WESTPORT, Conn. A pickup soccer game at Compo Beach that is one of Joan Merlis's favorite memories from the time she and her family hosted a French high school student named Paul last summer.
"We were at the beach with other host families and a group of French and Spanish boys were playing soccer. My husband took off his shoes, went out barefoot and played with them," the Westport resident recalled. "When the game was over, the sun was setting and they all went in the water together. It doesn't get any better than seeing everyone getting along and enjoying each other's company. It was a beautiful night."
Beyond the lifelong memories that were created, Merlis said the "cultural exchange" that took place during Paul's three-week stay in Westport was the most rewarding aspect of the experience. She, her husband and their three daughters learned about French culture, history, food and, of course, language, Merlis said.
Likewise, she said her family helped Paul with his English and taught him as much about American culture as they could.
Paul's visit to Westport was made possible through EF Educational Homestay Programs . This summer, more than 120 students from Spain, Italy, Germany and Hong Kong are visiting the area for three to four weeks. During their visits, these students, ranging in age from 14 to 18, take English and American history classes in the morning and participate field trips to local beaches, museums and sightseeing trips to New York City in the afternoons, said Elliott Smith of the Educational Homestay Programs.
The first wave of students arrived June 30. The second wave of students is arriving July 21, and the third group arrives Aug. 3. Currently, seven boys from Hong Kong and one girl from Germany arriving with the third group still need host families.
"It's a very special experience," Merlis said of being a host family. "It seems like lot work, but it isn't it's just like having one more person in family. We will definitely do it again."
For more information about becoming a host family, contact Joan Merlis at 203-470-0073 or Elliott Smith at 203-216-7829.
Have you ever hosted an international student? What was the experience like?
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