The number of foreign exchange students coming into the United States will soon increase, according to a press release from International Experience-United States.
iE-USA is a program which places international high school-aged students into American homes and schools for a semester of study here in the US. The organization reported that the number of exchange students coming into the program has increased over 13 percent over the last decade, but is projected to increase even more this fall 2015 school semester.
200,000+ exchange students are expected in 2015, according to the Council on Standards for International Education Travel.
Idaho specifically will also see more exchange students this fall,said Karla Tolley, coordinator for the iE-USA in the south Idaho region.
Students from places such as China, Montenegro, Spain, Germany, Italy, Austria and Sweden will move in with families from cities like Twin Falls, Hagerma, Jerome, Richville, Blackfoot and Idaho Falls, she said.
The program aims to promote cultural understanding and to form and cultivate personal relationships across national borders, according to iE-USA’s website.
The U.S. Department of Education has stressed the importance of building the global competencies of U.S. students to make them internationally competitive, and many believe that welcoming exchange students into the high school setting can help toward that end, the company stated in a press its press release.
Exchange students often perform at the tops of their classes and many have lifelong dreams to visit the U.S, Emily Rolin, Regional Director of iE-USA said in a press release.
There has also been an increase in international students here at BYU-I. In Fall 2014, 643 international students attended BYUI, a 50% increase from just ten years previous from Fall 2005’s statistic of 427, according to BYU-I’s official statistics.
Tolley said more and more families are becoming interested in hosting a student, especially “empty-nesters” and those looking to provide their children with a unique cultural experience.
Judy and Mark Stapham from Idaho Falls have hosted one young man from Spain and one young man from Montenegro. Judy Stapham said the program was great for her because she got to be a soccer mom again, which helped her get more involved in the community.
Judy Stapham said that International Experience-USA also allows exchange students to understand and experience life in a free and democratic country. Stapham said a 16-year-old student from Montenegro, a country near Greece, stayed in her home. She said Montenegro doesn’t enjoy nearly as much religious, economic, or cultural freedom as America, and that a trip to America for a 16-year-old from Montenegro was a way out of his country. She explained that his parents did not want him to come back to Montenegro because they believed his life in America was better.
Dawn Green, a local coordinator for the program, said that students staying in Idaho get a special experience. She said tthey’ve noticed a difference in culture in Idaho. She said students generally notice a camaraderie amongst Americans and enjoy the spirit of community.
Green said students appreciate even simple things like High School sports, something that not all countries enjoy.
Another American host, Terri Packum, from Twin Falls, hosted a German student named Alex. Packum said that Alex was surprised at how much time Packum spent with her children. She said that Alex’s family in Germany was less involved, something Packum attributed to culture difference.
Alex’s stay in Twin Falls allowed her to investigate the Church. During Alex’s semester in Twin Falls, she attended seminary, attended church, took missionary discussions and read the Book of Mormon.
Packum said that the experience to host Alex was a spiritual experience because they got to share the Restored Gospel with someone who had never been exposed to it.
“Alex noted that we Americans were just a little bit different,.” Packum said. “Or maybe it was just because we’re from Idaho,.”