Justin Maynard with exchange student Federico

Foreign Exchange Students Seek LGBT Host Families In Michigan

By BTL Staff

Photo Caption: Justin Maynard with exchange student Federico

International Experience USA (iE-USA) is recruiting Michigan families to host foreign nationals, ages 14-18, during the 2014-2015 academic school year. These students, which include LGBT adolescents, are looking for Michigan families--LGBT or ally--to give them an authentic, American experience.

iE-USA is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting education and understanding through intercultural, academic and recreational programs on an individual and community level. Programs like iE-USA operate under stringent U.S. Department of State guidelines.

Though most foreign exchange students come to the U.S. from Germany, many are from over 17 countries (e.g. Brazil, China, France, Switzerland, Spain, Finland, Serbia, Thailand, Italy, etc.). Their desire is to experience American culture and, along the way, make lifelong friends. After an extensive application and orientation process in their home country, the students arrive hoping to sharpen their language skills and be a part of American life. Each student arrives with their own spending money and full health insurance coverage. Host families provide room and board for the student for six to 10 months.

In many cases, these students may find more acceptance and welcome in the United States than in their home countries. In May, BTL interviewed a gay exchange student from Italy staying in Lansing. That student, Federico, had said "As far as being gay, I've never had a single problem here. I do feel more accepted here in Michigan."

"Every year our state plays host to hundreds of high school students from around the world," said Joseph Bissell, Great Lakes Regional Director with iE-USA. He added that Michigan's diversity makes it fertile ground for cultural exchange and learning. Host families are being asked to open their homes to a high school exchange student, make them a part of everyday life and give them exposure that will make a profound difference in how they relate to Americans. In turn, host families will glimpse the students' various cultures and customs, thus creating new family experiences.

Potential host families wishing to apply have until Aug. 30. To learn more about how to participate, contact Local Coordinator K.A. Fields at 313-930-0103 or k.fields@international-experience.net. Interested families can also register for free and apply online at http://www.ie-usa.com.

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