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
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
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
“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.