By Steve Robinson | August 26, 2019 - 10:43 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite

Going through high school has many challenges: It’s the start toward a life of responsibility and gets kids thinking about the future. Getting through high school can be challenging enough for kids familiar with an area they live in. But if you’re a foreign exchange student, there’s a larger adjustment to consider – including new surroundings and a different culture.

For Christiaan de Paauw, a citizen of The Netherlands, he became involved with a foreign exchange program called Education First which tries to give foreign students an opportunity to experience a year of high school life in the U. S. de Paauw, said he lives in his home country in a medium-size community, so coming to be a foreign student at Heyworth Junior-Senior High School, which has just 396 students throughout all grade levels, and the Town having a total population of over 2,800, took some adjusting for him, he explained. His host family is headed by Lisa Davis and Jessica Davis.

de Paauw said when he was going to be going to Heyworth, “I was like, ‘yeah. Sure.’ I was super excited and wanted to do this. Heyworth is smaller than the town I am from, but it’s nice. I wanted to do this to step out of my comfort zone.” He added he is still looking into a career to study for college, but said he had an interest in videography.

One would think leaving one’s friends at this juncture of life might be a tough thing to want to do at this age, but Clara Stridh, 17, a senior from Sweden, said her friends back home “were very supportive of my dong this. She is attending Normal Community High School while staying with host parents Mike and Jayme Corcoran. Stridh said she wants to try out for NCHS’ track team while she is here.

Jayme Corcoran is employed by Education First as an exchange student coordinator. Education First has offices in Boston and Denver. The company provides study abroad opportunities for students to see what school is like in the U.S.

Wanting to experience another culture was the biggest draw for Stridh, she admitted. And for Jayme Corcoran, having had a successful run with hosting students (her family has hosted three in three years), she said the exchange students largest adjustment for students is finding out American parents parent a little differently than foreign parents. “We want a little more information about what and where our children are, whereas European parents give a little more independence to their children.”

Corcoran said that by her family taking part in the program, “I’m hoping to create lots of global learners. That’s where we are in our society right now.”

Corcoran’s daughters, Peytan and Aleksy, benefit from the exchange as well, she said. “My kids have friends in The Netherlands and Japan as a result. They have contacts all over the world.”

Education First takes students interested in this foreign study between the ages of 14 and 18. They receive orientation in New York City to learn what is expected of them in American High Schools, Corcoran said. Kids coming over here, she said, are updated on things such as budgeting their money, and how Americans communicate as a family.

“These foreign students want to be here because they’ve heard about school spirit, and the ways American families are run, and they want to participate in school activities,” Corcoran said. She said Education First is always continuing to look for host families, particularly for the 2020-21 school year. She said the organization is particularly interested in finding such families in places like Heyworth and Lexington, and other smaller communities.

“We want this to be a program that continues because it benefits everyone involved – the host families, the school, students at the school, as well as the exchange student,” Corcoran explained.

Such a program appears to be geared to showing foreign students what American life is like. We see American students go spend a semester or year in places like France and Japan with the goal the student come back having gained some knowledge about the world as it is elsewhere. The premise for this program is no different except it’s our way of life and customs that get put on display.

Here’s hoping we do as well at providing that slice of American life.

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