sealPurdue News

April 11, 2003

Host families sought for 4-H exchange program

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue University 4-H educators are seeking Indiana families to host Japanese high school exchange students. Five students, ages 15-18, will be in America from early August until June 2004.

"There certainly is an adjustment to having someone new living with you, but you get used to it and accept the person more as one of the family," said John Castrale, of Mitchell, Ind., who currently hosts an exchange student.

All of the Japanese students know basic English. Host families must provide housing and meals. The students have their own spending money and health insurance.

"Some families hesitate to become hosts because they believe it will be too expensive or they will need to provide special activities to entertain the Japanese students, yet many of the students enjoy the simplicities being part of an American family, including everyday activities," said Chris Cook-Leitz, Purdue Extension 4-H specialist.

Host families also receive help from 4-H coordinators, including cultural orientation, Japanese-speaking counselors and student mentors. The coordinators also keep in regular contact with the students and their host parents.

"The exchange program is a way to build bridges of understanding and communication," said Maryann Alldredge, 4-H yearlong exchange program coordinator. "Students and host families are actually serving as ambassadors for their countries, and the exchange program allows those countries to develop friendships. It's one of those rare 'win-win' situations."

Host families sometimes find their hometown areas take on a new image.

"The neatest thing about it is that you get the chance to show a person what life is like, at least in your family, in your local area," Castrale said. "Just learning about where they're from, their family, what they're used to and what surprises them here is all a real neat learning experience."

Families do not have to be involved with 4-H or have children at home to participate in the exchange program, but having children of the same age can be helpful.

"We did this at this time because we have a daughter that is a junior in high school," Castrale said. "It simplified things like transportation and keeping the kids involved with different things."

"Be prepared," is Castrale's advice for families considering hosting a student. "A year can get to be a long time for both the students and the parents."

Interested families should contact Cook-Leitz at 1-888-EXT-INFO,

Writer: Barney T. Haney, (765) 494-8402,

Sources: Chris Cook-Leitz, (765) 494-8437,

Maryann Alldredge, (812) 983-4819,

Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722; Beth Forbes,;

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