Host families are sought for foreign students


Stacy Fair is running out of time.

The Abingdon woman has only seven more days to find homes for 16 teen-age foreign students who are scheduled to arrive in Harford County next Sunday for a monthlong visit.

Her quest to house the group of 25 students has not been easy.

"Maybe it's because it's summer," says Mrs. Fair, the local coordinator of International Education Forum, a nonprofit student-exchange organization.

She has advertised, she has hung "urgent" posters in local neighborhoods, and today and tomorrow, she'll be staked out at a table at Harford Mall looking for host families for students from Spain and Russia.

"You really get attached to the kids," says Mrs. Fair, who took a Spanish teen-ager into her home last summer and a French boy in April.

Mrs. Fair, who has an 11-year-old son, got pulled into the exchange program when a friend called "and begged me to help out."

"It was a good experience for my son. He picked up some Spanish and French."

Now, Mrs. Fair is frantically searching for host families for this summer. The families, she stresses, "don't have to have elegant homes. They [the students] just want to know what it's like to live with a typical American family."

Here are some excerpts from letters the visiting teen-agers wrote with their applications to participate in the program:

* "This is the first time I leave home and my mum is quite concerned about it. I'm sure I will feel like at home with you and you will love me as soon as you meet me." -- 14-year-old Carlos Carbonell of Cordoba, Spain.

* "I decide to visit the U.S.A. because I would like to learn more about your country, customs, traditions and make friends with your people." -- 15-year-old Iana Seliourova of St. Petersburg, Russia.

* "I hope you would enjoy with my company and know another form of think and live." -- 16-year-old Paula Couso of Madrid, Spain.

Most of the visitors have studied English in school, and they will have taken more classes before they arrive in Harford County.

"You don't have to speak Spanish or Russian," Mrs. Fair assures prospective families.

A host family is asked only to provide a bed and three meals a day for the teen-agers, who range in ages from 14 to 18. The visitors are expected to follow the rules of the home.

"They are the sweetest kids," Mrs. Fair says. "They're humble and glad to have a family" to visit.

The host families don't have to constantly entertain the visitors or pay their way. "They come with lots of money," Mrs. Fair says.

The International Education Forum has planned several activities to keep the teen-agers busy. They will see an Orioles game, visit the Inner Harbor and Philadelphia, participate in several swimming parties, and go bowling and to the movies.

Host families are invited to accompany the teen-agers on trips if they have time, Mrs. Fair says. And being a working family isn't a deterrent to becoming a host. "They [the young visitors] find plenty to do," she says.

But no matter what historical visits and sites Mrs. Fair schedules for the visiting students, she has found that their favorite activities are typical of their age: "They like to go to McDonald's and buy jeans at the mall," she says, laughing.

For information about becoming a host family, call Mrs. Fair at 515-7265.

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