Students 'want the American experience'

Published 12:49 pm Thursday, April 15, 2010

Edwardsburg Argus

Lisa Whitmore and her husband, Deric, are looking for families in Edwardsburg who are willing to open their homes for an experience many might not forget.

The mission is to find host families for more than 50 exchange students, giving each one of them a chance to get an American educational experience that some of them might never get the opportunity for otherwise.

“The hardest part is trying to get the word out there to someone who is interested,” she said.
The Whitmores are working to place the students through the Education Travel and Culture agency.

“I was doing it there in Arizona,” Whitmore said, referring to where Deric used to live, “but the company didn’t have anyone here in this area” placing students.

So Whitmore is putting the word out, contacting churches, newspapers, television stations, radio stations and the Edwardsburg Chamber of Commerce.

“They just want the American experience,” she said of prospective students,” and that’s what they’re getting. The hardest part is just finding the families.”

To be a host family to an exchange student, Whitmore says there is an application process and often through agencies like Education Travel and Culture working with multiple coordinators.

Here, she said, “It’s just my husband and I.”

Families can take comfort however in the Whitmores’ ability to manage placing students and working with host families. They’ve not only been working with families who welcome exchange students – they’ve been one.

Hosting a student, she said, is a means of “teaching people, letting people learn about their culture. It’s a great program.”

The students come in on an issued visa.

“They come in on their own insurance with their own spending money,” Whitmore said.
“Treat them as one of their own,” she added, when asked what parents and families have to do once their student arrives. “That is the requirement.”

Whitmore remembers meeting her first exchange student, a young woman named Frederike “Rike,” from Germany.

“She worked with my stepson and brought books from Germany that showed the difference in the American and German cultures,” she said. “She taught us so much.”

In the same sense, she said, Rike got to have her own independent experiences, making her own friends while Whitmore’s children went about their own routines.

Interested parents and families should just think of chosing a student “like you’re children having a friend come over,” she said.

Students are asked to be fed two square meals a day and to be given the opportunity “just to be an American,” Whitmore said.

Anyone interested can contact Lisa or Deric at (574) 971-1293 or via e-mail at