Home » Heflin family named 2023 Host Family of the Year for international student exchange

Heflin family named 2023 Host Family of the Year for international student exchange

by Amber McDown

Clint and Micaela Brunson of Heflin have been honored as the 2023 Host Family of the Year by the International Cultural Exchange Services (ICES). This prestigious award recognizes their exceptional commitment to hosting and nurturing international exchange students, fostering cultural understanding and global awareness.

ICES, a leading nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting peace through cultural exchange, selected the Brunsons from over a thousand host families across the United States.

The Brunsons embarked on their hosting journey in 2019, driven by a desire to fill their home with the lively atmosphere they cherished when their children and their children’s friends filled the house. Micaela Brunson, expressing her love for motherhood, said, “I love being a mom; I love it. Our kids always had their friends over; we always had a house full of kids. I realized that this was going to be really hard when they are off at college, so I started talking to my husband about it.”

Since then, the Brunsons have welcomed six exchange students into their home, with two more already lined up for the future. The selection process for hosting an exchange student involves an application, an intense background check, and a home inspection. Once approved, host families like the Brunsons begin the selection process to find a compatible match. This process allows the families and the students to get to know each other before they meet in person.

“We take a long time to pick out our students,” Micaela emphasized, highlighting the importance of selecting the right match for both parties. “These are teenagers coming here, and their families are entrusting their child to you.”

The experience of hosting exchange students has been transformative for the Brunsons, providing Micaela with the opportunity to engage in activities she had not experienced with her sons, such as prom dress shopping and other “girl stuff.” The students, staying for about 10 to 11 months, quickly become like family. The Brunsons stay in touch with all their former students, speaking to them weekly and welcoming many back for visits.

While they initially began hosting one student at a time, circumstances led them to host two students per year, the maximum allowed. “It’s not always perfect; there are challenges, of course. You’re not supposed to treat them as guests; you have to talk to them and treat them as if they are literally your own child,” Micaela explained.

Clint Brunson shared his delight in introducing exchange students to American foods, places, and ideas, stating, “We enjoy all aspects of it. We get to experience a lot of new things. Sometimes we get to teach them our way of doing things, and they do the same in return.”

The Brunsons have hosted students from various countries, including Spain, Germany, Italy, France, and soon Brazil. They find joy in witnessing the growth and maturity of the students throughout their stay. “They mature and grow so much in a year. It’s really neat to think that you had something to do with that,” Micaela remarked.

Their dedication and passion for hosting exchange students have not gone unnoticed. Casie Young, ICES senior district representative, praised the Brunsons, saying, “They go over and beyond to make sure their exchange students have the best experience.”

The Brunsons will be sharing their experiences at the noon Lions Club meeting on June 20, encouraging others to consider hosting exchange students. Clint Brunson expressed their motivation, stating, “That’s what it’s all about — giving back. We think we’re doing something good for the world.”
For those interested in hosting foreign exchange students, more information is available on the ICES website at www.icesusa.org. Additionally, Micaela Brunson is available through her Facebook page for anyone who has questions about hosting exchange students.

(Pictured above are Clint and Micaela Brunson with their current exchange students: Gaia from Italy on the left and Elisa from Spain on the right. Pictured below are the Brunson’s former and future exchange students.)

Related Posts