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“It’s so nice to give of yourself to someone who wanted so badly to come over here.” - Kerrey Matlock, CETUSA Host


“I wanted to model a giving heart to my kids,”


McAnelly says. “They learn more from how you act than what you say.” Coordinators normally do not host students, however, all of McAnelly’s children are now out of her home, so she was especially glad to welcome Anne Granrusten from Norway when Granrusten’s fi rst arrangement fell through. Ridling says many rural families are apprehen- sive about hosting, but the sense of community is often exactly what students need to experience. “I hear people say, ‘We live in the sticks, we don’t have a lot,’ but we do have a lot to offer them just by being ourselves with families and friends,” Ridling says. Host families do have to give to their students, at the very least a bed and meals, but the reward according to Denise Thomas, Cimarron Electric Cooperative member, is much more. She says her family is now extended to a foreign country. “I normally would not just open my home but


they don’t care about how rich you are or how good your furniture is. It’s just like ‘open your home to me and I’ll be gracious.’” CETUSA chose Thomas’ family to host Sebastian Lawrence, Denmark, and Marco DeGaetano, Germany.


“I could not have gotten a better host family,” Lawrence says. “They are very open which makes me comfortable.” DeGaetano’s dream is to become a pilot some-


day, and in order to succeed in the skies he wants to be able to speak English perfectly. “I think you grow up way faster by trying some- thing new,” DeGaetano says. Thomas has had the opportunity to watch her students see her world through the students’ eyes. She says the fi rst weeks they were here it was al- most sensory overload, but they have been smiling all the way through their new discoveries and dif- ferences in American living, especially food. Having never eating Mexican or Chinese cook- ing before, DeGaetano says he has enjoyed the food because there is so much variety. Lawrence agrees America is a “big place for every kind of food” with a few exceptions. “Oklahoma is not too glad about salads,” Lawrence says with a laugh. “But there are a lot of


steaks!”


In addition to opening the doors to fresh tastes, these young adults have been learning American customs and traditions fi rsthand. Both Lawrence and DeGaetano were surprised by the friendliness of everyone in their town, even strangers. “Fairview is a very loving community,” Thomas


says. “They have really embraced the exchange students, and it makes the world closer that they’re bringing their countries to us.”


All of these students staying with electric co-op member families have equally embraced being a part of their school activities. Lawrence played football, basketball and ran track; DeGaetano per- formed in the band and Viste joined the choir. “At home there is no school spirit, no sports,”


Viste says. “I feel like I’m in a movie sometimes, or that I’m on the set of ‘Glee.’” Granrusten says school spirit gives the students a unique bond together. “At home there are a lot of people who stay in their own groups,” she says. “Here, the teams con- nect the students and the students support the teams together.”


She has been so inspired by the differences, she may include returning to the United States for col- lege in her future plans.


Soon all the students will return to their home countries to fi nish high school with fond memo- ries of games, proms and life in rural America. However, Ridling hopes the program has provided an infl uential impact as well. “Our hope is that they will return to their coun- try and continue to spread world peace,” Ridling says.


Ridling once had a bulletin board with snap-


shots of each foreign exchange student placed in Oklahoma, but the board was soon overcrowded with the cheerful faces. More than 950 new stu- dents will be coming to the United States this August, and all students must have a host family before they depart from their home countries. Judging by these students’ experiences, there’s no place like Oklahoma. For more information on becoming a host fam-


ily or coordinator, contact Ridling at 888-238-8720 or kelley@cetusa.org or visit the organization’s website at www.cetusa.org.


CETUSA averages about 750 students nationwide each year This year, CETUSA expects to need host families for about 950 students


]


Say What?


We asked each of these foreign exchange students to share a fun question asked about their home country.


Do you ride icebergs? – Sebastian Lawrence, Denmark


Are there cell phones in Germany? – Marco DeGaetano, Germany


Is Norway in Texas or Canada? – Hannah Viste, Norway


Have you seen an iPhone before? – Anne Granrusten, Norway


JUNE 2014


31


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