Student exchange program reaches out to northern Michigan families

LAKE COUNTY — Michigan may seem like home to those living there, but to a student from another country traveling here could be the trip of a lifetime. 

The International Student Exchange Program — also known as the ASSE — is reaching out to Northern Michigan families who may wish to host exchange students or young residents who may wish to discover a new culture abroad.

“Being apart from their families allows them to grow as a person whether that means a foreign student visiting the United States or vice-versa,” said Naiane Duchon, the Michigan area coordinator for ASSE. “When we are exposed to different cultures personally, as opposed to what we get from the media, it can really give you a new perspective.”

The ASSE began as the American-Scandinavian Student Exchange, which allowed American students to be exposed to northern European cultures and the other way around. The organization has since grown to include 31 different nations all over the world.

“We have both an inbound and an outbound program,” said Duchon. “Students go to orientations and talk to a coordinator who will help them with the entire process. They can choose from a choice of different destinations and programs and there are several scholarships available to help with this process.”

Year-long, semester-long, and summer programs are offered. Enrollment times depend on what time of year both the student and the host family wish to take part in the program. Security and privacy are maintained for both the student and the host family.

“Families can go to our website to register, they would then meet with an area representative and talk about problem solving in the process, ensuring there will be harmony with the visiting student and a screening and background check,” said Duchon.

Duchon stresses how hosting a student is a life-changing event not only for the student, but for the host family as well.

“It’s making a friend for a lifetime,” said Duchon. “I’ve had visiting students return for frequent trips. They’ll attend weddings and births in their host family and vice-versa. The connection really doesn’t end when the initial visit ends.”

It is important people realize the gravity of what they are taking on if they wish to host a student. It is essentially adding a family member to their household for several months. 

“Families have to treat them not only as a guest, but as a member of the family,” said Duchon. “The host family is not financially responsible for the students, but they must provide a bed and food for them.”

The organization is reaching out to several communities around the country, but Duchon said she believes northern Michigan can be a great place for a young person to be exposed to the United
States.

“I think northern Michigan is a great place to host a student visiting the United States,” said Duchon. “I didn’t grow up in Michigan, and I really fell in love with it here. I think the students will feel the same way. Not only is it beautiful here, but the people here are kind and sweet and, from personal experience, really work to make you feel like one of them.”

Student-exchange programs provide new opportunities and fantastic memories for all involved. Duchon hopes people will take that chance.

“Please consider hosting a student,” said Duchon. “You don’t have to have a big house or a lot of money, all these students are looking for is a loving family. It has so many benefits not only for the family, but for the whole community.”

More information is available at asse.com. For questions, call (231) 408-7318.

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Posted by Brendan Losinski

Brendan is the reporter for the Lake County Star. He works in the office in Baldwin and can be reached at (231) 745-4635 and by email at blosinski@pioneergroup.com.

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