Rotary Club of Issaquah seeks host families for youth exchange program
December 11, 2012
By Christina Corrales-Toy
To travel around the world and experience different cultures, it takes hours upon hours of travel time, thousands of dollars and months of planning.
While nothing may be able to replace the actual experience of visiting a foreign country, there is a more local alternative that allows residents to experience different cultures from the comfort of their own Issaquah home.
The Rotary Club of Issaquah’s Youth Exchange gives local families a chance to host students from around the world, bringing diverse cultures into community homes and schools.
Doug and Amanda Strombom, as well as their teenage daughter Emma, hosted a student from Switzerland in their Issaquah home last year.
The three-month visit was a beneficial one for his family, Doug Strombom said. He particularly enjoyed discussing and understanding the differences between Swiss and American cultures.
“I think it makes our life more interesting to have a visitor here, and especially one who has something to say and has been someplace different,” he said. “I think cultures are fascinating. They are infinitely deep. You just have to explore and take some conversation to understand someone else’s culture.”
Through the program, the foreign exchange student is placed with three different local families throughout the year in an attempt to provide separate scenes of the American culture.
“There is so much diversity in America, you could visit one family and get a totally different experience from visiting another family, depending on that family’s background,” Amanda Strombom said.
During that time, the families are expected to provide room and board, and the student is required to attend high school. The Stromboms’ student, Perrine Moser, attended Issaquah High School for the year and even had the opportunity to walk in graduation.
The Stromboms made sure Perrine had a first-class tour of the area and learned what it was like to live in the Northwest. Their daughter Emma shuttled Moser around, taking her to Seattle, Canada and Forks, the setting of the infamous “Twilight” books.
Through it all, Emma and Perrine became good friends, Amanda Strombom said.
“She was a good companion for our daughter during the year,” she said. “It’s very rewarding for your kids to learn more about another country and to see America through somebody else’s eyes.”
One unexpected benefit of hosting Perrine, Doug Strombom said, was a newfound appreciation for living in the Issaquah area.
“Issaquah is a really nice town,” he said. “It’s fun to show off to other people all of the things we have here. And seeing the world from another person’s point of view, seeing what things are exciting and different about your area, makes you feel good about your own neighborhood and your own city.”
To be a host family is a true volunteer effort, Amanda Strombom said. The students are given a monthly $100 stipend, but there is no financial assistance for the hosts.
Still, the Stromboms said they would recommend hosting to all their friends and would even consider doing it again.
“I think if you’ve got the capacity to handle it, you haven’t got too many issues going on, it’s a very fun thing,” Amanda Strombom said.