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Host parents, exchange students have bond that circles the world

by: REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - From left, Asil Kurundarath, Yana Tsyplakova and Philip Rothhardt pose with their host parents, Bruce and Rosalie Broding, of Lake Oswego. The foreign exchange students recently met for the first time in Lake Oswego and clicked instantly.Rosalie Broding has always had a passion for travel. Bruce Broding traveled extensively throughout the world during his career as a sales manager for a semiconductor firm.

As comfortable as this Lake Oswego couple is with world travel, it made perfect sense to them to open their home to host foreign exchange students. The Brodings in fact have hosted three students since 2001, all attending Lakeridge High School for their senior years. They recently held a reunion to introduce the three, and you would never suspect they hadn’t grown up together.

First to come to the Broding home was Philip Rothhardt from Germany for the 2001-02 school year. Rothhardt had difficulty with English when he first arrived, because he spoke only German.

“Church was noisy, which made it hard to understand. And jokes would go right over my head,” he said. “But Bruce would sit with me and watch World War II movies to try to make me feel at home and more comfortable with the language.” Rothhardt said that the Brodings also helped him learn what were “acceptable” words; some swear words were remarkably close to German words. The Brodings also helped him learn how to dress — his early impressions were that everyone dressed in hip hop fashions.

Rothhardt, now 27, speaks five languages: his native German, English, French, Spanish and Latin. He has earned a Ph.D. in physics and just prior to the reunion had visited Las Vegas with the Brodings, whom have traveled with Rothhardt’s family in Germany and elsewhere.

Second to come to stay with the Brodings was Asil Kurundarath, 22, originally from Bahrain in the Middle East. He immigrated to the Philippines with his mother when he was 13 and came to the United States as an exchange student for the 2006-07 school year. Though he spoke English well, he still experienced culture shock. He expected high school to be cliquish, like the television show “90210.”

“I felt a little disadvantaged because I didn’t have an accent, so people didn’t realize I was an exchange student,” he said. “But there was definitely culture shock. Where I grew up it was common to have a housekeeping staff. I had never made a bed, cooked or done laundry. It forced me to grow up. I was expected to do those things. That helped make me feel like part of the family. And I had never really had a relationship with a father figure. Bruce really showed me what a father is, and Rosalie was a real mom.”

Kurundarath speaks English, Filipino, French and Arabic. He recently won a Diversity Immigrant Visa and is attending Portland Community College while awaiting his transcripts to be received by Portland State University.

Next came Yana Tsyplakova from Kazakhstan, for the 2008-09 school year.

“It was scary when I first arrived,” she said. “But it was exciting, too; the possibility to travel and learn something new and something about yourself ... I was supposed to be with a different family for about a month and came to live with Bruce and Rosalie on a temporary basis.”

But she said she became “more than comfortable” with the Brodings and was able to stay with them instead of the original family. “It was meant to be!”

Tsyplakova remembered one very confusing adjustment to life in the United States.

“The crosswalk signs!” she said. “One of the first times I was on my own and crossing a road. In the middle of the crosswalk the sign changed and I went back (to where she started). I couldn’t figure out if it was OK to keep going!” she said.

Tsyplakova, 21, speaks Russian, French, Kazakhstani and English. She is studying at Portland State University and will return to Kazakhstan when she finishes. She has hopes of becoming a doctor or other medical professional so she can help those in her country.

The Brodings beam with pride about the students’ accomplishments as if they are their own children.

“They were all on U.S. government-sponsored scholarships,” said Rosalie. “They are smart ones!”When the foreign exchange “siblings” and their parents met for the first time it was like they had known each other since birth.

“We instantly clicked!” said Kurundarath. “I have a big brother and it’s as if we’ve known each other forever!”

“We are family,” said Rothhardt. “They have shared stories of each of us with the others and they made it this way.”

“I am so thankful for Rosalie and Bruce,” said Tsyplakova. “It is unbelievable how much they care for us.”

“The Brodings are so accepting and so welcoming,” said Lori James, AFS liaison for the Portland metropolitan area. “They treated the students as part of the family, not as guests. That is so important for the host family and the student. They had contact with the natural parents but took it upon themselves to be the parents while the students were here and really integrated them into the family.”

The Brodings hope to encourage other families to host foreign exchange students.

“Why wouldn’t you host?” asked Bruce.

AFS provides intercultural learning experiences that bring global cultures together, helping people connect and transforming the lives of thousands of students, families and individuals each year. With exchange programs in more than 50 countries and a large network of volunteers, educators and staff members, AFS is committed to helping participants understand their immersion experiences in a foreign culture.

To learn more about AFS, visit afs.org or call James at 503-638-3207.



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