Bringing the World to North Texas
Lorena from Germany arrives in Texas to meet her host parents Holly and David and host sister Keeley.
Texas has become much more than the land of cowboys to hundreds of young people from around the world. It’s become home. With the help of Aspect Foundation’s international exchange program, Texas families have opened their hearts and homes to exchange students each year, providing safe and welcoming places during their American experience.
“When the students first come to Texas, they don’t know what to expect,” said Sherri Meyer, Field Manager for Aspect Foundation. “They think we all ride horses to school!”
With the love and guidance of their host families, these eager scholars navigate the cultural differences of living in America. The students attend local high schools, become active participants in clubs and sports and explore what daily life in Texas looks like – from the landmarks, to the food to the language!
“They are all in awe of the beauty here,” Meyer explained. “Most of their countries would fit into Texas three or four times, so seeing all that we have to offer, from deserts to mountains, to beaches, is amazing.”
The host families experience their own exchange. By welcoming an international son or daughter into the fold, they are able to bring a new culture to their hometown. Many choose to host an exchange student to expose their own children to a new language and traditions, but also to rediscover and share what makes their home special. The exchange students stay for a semester or academic year, but oftentimes the relationships with their host families endure for years to come.
Meyer, a long-time host mother herself, considers her exchange children part of her family forever. “When they come back and visit, they are still family. It’s like they’ve never left,” Meyer marveled. “We’ve built bonds with these families across the sea.”
Rafael from Brazil, Laura from Germany, Joshi from Germany, and Greg from Norway all play their first tennis matches at their high school in Texas.
These relationships strengthen the ties between Texas and international communities. Exchange students return home with a profoundly personal impression of America, and Texas in particular. They return to visit often, bringing their families and friends to meet the community that welcomed them warmly as teenagers.
Oftentimes, the students’ exchange year and host family are catalysts for future academic and professional choices. “One of my exchange sons from Germany now works for BP,” Meyer explained. “When he lived with us, we used to take him down to see the oil rigs and he was fascinated. Now it’s his career. He feels one of the reasons he got this job, was that he ‘talked Texan.’ The interviewer asked why he sounded like he was from Texas and he replied, ‘my family is there.’”
Host families reflect the diversity of American families. Empty nesters, couples without children, families with young or teenage children and even single adults all can host and experience the rewards of participating in this meaningful public diplomacy. Host families provide a room and meals to one or two exchange students, and a safe, supportive environment while they attend high school for a semester or academic year. The students are accepted to the program based on academic excellence, maturity and English proficiency, and are covered on their own health insurance and provided with monthly spending money.
If your family is interested in an incredible cultural experience, contact Donna Vickers at 972-302-3821 or Sherri Meyer at 888-288-3556. Profiles of students are available to see at aspectfoundation.org.