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Larned Civic Pride welcomes ISE rep
Hosting an exchange student is easier than most think
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Missy Airchart, the regional representative for International Student Exchange, gave a program at the Larned Community Pride meeting Monday at noon. She is pictured here with ISE students Nele Barth of Germany and Gabriel Corchak of Brazil. - photo by Veronica Coons

LARNED — Missy Airchart, Dodge City representative of International Student Exchange, provided the program recently for the Larned Civic Pride weekly meeting. The regional adviser over southwest Kansas and small portions of Colorado, Texas and Oklahoma, she was accompanied by 2019 exchange students Nele Barth of Germany and Gabriel Corchak of Brazil. 

Airchart spoke frankly about one of the obstacles that stop some potential host families of exchange students from inviting a student into their home – the perceived cost to the host family. 

“A lot of people are scared to host because they think it will cost a lot of money,” Airchart said. “What they don’t realize is that the student’s parents send them an allowance.”

Parents make sure each student has $300 a month to cover their own personal expenses. Those expenses can include cellphone bills, school expenses and fees, meals at school, entertainment and clothing. 

Students involved with the ISE program arrive with a J-1 visa and are sponsored by ISE. They take part in one of three programs. There are those who come for the whole school year, August through May. There are also those who come for one semester, and there are also full-year students. They arrive in January and depart the following January. 

“Students come from all over the world,” she said. “Some families are worried about bringing strangers into their homes, but what they don’t realize is these kids are also leaving behind all of their friends and family members to stay in a stranger’s home too.”

Airchart remains actively involved with students and families, so they are never alone. She visits with her students and their families each month to make sure there are no unmet needs. 

If there are ever issues with students, she will intervene and talk with them. If the students are uncomfortable with the family they are placed with, she will take them back with her and stay with her until she finds them a new host family. 

Not a stranger

Airchart is no stranger to hosting. She has played host mom to 15 students over the years. This year, Nele is staying with her and Gabriel and another ISE student are staying with Airchart’s nephew. 

She encourages them to try everything, from different foods to sports and activities. That means they have to push themselves to interact and make new friends. 

Students are also encouraged to bond with their families, and they do this by taking part in family activities and pitching in with chores. They are expected to follow ISE rules, and they are made aware early on what those rules are. For instance, they can take a driver’s education course, but they aren’t allowed to drive. They can also take a hunter’s safety course, but they aren’t allowed to hunt. They can travel with family, school and church, but not alone. They also take trips with ISE to destinations like New York and Hawaii. 

Families who apply to host are asked to list their expectations, from curfew to the chores students will be responsible for and school performance. Families and students are both asked to look over applications from one another and are active participants in the placement process. Airchart facilitates placement, and partners with host parents to monitor grades because ISE students must maintain a C average in order to stay.

As far as laying the ground rules, Airchart recommends being direct with teens is the best policy. 

“I just tell them no sex, no drugs, no alcohol, no smoking, no vaping,” she said. “Those will get you sent home.”

Airchart treats the students she hosts like her own children, she said. 

“I don’t change the way I am. My house is loud 24-seven, and we just stay who we are, and we kind of adapt to each other’s way,” she said. “I treat them like they’re my own.”

Reminders are needed from time to time, as with any teen, she added. 

The exchange experience is not a one-way street. Families are enriched by the experience along with ISE students. 

“You learn their traditions, and they learn ours,” she said. “By sharing our celebrations, we share our cultures.”

Students experience all

Airchart said this year, 11 of her students are enrolled at Dodge City High School, and another exchange service has five students enrolled there. She also placed eight students at Lakin High School. Pride members asked Airchart’s students questions about their stays. 

Both agree Americans are friendly and open. Both enjoy American food. and are eager to take part in activities. Gabriel is looking forward to playing basketball this winter, and Nele is involved with dance outside of school. They visit with their families via Skype, which helps them to feel less homesick. 

Students are encouraged to seek full involvement in school activities, including sports. They range in age from 15 to 18, so Airchart is careful to screen applicants making sure those who have already received diplomas from their home countries are not assigned to Kansas schools. That’s because Kansas disqualifies students who have already graduated from high school from competing in high school sports. 

Non-traditional families are now welcome to host exchange students, she said. The minimum age to host is 25, and on the other end of the spectrum, Airchart said many empty-nesters and grandparents enjoy hosting. 

“I have way more grandmothers that host— more than any other group,” she said. “They have fun. I have one grandmother in Lakin, she’s 75 years old, and she takes two boys every year. It keeps the house noisy, and she follows everything they do.” 

Applications for hosting are taken year round, Airchart said. She welcomes inquiries, by email at or by calling 620-430-1222. Check out for more information about the organization.