A Shared Passion for Spanish Dance and Culture!

Michelle and her family were first paired with exchange student Immaculada from Spain because of their shared interest in dance. Owner of the Image Dance Company & Academy in San Antonio, Michelle, has a special fondness for Spanish dance and wanted to share more of the Spanish culture with her family. She has been impressed with how well “Inma” has fit in both with her host family and dance family.

This past fall Inma participated and trained in ballet folklorico, flamenco, jazz and hip-hop dance with Image Dance Company & Academy.  She even initiated an Acro dance (rhythmic gymnastics) class for pre-school and elementary youth within the studio.  Inma participated in her first dance production as a group dancer with her classes as well as an Acro dance soloist and choreographer along with her students. “We are very proud for her continued determination and dedication to her dance training and continued gymnastic training as well,” reports her host mom Michelle.

At home Inma helps the household chores and even helps the family’s two young children practice Spanish translations. The family spends much time talking about their cultures and find conversations never go short.

Dancing and her daily school routine at Judson High keep Inma on the go. Somehow, she also finds time for opportunities to enjoy some fun with friends.  Inma loves high school football, going to the movies and exploring as much of the US and Texas area as she can while she is here on her exchange program. In New Mexico Inma had a chance to go skiing and try out mountain “tubing”.  She also visited South Texas and the Houston area with her host family this past fall.  This spring Inma will travel to New York with a group of international Experience exchange students and chaperones.

Inma is a lovely and talented young lady making the most of her experience abroad. She and her host family make a great match with their similar interests and shared passion for dance!

An International Home with a Heart - Hosting Two Students is So Much More Fun!

There is never a dull moment for host mom Bobi and host dad Marcus these days. Their two international exchange students attending Bureau Valley High school, Helena from Reykjanesbæ, Iceland and Veronica (Roni) from Guadalajara, Mexico and their two young boys, Lincoln and Bishop are always on the go…and they love it.

This past fall both girls ran Cross Country and received great recognition for their participation on the team. Helena received an MVP honor and Roni an Honorable Mention Award. Veronica was also recognized as a “Voice of Democracy” speech winner and the Student of the Month in November. 

Basketball season is now in full swing with multiple games a week. Roni manages the team and is learning basketball lingo and how to keep stats.  Helena plays guard and is a great shooter, passer, and has already had several steals. Marcus and Bobi take turns, between taking care of their two boys (ages 1 & 3) and trying their best to make each game. 

At home the girls really jump into family life with Bobi and Marcus.  “We really try to create a lifestyle of team work with our family and working for what's best for all of us together,” says Bobi. They have daily chores, like helping in the kitchen, cleaning up after meals, and are responsible for cleaning their own rooms. The family especially loves to share their favorite pepperoni pasta bake. Roni often reads books to the boys and Helena pretends to be a monster that chases Lincoln. The boys think they have the perfect big sisters. “Bishop claps when he sees them first thing in the morning!  They both LOVE the girls and the girls really invest time into the boys too,” says Bobi. 

Bobi and her husband enjoy playing the game “Settlers of Catan” and talking with the girls after the little ones go down for the night.  “About once a month, the four of us find ourselves staying up until wee hours of the morning talking. We talk about all kinds of things and often learn so much about each other. It has been fun to learn about the girls' major holidays and how each girl celebrates them. Roni made us 'Day of the Dead' Bread (it was yummy) and Helena taught us about how Iceland has 13 Santa's,” reports Bobi.

In November the entire family traveled to New York City. It was a first time adventure for the girls Bobi and Marcus together. While in the city they saw the play, Wicked, shopped, bicycled through Central Park, went sightseeing, took the subway and ate a lot.  This spring break the entire family has plans to head to the warm sandy beaches of Florida!

Bobi and Marcus are a wonderful and caring host family and their two international “daughters” are having a magical year on exchange. It just goes to show when there is love in the heart and home anything is possible. These six people are outstanding examples of what can happen when good people connect.

Our Favorite Italian Student

Federico, aka Fede, from Italy, is the sixth exchange student Joe  and Justin  have hosted. “There is always that comparison at the beginning of the exchange that the new student will never live up to our previous student’s qualities, but we've come to learn that each student is wonderful in his own unique way,” reflects Joe. Like all parents with multiple children Joe and Justin have learned to hold special places in their hearts for each and every one of their international kids.

Fede, no doubt, will be difficult to measure against future students. He is an exceptional student at Everett High School and is the top of his class in every subject. He is even taking AP English 12 … Did we mention he is from Italy? In the short time he has been here so far Fede volunteered for two different community events. In the Capital City River Run he participated as a race volunteer. He also helped decorate a truck for the Silver Bells in the City’s Electric Light Parade.

