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Gratitude to exchange student hosts

“Adieu, farewell, auf wiederseh’n, goodbye!” What a wonderful tribute you gave all departing Nacel Open Door Exchange Students. Many thanks for your editorial focus, plus the recent front-page group picture and fun interview article. Gratitude always to you at LaGrange Daily News. While almost all students are now back in their home countries (Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Italy, and Norway) their hub of love – support given by host families and best friends in our neighborhoods and schools – continues to be very inspiring. As those left behind will miss them, they are now family members and best friends in faraway places. These special ambassadors, many of them in schools, fellowships, churches, community, service clubs, and the Royal Ballet School, need to be deeply thanked – you were all super host families and friends. They are the ones who opened up their homes and hearts to share the “American Way of Life” in our small, but unique communities here in the South.

These international teenagers are eager to live “once in a life time experiences.” They have been nurtured and have grown these last ten months through the most generous invitation to become a part of an American family. Most American families are too busy to even consider such a special gift of opening up their “windows of unique opportunities” to young strangers from a far. It takes indeed a very fun-loving family spirit of adventure to teach, to learn, and to have patience to appreciate a foreign accent. Also, it takes a host family willing to understand and to integrate someone with a different family cultural background into the southern way of life. All exchange students living with host families are always instructed to fulfill the requirements and policies laid out by Nacel Open Door. The strength of the organization is carried out by local representatives–upon arrival at orientation, during their stay, through their departure—in constant communication and in full support of a host family or student as they adapt and cooperate at home, in school, and within the community.

A very special thank you to all those individuals who welcomed our international students. The invaluable experience and personal development of being an exchange student comes from the enrichment of the community. Therefore, to all caring individuals–school counselors, teachers, coaches, staff, community clubs and churches–we thank you! The Troup County School System, along with LaGrange Academy, Harris County School System, and Carrollton County School System have been such a great support over the decades for High School Exchange Students. The many tearful “goodbyes and farewells” have been difficult, yet will be joyful welcoming tears soon to come. Many host families are already planning reunions abroad. One radiant host mother stated: “We are looking forward to the simpler lifestyle of our student’s home next summer. Our own lifestyle is too busy and way too materialistic. We can do with less and enjoy life more. That is one thing we have learned by getting close to our exchange student.” The U.S. State Department encourages and appreciates host families and communities nationwide like ours. Building these cultural relationships one individual and one community at a time is the hope for better international understanding and conflict resolution. Across the globe and on grass root levels people yearn for peaceful interactions. These young internationals having learned about the “American Way of Life,” departing peacefully, and excited to share American values and dreams in their home countries. I have been so blessed and inspired by dozens of selfless hosts families and community supporters, with tireless representatives across the country, enthusiastic about international friendship exchanges—to you, thank you.

Christiane B. Price, Regional Coordinator, Nacel Open Door