Hosting a Foreign Exchange Student
Let the World Come to You.
(L to R) Kelly Ishmael, German Exchange Student Karoline Mackeben, Tripp and Kelsey Ishmael at Tulsa Airport when Karoline arrives from Germany.
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Hosting an exchange student can be a rewarding experience for families, leading to lifelong friendships with families from other counties. But it’s important to know what you’re getting into and to have an exchange program that supports students and the families who open their homes to them.
Editor’s Note: This is part II in a two-part series on educational foreign exchange.
Recent Cascia Hall graduate, Kelsey Ishmael, had spent 16 years of her life as an only child. That all changed her junior year in high school when German foreign exchange student, Karoline Mackeben, came to live with Kelsey and her parents, Kelly and Tripp Ishmael.
“We had tossed around the idea of hosting a student. We have traveled a lot and enjoy learning about other cultures,” Kelly said. “We were approached about hosting a foreign exchange student for a year by Carol Bradley at Cascia and Rose O’Brien with EF Foundation for Foreign Study. We really had to think about it because we are a small, tight-knit family with one child.” But after several family discussions, they all agreed it was something they wanted to explore.
O’Brien, EF Foundation for Foreign Study regional coordinator for Oklahoma, worked closely with the Ishmaels to help them understand the hosting process.
The EF Foundation for Foreign Study is a non-profit, international organization, serving students 15-18 years old, which brings international students to the U.S. to live and study for an academic year.
EF Foundation for Foreign Study has offices in every country. Students who register with the organization to study abroad must meet certain academic standards, go through an interview, write an essay and pass an English oral language assessment.
During this past academic year EF Foundation for Foreign Study placed 36 foreign students with Oklahoma families. Eleven of those students were in the Tulsa area, attending high schools such as Edison, Cascia Hall, Owasso and Union.
Foreign students enjoy being in Oklahoma, O’Brien said. “While California seems to be the most popular destination, students that spend a year in Oklahoma enjoy their time. They see things they might not ever see like a rodeo.”
The exchange student’s parents decide if they want their student to attend a public or private school. If they attend a private school such as Cascia Hall, the exchange student’s family pays the tuition.
Germany, O’Brien said, sends the most students to study abroad in the United States. “The school system in Germany encourages their students to study abroad for a year. The students have very good English because they start taking English very early in their education. But, German students do not receive academic credit for their year abroad. They must repeat that academic year when they return home.”