More than 30,000 students have traveled abroad via ISE and have been hosted by 20,000 different host families, according to their website, www.iseusa.org ISE works with over 4,000 area representatives to distribute exchange students to well-suited host families.

There is a need for Siskiyou County families willing to welcome a student from another country into their home through the International Student Exchange program.

Founded in 1982, ISE has provided the experience of a lifetime for many students and host families from around the world. ISE provides the opportunity for students to study and travel abroad and assigns foreign exchange students host families to live with over the duration of their stay.

“Having someone from another country stay in your home can be a real eye-opener for host siblings and parents alike,” said Mary Thomas, Siskiyou County’s ISE coordinator since 2003. “You become more aware of your community and more appreciative of American culture as you introduce it to somebody new. Hosting encourages friendship in your home, community and around the world.”

More than 30,000 students have traveled abroad via ISE and have been hosted by 20,000 different host families, according to their website, www.iseusa.org ISE works with over 4,000 area representatives to distribute exchange students to well-suited host families.

Thomas joined the organization after hosting a Japanese foreign exchange student through the 4-H Japanese foreign exchange program. After her positive experience, Thomas decided she wanted to become involved in making this experience of a lifetime more available to the people of Siskiyou County.

Since joining ISE, Thomas has placed more than 120 exchange students locally and has hosted several students in her own home.

ISE is hopeful that more residents of Siskiyou County will host exchange students this year, Thomas said. To be eligible for hosting an exchange student, potential host families complete an online application which includes a criminal background check. Host families cannot receive public assistance like food stamps, but Social Security Disability Income is welcome.

Host families are expected to provide an amicable environment for the student, supplying them with their own bed and a place to study, as well as proper nourishment.

Host families can host two students at the same time. These students can be from different countries and speak different languages.

Exchange students are not required to have their own bedroom; they can share a bedroom with someone of the same gender who is within no more than four years of an age difference.

For families with children, host siblings often form even deeper bonds with their exchange sibling when they share the same room.

All incoming students are screened for COVID-19 within two weeks of their arrival, and a medical clearance document will be given to the host family and school the student will be attending, said Thomas.

“It is clear that host families gain just as much as they give from the experience,” said Thomas. “The most important requirement for being a host family is to treat the student as part of the family, not as a guest. The bonds formed and the experiences shared between the hosts and students are forever cherishable.”

To enroll to become a host family, contact Thomas by calling (530) 938-4073 or email marythomas@cot.net.

Siena is a Mount Shasta High School junior and an aspiring writer. She is interning for the Siskiyou Daily News and Mt. Shasta Area Newspapers over the summer as part of the Upward Bound Program.