Joe and Justin have learned a few Italian words and phrases including their favorite word so far, “telecomando” (TV remote control).  They have also learned a great deal about Italian culture, particularly Italian cuisine. “ I never realized that Italians would NEVER eat chicken with pasta, and they don't even know what Alfredo sauce is”, says Joe with a smile. Of course Fede has learned a great deal about the American cuisine and culture during his exchange. Fede loves Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and any product with Reese's in it! He also absolutely adores frozen waffles drenched with disturbing quantities of Mrs. Butterworth’ syrup.

Local and regional travel is a favorite past time for Joe, Justin and Fede. Fede has traveled throughout the state camping and visiting all of the highlights. He's also visited New York City, Toronto, Niagara Falls, and Chicago.

Kind-hearted, loving, and considerate, this young man has made a great impact on his host family and community and friends “ We are very confident that he will always be a part of our life, no matter how many miles are between us. Fede’s told us many times that he will always consider us his second set of parents,” reports host dad Joe. There is no doubt a special corner will always be reserved for Fede in Joe and Justin’s heart.

Exchange Student from Iceland’s Dream of Playing With a US High School Basketball Team Comes True in Noblesville IN!

Since he turned 13 Asmundur knew basketball was his game of choice. His passion for the game and desire to experience the United States not as a tourist but as student immersed in the language and culture led him to Noblesville this past August. According to Asmundur, “I decided to apply in the International Experience program because I wanted to experience something totally different, to have a year to truly remember”.  Asmundur is a lucky and very happy young man. He is now playing on the JV team for the Noblesville High School Basketball Team and living with a host family for the school year.

Ed and and Carin V. of Noblesville, are happy to have Asmundur in their home and daily routine. “Asi is a wonderful, young man and we have really enjoyed our time together.  He has a great sense of humor and is very perceptive and intelligent,” reports Carin, Asmundur’s host mom. Asumndur and his host family enjoy each other’s company. Ed and Carin have treated Asmundur to several trips around the area including two trips to Chicago. Asmundur has made it to both a Colts game and a Pacer’s game as well. Asmundur’s host mom, Carin, recently prepared his favorite Icelandic dish of lamb.

Daily basketball practices that will run through March, games and a busy school schedule will keep Asmundur on the go and probably one of the happiest students at Noblesville High School this semester!

iE Burmese Exchange Student Quickly Warms up to Northfield

Joy and Todd A. and their two children Jane (8) and Jens (5) of Northfield recently welcomed, 18 year old, Zin Mar from Myanmar (Burma) into their home as an exchange student. The transition from Myanmar, a hot tropical country to a Minnesota fall and winter was a significant change to say the least for Zin Mar. “She has been great about handling the cold winters, very adaptable, and even willing to go outside,” laughs  host mom, Joy. 

Zin Mar attends Northfield Senior High and is even taking a class at school called "service learning".  This allows her to participate regularly as a volunteer in local elementary schools and other places around Northfield.  Zin Mar has a sincere concern for those around her. She dreams of becoming a civil rights attorney when she goes back to Myanmar so that she can assist disadvantaged girls who are subject to illegal trafficking in Burma. The service learning class offered by Northfield Senior High continues to reinforce this aspiration in Zin Mar.

In Myanmar most homes do not have ovens. Joy and Todd have had fun introducing Zin Mar to the art of baking. She has been very curious how to add ingredients and the chemistry that is involved in the process.  On special occasions Zin Mar will prepare a traditional Burmese dinner of stir-fry and fried rice for the family.  Because in Myanmar people rarely eat dairy, cheese is a new food for Zin Mar.  She tried it but she is not crazy about the texture. 

Zin Mar had never seen snow before she came to Northfield. In December, the family spent some time in Racine, WI.  During an epic snowstorm, Zin Mar had the chance to sled, build her first snowman and even participated in a crazy snowball fight with her host family and friends. “She had such a good time. Zin Mar was laughing and giggling the whole time.  And because it was 28 degrees, she was actually hot! She did not feel cold at all,” reports Joy. 

The experience to host an exchange student from Myanmar has been a positive one for Joy and Todd's family. It has provided them an opportunity to appreciate their family, home, and community from a fresh perspective. “My own culture and customs are taking on a new meaning.  This has been an enriching experience for us, as a family. It makes you stop and think about your life differently and has made me more intentional about my own life and life choices,” reports Joy. Thanks to the love and special care of Joy and her family, Zin Mar will cherish this incredible winterland adventure. When she returns to Myanmar at the end of the school year she may finally get a chance to thaw out but she will certainly have many new tales to tell her friends back home.

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