Foreign Links Around the Globe (FLAG), an award-winning, State Department certified, high school foreign exchange organization, is seeking host families for the upcoming school year.
Chapter Manager Veronica Sutton said hosting a foreign exchange student was one of the most fulfilling and life-changing things her family has ever done as it allowed them to learn about different cultures and build new relationships.
Since 2013, Sutton has hosted 14 students and is still in touch with all of them.
“We talk to them fairly frequently. When we travel, we try to make travel plans to where they are so we can visit them, and they’ve come back to visit us as well,” she said.
Sutton said anyone who is not on federal assistance and is able to pass a background check is able to be a host family.
She said there are no prohibitions on family type or religious affiliation for a potential host.
“You have to have a bed for the student. They don’t necessarily have to have their own bedroom, but they have to have their own bed,” she said.
Sutton said host families do not receive a stipend for hosting, but foreign exchange students come with their own insurance and spending money.
“Anything that’s outside of the three meals a day they are expected to pay for. Some host families pay for more, some don’t,” she said.
For example, if a foreign exchange student goes out to eat with the host family “it is expected that the family will pay.” If the students go out with their friends, the students will pay for themselves.
For the 2021-2022 school year, five foreign exchange students attended Patrick County High School. “They come from all over the world. Germany, Brazil, and Italy were the ones I think in Patrick County, but we also have kids from Japan and Thailand and most of the European countries,” she said.
In addition to the two students that have been placed for the upcoming school year, Sutton said FLAG would like to place six more. “But we need host families to do that,” she said.
She noted that host families can host up to two students as long as the students do not speak the same native language.
“We have to be very careful about that because Swiss students speak German, French, and Swiss, and we don’t want to accidently place a German student and a Swiss student who speaks German as their native language, so we have to be very careful about that,” she said.
Sutton said all foreign exchange students will be high school aged with most of them being 10th or 11th graders.
“These kids want to be here so they’re typically extremely well-behaved and their English is usually very good,” she said.
Those interested in being a host family or those needing more information should go to becomeahostfamily.com, or call Sutton at (540) 815-6618.