VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – Exchange student programs are picking back up after a temporary shutdown due to COVID-19.
In Virginia Beach, the Trussell family is preparing to welcome their third exchange student. They go through an agency called International Experience.
Tracy Mabry, northeast regional director for International Experience, says the agency is still looking for host families in various parts of Hampton Roads while some are already full. Public schools have a certain number of students they allow each year.
Mabry said that for Virginia Beach and Chesapeake, families can still sign up to host, but they do need to hurry as the deadline to have information to the schools is July 1.
The Trussells’ first student was Antonio Emmerich from Germany. They still keep in touch virtually. In fact, the Trussells’ oldest daughter, who just graduated from high school, will soon visit Antonia.
“They made my life better and fuller,” Emmerich described while talking with News 3 about her host family, who she called her second family.
Emmerich described and laughed about some of the differences between the U.S. and Germany. She said they don’t have drive-through restaurants where she lives. She also misses things like blueberry muffins and pancakes her host family would make.
The Trussell family hosted a Spanish student, Marina, last year. The program did get cut short by COVID, but their student still enjoyed having the opportunity to be here for seven months.
“I got really lucky. Honestly, I got really lucky,” said Marina Ruiz Cifuentes. “Rachael and Brett are always doing things and planning things and keeping you busy.”
Rachael said some friends have told her they’re concerned they don’t have the time to host, but she said the agency wants the students to fit in with the host family’s normal activities.
“They’ll tell you not to change your world around them, but you know, we try to do extra stuff or include them into the stuff that we already do,” Trussell described. “And it makes us have a little more family time. Like, we’ll try to do game night every week at dinner time.”
The International Experience agency places students from more than 50 countries in the U.S. It does not offer a full exchange student program for American students wanting to study overseas; however, they do have a summer program. For more information, click here.