The World Exchange Program has brought 20 students to the United States and into the homes of American families. Amy Koenig decided to participate in the program immediately after seeing an ad in the paper.
“We travel a lot, and we love France. We just thought it would be nice to show a French student America. Plus, our daughter studies French, and we thought it’d be good for her. It just sounded like a lot of fun,” she said.
Sophie Drouin is one of the 20 students from France. She is staying in the home of Gerry and Amy Koenig for three weeks. As a 15 year-old-girl from Marseilles, Sophie is enjoying her time away from home and has new experiences every day.
Sophie said, “I really like it here. Today I get to go to buy bagels and peanut butter. I love peanut butter because it tastes so good. I also really like pancakes here.”
Host families take their students on tour and immerse them in the culture of the United States.
“I’ve been to Washington, D.C.; Georgetown; the Capitol; and the Museum of American History. I learned about the first ladies and their functions in the United States,” said Sophie.
“We’ve gone canoeing in the Shenandoah. We laughed really hard and had a great time together,” added Koenig.
Sophie arrived in the United States on July 10, leaving her parents and two sisters behind in order to immerse herself in the language and cultures of America.
“I did it because I’d like to become bilingual and I love traveling a lot and visiting a lot of countries,” said Drouin.
After being in the country for two weeks, Sophie said she has noticed many differences in the two cultures.
“It’s bigger here; the house is bigger, the cars, food, all is bigger. The people in France are quicker, here it is slower.”
Although Sophie is staying away from home for three weeks, she has become comfortable with her family here in the United States.
“It’s a different life, but I don’t miss anything except being able to speak only French,” says Drouin.
Since 1985, the World Exchange Program has been granting students overseas the opportunity to learn English here in the United States. Students must have at least two years of English study and a basic knowledge of spoken English.
“The students are screened by the organization on their level of English and their general enthusiasm for the program. Host families get to look at the different profiles of the students and choose which student would feel most comfortable in their home,” said Michael Sklaar, director of the World Exchange Program.
“We chose Sophie because we saw that she loved animals. Since we own cats and dogs, we needed someone who would love them as much as we do,” said Koenig.
Students who are accepted are usually between the ages of 14 and 18. The length of each visit differs slightly each year, from two weeks to three. This year the students arrived on July 21 and departed on Aug. 1.
“I’ve never done this before, but I’ve enjoyed it very, very much, and I don’t want her to go back. I would definitely do this again if I had the chance,” said Koenig.
For more information about the World Exchange Program, visit www.worldexchange.org or call 703-406-4229.