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Council on International Educational Exchange

We Change Live. Our Alumni Change the World.

Students and CIEE host siblings enjoyed a holiday get-together, no doubt celebrating traditions from around the world. At right, Jean and Tom Anderson (front) orchestrated a family reunion of sorts with Ludvik, Simon, and Malte in Prague.


When Jean Anderson of Midlothian talks about her children, she says she has two and nine. She isn’t referring to their ages, but to her pair of biological children and her group of exchange students. Since 2008, Jean, her husband Tom, and their two kids have opened their family to nine high school students from faraway countries through the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE).

The Anderson family began its expansion with Ludvik from the Czech Republic. It took only a few days before Ludvik fit into the family. Jean remembers their amazing five months together that included trying Ludvik’s goulash recipe and a trip to explore the national monuments. As the day of his departure loomed, the Andersons made the most of their time, but they could not avoid the inevitable parting. Determined not to end the experience with a sad goodbye, Jean says they decided to continue their adventure with a new hello. Malte, from Germany, joined them the following school year. Then came Simon, Leo, Nessy, Philipp, Vukasin, Anna, and Rome.

Most families don’t host this many students, but whether one or nine students is welcomed from another country, host families will tell you it is always an experience they remember for a lifetime.

Though all exchange students eventually return to their home country, communications technology such as Facebook and Skype make it easier than ever before to strengthen the relationship. It’s not uncommon for students and families to arrange visits to reinforce the bonds they established. In fact, the Andersons just got back from Prague where they visited Ludvik who took them hiking in the Bohemian Paradise. Jean also encourages the students to visit the United States again.

1403_ReachingOut_3“As a promise that they are always welcome back in their American family,” said Jean, “we give house keys to all our exchange students.”

Becky Bell, a local coordinator for CIEE in Richmond, finds schools and families in Virginia and matches them with CIEE international students. She says CIEE host families offer a young international student the opportunity to discover America through the eyes of real Americans. And according to Becky, it’s a give-and-take. “Your family not only gains a new member, but also learns about a different culture, its values, traditions, language, food, and more,” says Becky.

These young ambassadors, representing more than fifty-five countries, come for one or two semesters with their own spending money and health insurance. They participate in family and school life, and volunteer in the community. Becky notes that all participating students have been screened by CIEE and have studied English for a minimum of three years.

Vicki Kincaid of Chesapeake saw value in getting involved with an organization like CIEE because it helped people from around the world understand each other better. Says Vicki, “What I didn’t expect was to fall in love with the children and the program.” Her family hosted a student from Thailand. “We toured Richmond, DC, Williamsburg, and more. I have seen these places many times, but there is nothing more exciting than seeing your world through the eyes of a child. I am excited to hear about her day, and the new things she has discovered.”

Vicki is now a local coordinator with CIEE. This year, she is supervising students from Czech Republic, Spain, Germany, and China.

1403_ReachingOut_FCIEE’s mission is to help people gain understanding, acquire knowledge, and develop skills for living in a globally interdependent and culturally diverse world. “CIEE depends on people like Vicki to get involved in their communities as local coordinators to help find good families and oversee the students during their stay,” says Becky. In addition, CIEE provides local coordinators with financial stipends and opportunities for national and international travel.

Tracy Scott is a self-professed baking addict and foodie who lives in Chesterfield County with her husband and two kids. She managed the calendar and handled social media for RFM before moving on to the corporate world.
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