“They come from around the world and they all share a common desire: Soak up as much of the American experience as possible.
Then, they return home and they become ambassadors of sorts, maintaining lifelong connections to a country that they admire and people that they come to love.
In return, host families learn of the culture of other countries and make lifelong friendships.
The International Student Exchange is operating at full steam in Northeast Pennsylvania. There are 22 students from eight countries in the region.
Andre Anderson, 16, of Sao Paulo, Brazil, is living with a family in Mountain Top and, at the time of this interview, he was anxious to see the color changes in Pennsylvania foliage.
Andre also is an avid football fan, and the Crestwood High School football coaches worked to create a role for him in supporting the 2019 team. Like other exchange students, Andre found it difficult to play the sport without training or previous experience.
Many exchange students find sports at their host schools in the Greater Wyoming Valley help them become part of the community in the United States, regardless of their country of origin.
Bonnie Witkosky, ISE coordinator, said exchange students enjoy participating in soccer, volleyball and track. “The boys would like to play football, but it is difficult to make a team,’’ she said.
Andre said he enjoys the overall experience of attending an American high school, from a variety of school and extracurricular activities to experiencing a different culture. He is committed to helping host Joseph Honney with the Christmas decorations, for example.
Andre will not spend a full year in the U.S. because he must be in Brazil to begin his senior year there in February. He has an eye on Penn State as a possible university and that would tie into one of the reasons he favored Pennsylvania as an exchange student locale: The seasonal weather.
The football connection traces to his dad, Wagner Anderson, an avid Pittsburgh Steelers fan. “There is growing interest in American football in Brazil,’’ Andre said. Soccer remains the No. 1 sport in that nation, he said.
His father is a college teacher and his mother, Adriana, works in logistics, Andre said. He has a sister, Victoria, 19, who was an exchange student in Victoria, British Columbia.
“We’re thankful to have Andre,’’ said Laurel Prohaska, Joe’s wife. “He’s a good kid.’’ Remarkably, Andre came to the family on short notice when another host family was obliged to withdraw. It is a first time experience for Joe and Laurel.
International exchange students are between the ages of 15 and 18. Witkosky said this year’s group represents Spain, Mexico, Poland, Italy, Brazil, Germany, China and Hong Kong.
Participating high schools include Crestwood, Hanover Area, Lakeland, Pleasant Valley, Lake-Lehman, Wilkes-Barre Area, Bangor, Cheltenham, Wyoming Valley West, East Stroudsburg, Holy Redeemer and Southern Regional.
Some countries allow students to earn diplomas in the U.S., a covalidation with diplomas from their home country. Spain, Italy and Brazil are in that category.
The students meet every other month for a group activity such as a hayride. Witkosky said it is fun to hear the comments from students on what they see and experience. A student from Germany remarked, “Americans really love their flags!’’ making that observation over the Labor Day holiday.”
If you would like to help an exchange student’s dreams come true, we invite you to read more about hosting a foreign exchange student. If you have specific questions about hosting, check out our host family FAQ page. You can also read testimonials from our past and current host families. When you feel ready, complete our host family interest form and our area representative will get in touch with you.
You can also get involved by joining our team of Area Representatives! Help match host families and exchange students and bring the world closer together, while making a supplemental income.
Original Article: Citizens Voice – Exchange Students Find Their Niche In The NEPA Community by Paul Golias