Local families form international connections

Sixteen students from Spain are coming to visit Isanti County in July, but half still need host families.

Cindy Schroeder, Compass USA Homestay program coordinator, said the students, male and female and ages 14-17, will be staying July 2-30.

The groups stands near the water in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, in the Canary Islands of Spain. Pictured, from left, are Carlynn Galleazzi, Guillermo, Taylor Nordberg, Silvia (mother of Guillermo), Enrique (brother of Guillermo), Cheryl Rogers, Shannon Bloomquist and Cindy Schroeder.

The groups stands near the water in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, in the Canary Islands of Spain. Pictured, from left, are Carlynn Galleazzi, Guillermo, Taylor Nordberg, Silvia (mother of Guillermo), Enrique (brother of Guillermo), Cheryl Rogers, Shannon Bloomquist and Cindy Schroeder.

“My husband and I love hospitality and love people, and love hosting young students in our home,” Schroeder said. “It really is fun having an exchange student in your home for one month. The summer program is set up for everyone to succeed. We have an orientation and educational training for those involved, and past host families are willing to share their experiences and offer any needed advice.”

Compass USA was founded in 1999 by a group of

experienced homestay colleagues to provide educational opportunities for youth and adults in the United States. Its philosophy is “to provide a successful homestay experience for our host families and students so we can contribute to international friendship and intercultural understanding.”

Schroeder explained the group coming from Spain this summer will have an adult chaperone with them.

If a family has a vacation or some other conflict in July but is still interested in hosting a student, Schroeder said, they can still contact her to see if other options may be available during that period.

The students come with their own spending money; however, the host families are responsible for providing lodging and meals.

Schroeder plans eight official full-day activities, as well as two half-day activities through Compass USA during the students’ stay. Host families are welcome to join during the official Compass activities; however, they are responsible for paying their own costs to participate.

Schroeder estimates the Isanti County area has hosted more than 40 students through the Compass USA program since 2010.

Interested host families can contact Schroeder at 763-244-4031 or email lakehoney@yahoo.com for more information. Host families need to pass a background check administered through Compass USA’s main office out of Denver.

Speaking from experience

Taylor Nordberg, 20, of Isanti, who is currently studying at Bethel College to teach English as a second language, said there are benefits to hosting an exchange student. Nordberg studied abroad in Spain from August through December 2013.

“Hosting an exchange student really gives you a new perspective on your life,” Nordberg said. “You form new friendships, and these people become like your family. The summer we hosted a student was one of the best summers of my life. I’ll always be friends with the students we hosted.”

Carlynn Galleazzi, 18, who is a post-secondary enrollment options student through Cambridge-Isanti High School, said hosting an exchange student is a life-changing experience.

“It’s always interesting to hear how the student lives and how their lives are different from ours,” Galleazzi said. “It always amazes me how well the students can talk, and it’s fun to always have someone around to do something with. The students really become part of your family.”

In March 2013, Schroeder, Nordberg, Galleazzi, Cheryl Rogers and Shannon Bloomquist went for a 10-day visit to the Canary Islands and Spain mainland.

During the visit, the group was able to visit with the students they have hosted, as well as the students’ families.

“Some of the students we hosted rearranged their schedules and traveled for hours to visit us while we were in Spain,” Rogers said. “We participated in Easter festivities, and were really treated like royalty. One of the highlights of the trip for me was in Tenerife when one of Schroeder’s student’s family gave us a tour of their grandmother’s banana plantation farm and let us stay in one of the flats she rents out to tourists that is located right on the ocean.”

Rogers encourages families to host foreign exchange students and for students to study abroad.

“When my son was in high school, we hosted several exchange students and it was a great experience for him,” Rogers said. “Now his focus is on world missions, so it really was a life-changing experience for him. I think these programs create a love for international students and abroad. It really impacts young people who host and changes their world views.”

The host students become like family.

“I feel like the students we hosted, and the students I’ve met when abroad, become like my brothers and sisters,” Galleazzi said.

The women all agreed that it’s easy to stay in touch with the students and their families due to the Internet and social media sites.

“One of my students was reading online about all the cold weather we’ve been having and sent me a message making sure I was OK,” Rogers said. “We really do become family and stay in touch with each other year-round.”

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