Time for an exchange

Suzie Harrison

Students from more than 50 countries have been able to study abroad

with the help of the American Field Service. The nonprofit organization

helps the students find families to live with for a year, a semester or a



But the group has encountered a problem for the 2002-03 school year.

There are not enough Laguna Beach and Orange County families volunteering

to host an exchange student. There are six children yet to be placed in


the area.

Anne Weiler, local AFS host and Laguna Beach chapter student liaison,

explained that this year was unusual because students are usually placed

by this time.

The board of volunteers use the computer to find kids that they think

would fit into Orange County and Laguna Beach.

“We try to find kids who have interests similar to what Laguna Beach

provides,” Weiler said.


Interests in art, acting, music, writing and sports indigenous to this

area are a precursor to indicate a good fit. The exchange students who

come to Laguna are mostly juniors and seniors.

“This year Karyn Green from New Zealand was living with host parents

who are both artists. It has worked well and Karyn has been in every

drama production at the high school this year,” said Weiler.

Jenni Hayrinen, another student attending Laguna Beach High School as

an exchange student and a ranked tennis player in Finland got the


opportunity to further her tennis expertise by playing on the junior

varsity team.

Weiler explained that they try also to find families for the students

to stay with who might also have children attending the high school with

similar interest, providing host brothers or sisters.

Luiz Ross from Brazil was interested in swimming and water polo. He

was placed with a family that had host brothers who were all on the water

polo team.

“It’s so interesting -- we’ve hosted twice and one of the best parts

of hosting is that I have an only child, and having a sister through this

program is so amazing in terms of learning to share and sister

relationships,” Weiler said.

It helps kids and parents learn more about cultural diversity. The

students come with their own fascinating likes and dislikes about

everything and preconceived ideas.

“They would rather go to fast food because a drive-through restaurant

is amazing to them,” Weiler said. “It gives students the opportunity to

have this cross-cultural experience and to learn things they wouldn’t

otherwise learn,” Weiler said.

An interesting aspect is the level of maturity these students possess.

It’s a big decision to choose to leave home for a year for the student

and families to make.

“First of all I am really glad that I got to experience everything

here, and that my parents encouraged me to pursue goals and come to the

United States,” said Elke Trenkwalder exchange student from New Zealand.

“You have to learn a lot about different cultures and the way people

think,” Trenkwalder said.

Over the year her English has improved and she has learned to express

her feelings and needs in another language.

Viktor Sundholm from Finland was recruited right away for football

because of his large stature and before playing on the junior varsity

team he didn’t know what football was.

Sundholm also expressed how different Laguna Beach is from his native


“This is more like a vacation place looks. It’s a great place to be

with the beach, community and the city. It’s the nicest campus I have

ever seen and the people are so nice,” said Sundholm said.

Knowing the influence, knowledge and experience that the program

gives, it’s important to learn more about the AFS program and process to

become a host to foster future life experiences for an exchange student.

Families that are interested should contact Janna Morgan the Orange

County hosting coordinator at 831-3789.