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June 29, 2010 > Cultural learning experiences bring the world together

Cultural learning experiences bring the world together

The Center for Cultural Interchange is searching for host families

By Rajeswari Ramanathan
Photos By courtesy of CCI

"The Academic Year Program (AYP) is an opportunity to open a window to the world and learn about other cultures, traditions and languages-not just through a textbook, but through real world encounters," says Lori Tibbett, Director of AYP Placement Services for Center for Cultural Interchange (CCI).

CCI is searching for host families in the U.S. who can house an English-speaking teenager between the ages of 15 to 18. The non-profit organization's mission is to give the student a chance to see the world beyond their own hometown. Through this, the teen as well as the host family are able to learn about one another's cultures and thus, connect the world closer together. However, due to the economic downturn the past few years, the AYP has been unable to secure as many host families as in past years to shelter the exchange students. For the upcoming 2010-11 school year, CCI hopes to place 1,000 foreign students from over 40 countries in homes across the U.S.

While in New Jersey as an exchange student, Irina Kuzmina, a worker and travel student from Russia said, "I am able to work, I can make money, and I can have some rest in this beautiful Ocean City."

According to the CCI website, the organization, which was initiated in 1985, is "dedicated to the promotion of cultural understanding, academic development, environmental consciousness and world peace." With only seven students in 1985, the program has dramatically grown to support over 8,000 exchange students today. On top of that, the group also works alongside Greenheart initiative to bring awareness and service to environmental issues through cultural understanding.

In addition to touring the country, the exchange students will actually attend school in the U.S. for the academic year and in this way, they can gain the complete cultural experience of America. But to have the capability to apply for the program, the student must have at least a 2.75 grade point average on a 4.0 scale.

The benefits of being part of the AYP are innumerable and the student will be able to make lifelong friends with their school mates as well as their host family. Families do not have to worry about insurance coverage or spending money for the student because the student is already provided with accident and health insurance and money. While the host families do not receive anything in exchange for hosting the student, the Internal Revenue Service has authorized families to claim a $50 per month charitable contribution deduction on their itemized tax returns. Nonetheless, becoming a host family is a cultural learning experience for both the family and the student.

"I never dreamed I'd be leaving everything I've ever known to live with complete strangers halfway around the world," said Erika Urriola, a U.S. student who travelled to study in Ireland. "It's so scary and exciting at the same time!"

If you are interested in hosting an AYP student, the deadline to apply is August 31. For more information, potential families can go to http://www.cci-exchange.com/host.htm, e-mail at ayp@cci-exchange.com or call CCI's toll-free information number at 800-634-4771.

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