Dozen slots between LO, Lakeridge highs

A student exchange group is seeking host families in Lake Oswego.

The drop-dead deadline for applications within Lake Oswego School District is July 1. But, EF Foundation for Foreign Study’s program works on a first come, first-served basis, and there aren’t many slots. Lake Oswego and Lakeridge high schools each accept about six exchange students.

Students will arrive this August. They depart in January 2014 if they’re in the semester program or in June 2014 if they’re in the year program, said Laura Kosloff, international exchange coordinator for the EF Foundation. The foundation is a nonprofit group headquartered in Massachusetts that arranges high school cultural exchanges nationwide. Riverdale High School and Westside Christian High School mostly host through other programs, Kosloff said.

There are many reasons for families to open their homes to people from afar, including learning about other cultures and gaining a greater understanding of one’s own culture by seeing it through someone else’s eyes, said Kosloff, who has been a host herself.

“Living with a student from Hong Kong taught our own two children more than a book ever could about how a teenager from a Chinese culture approaches life, decision-making, and relationships,” she said.

Visiting students are 15-18 years old and hail from one of 25 countries. Students at Lakeridge and Lake Oswego high schools have visited from countries such as Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Thailand.

Potential families undergo a screening process that includes a background check, two references and an in-home interview. Families must have one host parent older than 25 and cannot be on government assistance.

EF Foundation has matched 100,000 students with host families across the nation since it was established in 1979, currently placing about 3,000 students per year. Student exchanges grew popular after World War II in an effort to increase cultural tolerance.

Sometimes German students encounter people who are unfriendly to them, even though they were born long after the war, Kosloff said.

The exchange program can spur citizen diplomacy, inspiring students to go abroad and be unofficial ambassadors for their country, she said.

“I think instilling that sense of adventure and that desire to visit other countries and learn about other countries is a good thing for our own children,” she said.

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