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Foreign exchange student program looks for host families in the Brazos Valley

Posted at 9:40 PM, Apr 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-21 15:20:41-04

BRYAN, Texas — EF, also known as Education First, is a Foreign Exchange Student program that helps students from European countries experience the U.S.

We hear from a local host family about how they got started with the foreign student exchange program.

“I was looking over the profiles and Nina’s stood out because she likes hiking and things we enjoyed and then Amanda said the same thing,” said Paula Winstead, host parent. "So it was just like meant to be for Nina to be with us.”

While the food, culture, and education may differ, Nina has been enjoying the style of U.S. education.

“They have longer days and here you can choose classes, which we can’t do in Germany,” said Nina Heizmann. “There’s a bunch of different classes at least at my high school, you can choose a lot of classes. They’re really fun classes and it’s just a huge variety of classes you can choose and it’s been very fun.”

With the education requirements differing in Germany, dad shares how they already have plans to watch Nina walk the stage.

“In Germany, Nina has 13 years of school,” said Scott Winstead, host parent. “She’ll have two more years remaining in Germany and we’re planning on going and visiting her family in Germany in 2 years.”

Besides academics, Nina has enjoyed her experience in the U.S.

“It was very great,” said Nina. “We’ve done a lot of things and Spring Break and done a lot of trips. It’s very great. I’m very happy I got to see so many things and I will in the future. This was just a great opportunity to do this and see the U.S. like this.”

While Nina has only been here since December, there’s already been a sister bond created between her and Amanda.

“We really just like relaxing and watching stuff,” said Amanda Winstead, host sister. “We play games a lot, mainly card games. We tried skateboarding but we both got hurt doing that. We all like go drive somewhere sometimes or like to hang out with friends.”

What a perfect match it has been for Nina and the Winstead family. Their next trip is to Florida where Nina will meet the rest of their family.

We also had the opportunity to speak with the regional coordinator at EF, as well as another host parent to learn more about the program.

Bev Thomas shares what the best part of her job is while bridging students and host families together

“They’re incredible, tenacious, responsible kids,” said Bev Thomas, regional coordinator at EF. “And then host families that take them in and make them part of their own family. I literally get warm fuzzies every time I think about how great those people are.”

EF has given opportunities to people like Monica to host a family even though she does not have kids of her own.

“It’s just like our children and we call them our children,” said Monica Champion, past host parent. “The only thing I may have done is gotten a little to close to them. I never had the experience of having children so I just spoiled them but I don’t think they minded too much.”

The opportunities are endless between the students and families. It becomes a shared cultural experience.

“What better way to learn about another culture without having to pack a suitcase and get on an airplane. You bring someone from that world into your world and into your family,” said Thomas.

Students will enroll in school here for a full school year or half to experience the American culture and get the experience to have another family away from home.

If you are interested in being a host family, the search is on for families in the Brazos Valley who would like to sponsor a child from 14-18 years of age.