Home » Heflin couple shares insights on hosting exchange students at Lions Club meeting

Heflin couple shares insights on hosting exchange students at Lions Club meeting

by Amber McDown

Clint and Micaela Brunson of Heflin were the guest speakers at the noon Lions Club meeting on June 20, discussing their experiences as hosts for exchange students. The Brunsons, honored as the 2023 Host Family of the Year by the International Cultural Exchange Services (ICES), began hosting in 2019 to recapture the lively atmosphere they enjoyed when their children and friends filled their home.

“We got into this a few years ago when my sweet wife came to me and said, ‘I want a baby…or we can adopt or we can get into the exchange program,’ and I said, ‘Well, you might want to get those exchange people on the phone,’” Clint Brunson shared with a laugh. The couple agrees that hosting exchange students has enriched their lives significantly, creating lasting relationships that span the globe.

Hosting an exchange student offers various benefits, such as being a role model, sharing American culture, learning about different cultures, and creating lasting memories. According to the Brunsons, any type of family can host an exchange student, including those with or without children, single parents, grandparents, and same-sex couples. Hosts must be at least 25 years old, complete an application, and ensure that all household members aged 18 or older pass a background check. While there are no strict financial requirements, applicants must not be on public assistance.

Hosts provide students with a home, their own bed, transportation, and meals. Students arrive with their own medical insurance and funds for personal expenses. A coordinator assists the host family and student to ensure a good match and address any issues or questions.

“If you want to host, you can host. We will help you find a perfect match for your home,” said Micaela Brunson. Exchange students, aged 14 to 18, come from a wide variety of countries, such as Spain, Turkey, and Vietnam. They typically arrive in July or August and leave in May or June after the school year ends. All students speak English to some degree.

If a student and family are not a good fit, or if the family can no longer host, a coordinator will find an emergency placement for the student. “There are ways to move things around to accommodate both parties,” Clint Brunson explained.

“We have about 20 students from different countries — boys and girls — who are still needing a home for this upcoming year,” Micaela Brunson noted. She recently became a coordinator for ABC Education Group and believes that the cultural exchange program benefits everyone involved.

For more information on hosting foreign exchange students, visit the ABC Education Group website at www.abceducationgroup.com/. Micaela Brunson is also available on her Facebook page to answer questions about hosting exchange students.

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