By Samita Dutta
One hundred and thirty-four foreign exchange students from China, Austria and France came together at Vista Del Lago High School in Folsom July 19 to celebrate their arrival into America. Honored with a red carpet to walk and a “Welcome to America” greeting from “Lady Liberty,” they came for their first day of classes.
The students will study here through this week and will visit San Francisco, California State University, Sacramento, and various stores for shopping. They attend school for part of the day in Folsom, although many of their host families reside in El Dorado Hills and Cameron Park.
The trip promises to be rewarding for the travelers. Laureme Mathieu, a French student, said coming to America is exciting because she gets to “see a different culture.” She also said she “would like to meet other people and speak their language.”
Rick Allen, a student in the program from China, said he is excited for the summer opportunity. Zhang Xu, another Chinese student, said he looks forward to the 20 days he will spend in America.
Julie Brown, the site director for the program, said many of the students are awed when they come to America.
“They are amazed at how big everything is and how the houses are spread out,” Brown said. “Also, they are surprised when they see Costco because it’s huge.”
She said the students “love to shop” and they buy a lot because materials are cheaper in America. One of the most rewarding aspects of the international exchange program is seeing the students when they walk across the Golden Gate Bridge, according to Brown.
Jeannette Bradley, the Folsom recruiter for the program, said that she “loves the opportunity to watch the American families’ willingness to open their homes and hearts; (the program) impacts kids for the rest of their lives. Students are amazed at the love and care provided by the families.”
The international event is sponsored by the EF Educational Homestay Program, a non-profit sector of the Education First organization. EF Educational Homestay Program is dedicated to the promotion of international understanding through cultural exchange.
The EF organization has sponsored international trips for more than 140,000 students since 1979. Typically groups ranging from 17 to 34 students will travel to a major American city and experience American life there. Most programs put on by the organization offer daily language and culture lessons, along with fun activities and games. Host families house their students in the evening in order to allow the students to get an idea of an American everyday life.