who study in the community. 

“I’ve actually been a host parent several times and as a host parent, it changes your world. I have a German girl right now and she’s more like a daughter to me than anything,” Regional ISE Coordinator Missy Airehart said. “You have your ups and downs, like any family, and you’ve got a teenager in your home, so there’s going to be those difficult times. But you take a child into your home who you treat like a family member. Then when they come, they have their own health insurance and their parents send them spending money, which takes care of all their personal needs like going out with friends for a night or school fees, things like that. Mariana here is in soccer, and she pays for those athletic fees and stuff like that. As a family, you make a connection and it’s like having another child in your home. I’ve already hosted about seven students and each time you get a different student you get different everything, so it’s always a different learning experience.”

“I’ve had such a great time doing this. This is my first year doing this and it’s been an unforgettable experience for me,” current host parent Daisha Carrasco said. “I’ve been a host parent for two months now and this is my first time. It’s been nothing but amazing and I’ve learned so much. It’s been so great and I also have a 10-month-old of my own and he and my student are already basically brother and sister. It’s nothing but love and we do so much as a family.”

Airehart then talked some about the process for people getting chosen as host parents. 

“We get their information and do a criminal background check on them, they can’t be getting food assistance, and they have to be 24 or 25 years old,” Airehart said. “We get their e-mail addresses and everything and then we send them a link and they fill out the application and the whole process takes about a week.”

Mariana Duque, a Colombian exchange student being hosted by Carrasco and her family, said her experience in the U.S. thus far has been an enjoyable one. Duque is currently a junior at Liberal High School and plays on the Lady Redskins soccer team. 

“It’s been a really good experience to learn and share another culture. I feel a really good connection with everyone and I feel like a daughter in their house,” Duque said. “I wanted to learn about another country, The high school, it’s very different here with like the way we learn, just overall the education is different from Colombia. I’ve really enjoyed the sports, it’s really different here because in Colombia if you have money you’ll succeed in sports but here, everyone likes sports and has the chance. I’m on the soccer team and they’re really cool – I like my teammates better than my classmates.”

Both Carrasco and Airehart said being host parents has been an extremely rewarding experience. 

“When you watch a student come here for the first time and try, say, Sonic ... I have a boy from Andorra who lives with my sister and he is obsessed with Sonic. If you say you’re going somewhere he always asks ‘Sonic?’ and wants to go,” Airehart said with a chuckle. “We watch them try sports – I had a South Korean boy and he tried out for the tennis team and had never done anything like that and there’s not a lot of those opportunities in other countries. Another thing nearly everyone’s told me is America has school spirit but a lot of countries don’t as much. We watch some of our students graduate and as host parents, you’re part of that. It makes you feel great about yourself and you connect not only with the students but also their parents because we e-mail back and forth and we Skype with them. In Andorra, there’s a tradition on New Year’s  where you eat 12 grapes in 12 seconds at midnight and on New Year’s, we were FaceTiming with his parents and we’re all stuffing these huge grapes in our mouths and doing this. I had a Chinese girl and they hang a bright red door decoration and they make Chinese dumplings and we did that the year we had her and that conveniently fell on Super Bowl Sunday, so we had not only the American hot wings and those trimmings, we also had dumplings and some of those dishes. It’s the traditions you share and sharing your world.”

“I love having Mariana here, we’re already basically best friends,” Carrasco said of Duque. “I always wanted to be a foster mom because I actually grew up in a foster home. So after all that experience, I didn’t want to go to school for like social work but by doing this, I still have the opportunity to connect with someone and give them the opportunity to be part of our family.”

Both Airehart and Carrasco offered encouragement for local families to open their homes for exchange students. 

“What keeps me doing this every year is learning all the time about new countries. I’ve picked my student for next year, it’s a boy named Alex and he’s from Italy,” Airehart said. “I picked him, got all the paperwork done and within five days, he’s already e-mailed me four times so even though he’s still in Italy right now, I’m already building that connection with him and he’s already asked me so many questions about here like with food and what sports are here at the schools. You get excited about picking up that student from the airport and getting to know them and making those connections.”

“We really are almost like best friends, we go almost everywhere together like Walmart or someplace like that,” Carrasco said. “We’re actually going to be going on vacation here in a few weeks with her, a friend of hers from Colombia and a friend from school, we’re all going to Galveston, Texas over spring break. It’s really great having that opportunity to have someone in your home like this.”

For those interested in getting approved to be exchange student host families, they can contact Carrasco at (910) 581-5919 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , and Airehart can be contacted at (620) 430-1222 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

“We really hope people will open up their homes and if you want to host, please get ahold of us and we’ll help,” Airehart said. “It’s a lifetime of memories you’ll always have on both sides."




About The High Plains Daily Leader

The High Plains Daily Leader and Southwest Daily Times are published Sunday through Friday and reaches homes throughout the Liberal, Kansas retail trade zone. The Leader & Times is the official newspaper of Seward County, USD No. 480, USD No. 483 and the cities of Liberal and Kismet.  The Leader & Times is a member of the Liberal Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas Press Association and the Associated Press.

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