Over the last year, dozens of foreign exchange students have been enjoying America, Toledo-style.
The students live with American families, attend high school, and learn about life in the United States while teaching their host families and friends about life back home.
"The way of life is a lot different here," said Anika Hunzerge, 17, a student from Germany in the ASSE International Student Exchange program.
In Germany, she can walk to the mall, said the student at Sylvania Northview High School who lives with Dawn Whitney in Sylvania Township.
Marcus Pereira, a 17-year-old from Curitiba, Brazil, where the driving age is 18, said his Lake High School classmates have more freedom because they can drive, but they also have jobs to pay for their cars.
Marcus' host parents, Brad and Edie Schwamberger of Lake Township, wanted to give their 8-year-old daughter an international experience when they hosted their first exchange student from the Aspect student exchange program two years ago. Mr. Schwamberger had roomed with a Malaysian in college, and knew many other international students.
"I thought it was good to look at American culture through
someone else's eyes," he said.
Trying to explain things to foreign students makes them have to think about the reasons they do things, said Dave and Becky Massey, host parents of 16 students who are coordinators for the Aspect program.
Coordinators, or representatives, help match families and students and keep an eye out for problems.
The Masseys became coordinators in the early 1980s, after they had no one to ask for help when they were hosting their first student.
Now they help prepare participants for the end of the year, which is hard on the students and the host families.
"They become such a part of your family," Mr. Schwamberger said. "When they leave, it feels like you have this hole for several months."
The coordinators are volunteers, often with their own children, exchange students, and full-time jobs.
Terri Callahan, who handles the area west of the Maumee River for the EF Foundation for Foreign Study, said that finding host families is a constant job. As soon as the last student arrives in August, she starts looking for families to host the next year's students.
Coordinators said problems can arise from personality conflicts, different expectations of the experience, and different rules in the two countries.
They try to match students with families that have similar interests, said Mrs. Whitney, who became a representative three years ago.
Some students arrive wanting to sit back and observe, but the coordinators encourage them to be involved. Sleiman Sleiman, a student from Lebanon who is staying with ASSE coordinator Carol Batdorf in Perrysburg, said he wrestled at St. John's Jesuit High School and volunteered at the Autism Academy of Learning and the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo.
While even the worst problems can often be solved by finding a new host family, Mrs. Whitney had to send one student home after he kept breaking rules and was belligerent to his host mother.
Many host families and students keep in touch long after the year is over.
Mr. Schwamberger's first student came to visit in October, and Ms. Batdorf's first student brought his wife and daughter to visit a year ago. The Masseys are traveling to Germany for a former student's wedding this summer."They're always part of your family," Mrs. Massey said.
Contact Elizabeth A. Shack at: