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As year ends for exchange students, organizers search for more host families

KWTX News 10 at 10P
Published: May. 15, 2022 at 8:10 PM CDT
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BELTON, Texas (KWTX) - The year is winding down for a lot of students and many are celebrating in different ways.

That includes the area chapter of international student exchange, a group that hosts foreign exchange students around Bell County.

It was one last get-together for the group at Fire Street Pizza in Belton on Sunday. And Because the academic year is winding down, the group of exchange students is getting ready to go home.

“I have a mix of feelings because I’m sad, I don’t want to leave,” said Judit Paul, one of the exchange students from Spain.

Paul came to live with the Alfaro family in August.

“They could learn from our kids and my kids could learn from them,” said Caroline Alfaro, Paul’s host mother.

For Alfaro and her family, the experience has been full of positives. But getting others to buy-in has taken a lot more convincing in recent years.

“We have so many students waiting and looking for host families,” said Zubeena Catania. “We had to turn away applications for students, we have stopped accepting applications.”

Catania is the area representative for International Student Exchange. She said part of the reason for stopping applications is because of the pandemic.

Lots of international travel was put off within the last two year. But, now there are more exchange students interested in the program again.

“There’s students out there waiting for host families, and then there’s students out there waiting to put their application in,” said Catania.

Now, there is a push from people like Catania.

This year she had 15 host families in the area, but she would like to see more.

“We still have time,” Catania said. “We still have time (until) August before school starts to get families in.”

And students like Paul are with Catania in trying to get more people in.

“I came here mostly for my English, but once I got here I was like, ‘there’s so much more,’” said Paul.

So much more, she said, like creating new relationships.

“(There is) a few weeks left, but I told them, it’s not a goodbye,” said Alfaro.

More information on International Exchange can be found here. Those interested can also contact Zubeena Catania at 916-346-8836.

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