Foreign exchange student program seeks host families


Laura Smith

Students travel across the Atalantic Ocean to attend school at Canyon High School each school year.

The Council on International Educational Exchange is currently looking for families in the Panhandle area to host foreign exchange students for the 2015-2016 school year.

The Council on International Educational Exchange is an ambassadorship program started in 1946 after WWII to better relationships between the U.S. and Germany. Now, the program brings over students from 55 different countries. Brenda Davis is a Team Leader with the program, meaning she works and trains with other local coordinators. She has been with the program for nine years. Davis said one of the program’s goals is to better the exchange students’ opinions of America.

“We typically bring over 1600-1700 students a year, but they go all over the United States,” Davis said. “Here in the Panhandle area, I typically look for eight families, and there is another lady working with me who is looking for families as well. We have a lot of students.”

Requirements to host a student are not extensive.

“The requirements are that at least one of the parents in the home has to be at least 25 years old,” Davis said. “You have to pass a criminal background check, and you have to be where you could feed an extra person in your home, so financially stable. Basically, what the host family does is just provide a bed. They don’t even have to have their own room, just their own bed. The host family also provides meals while they’re in the home, and just get them to and from their activities like you would your own child.”

The household does not need to have two parents and can have other children in the house.

“We have single people that host,” Davis said. “We have single parents that host and have children in the household. We have two parents with high school kids. We also have families that have very small children. My oldest family was in their seventies. Anybody can host that would like to host.”

The students are 15-18 years old and come with their own spending money.

“If they need clothes or school supplies, or they want to go out to the movies with their friends, they pay for all of that. The students also have their own health insurance They all speak English, so you can communicate with them. It’s very simple. I maintain contact with the student and the host family all through the school year, so if there are any concerns that arise, I am here to help with that.”

“The great part about it is that by the end of their stay, they are a part of your family from now on.”

— Brenda Davis

The students come from a variety of countries, including Germany, Ecuador, Slovakia, Czech Republic, China, Japan, and many others.

“Pretty much anywhere you could want a student to come from, we have,” Davis said. “The great thing about the program too, is as the host family, you get to choose your student. We have profiles, so if you are involved in sports and you want a sporty kid, then we can look at those kids. Whatever your family’s interests are, we can probably find you a student that has some of those same interests.”

Davis said the many families do not host because they are afraid of the unknown, and do not want a stranger entering their home.

“What I try to tell people is that after about two days, they’re not a stranger anymore,” Davis said. “They really do become a part of your family, and we encourage you to treat them as part of your family. If you have children in the home, then they have the same rules as your children have. The great part about it is that by the end of their stay, they are a part of your family from now on.”

Davis said that if families can overcome their fear, the program is very rewarding.

“It is a fantastic program,” Davis said. “I have several repeat host families, because once the family does it, they like to do it again lots of times, because it’s a much better experience than they were afraid it would be. The students come in, and are a great asset to the school. It also opens up our students’ eyes that there is more to the world than Canyon, Texas.”

Davis can be contacted at 806-654-2695 or at [email protected]. Families can view student profiles and find more information at