Students Swap Cultures and Gain Valuable Education

Article excerpt

Byline: Laura Stewart Daily Herald Staff Writer

Some clubs meet for the exchange of ideas, recipes or coins.

The Inter-Cultural Programs group meets to coordinate the exchange of people - students from around the world who travel to a foreign country for a one-year exchange program.

The Inter-Cultural Programs group is a division of the American Field Service Club, an international group that was formed shortly after World War II ended.

June B. Fournier of Hawthorn Woods is coordinator of the Lake Zurich chapter of Inter-Cultural Programs, part of the Great Lakes area regional chapter.

Fournier and her family chose to become a host family twice.

Both Leo Pinto from Venezuela and Menzo VenDerBeek of Holland lived with the Fournier family for a year and attended Lake Zurich High School.

"I think half the school cried when Leo left," Fournier said, laughing. "The kids loved him. He tasted everything - food-wise and socially. He couldn't get enough."

Menzo was more introspective and intense, Fournier said, adding that the quiet soccer player took a particular liking to two American favorites - Pop-Tarts and Kellogg's Corn Pops cereal.

Throughout the Great Lakes region, a high school district generally averages two or three exchange students in the program each year, Fournier said. The students are typically 16, 17 or 18 years old.

Becoming a host family for a year is a big obligation - one that takes plenty of thought, Fournier said.

"You are taking a child in with all of the glories and disadvantages," she said. "You are a foster parent."

The students, many who have already graduated from schools in their own countries, come to the United States to absorb everything they can about the American lifestyle.

"They are put in a normal family environment for the cultural experience," Fournier said. "They are part of the family, part of the community, part of the school."

Within her own family, Fournier had long discussions with her son to prepare him for a foreign student's arrival in their home. …