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17 years = world of experience

By RUBI REYES
June 12, 2009 at 1:12 a.m.

Laura Wier, left, plays Guitar Hero III with Luo "Roy" Yuxuan, center,  and Yannick Koester. Known as 'Mom' by more than 15 people, Wier has hosted 15 exchange students over 17 years, and is expecting another exchange student this fall. To see video of the students, go to the story at www.VicAd.com.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE STUDENT RULES

Students are expected to have their own spending money for personal expenses (school lunches, supplies, clothes, entertainment).

Each student comes with his/her own medical insurance as well as an insurance card.

Your student can either walk, be driven to school by a family member or a friend with a driver's license, or take the bus.

The students are encouraged to join clubs and organizations to enhance their experience while living in America.

The students are not allowed to drive any vehicles while they are on the exchange program. They are, however, allowed to take a driver's education class as long as they do the driving portion with a licensed, certified and insured instructor.

Call Academic Year in America at 1-800-322-4678 or e-mail sjacaruso@aifs.com.

Academic Year in America Local Coordinators

Academic Year in America local coordinators are adults who enjoy working with young people, are open-minded and believe deeply in the value of cross-cultural exchange.

They act as a program liaison for AYA at a local level.

AYA local coordinators are responsible for finding host families, making placement arrangements with the high school and supervising the foreign exchange students throughout the year.

Supervising requires checking regularly with the student, host family and high school; submitting reports to the AYA national office; and being available to the student, host family and high school in the event that questions or concerns arise.

SOURCE: http://www.academicyear.org/lc.asp

For 17 years, Laura Wier and her son, Anthony, have surrounded themselves in culture from around the world.

While they do travel, they get an up-close view into German and French cultures without ever leaving their home.

Wier has hosted 15 foreign exchange students to date. The last two students in her home were teenagers Luo "Roy" Yuxuan, of China, and Yannick Koester, of Germany.

"Each student is different and every year I learn about a new culture," she said.

Her love for children and teaching them new things is what motivated Wier to become a host mother, she said.

"I heard an advertisement on the radio and thought, 'I can do that,'" Wier said.

She called the Academic Year in America coordinator and signed up, and to her surprise they had a student ready to move in within the week.

"He was already in New York and the family he was staying with originally wanted to host two students, but then they changed their mind," Wier said. "So he came to stay with me."

Her son was 10 at the time and said the experience has taught him about different cultures and countries.

"Me being an only child, it's been a good experience over the years having older as well as younger siblings," Anthony said.

Wier is the local coordinator for Academic Year in America and continues to host students.

"I still e-mail and speak to the students I've hosted," Wier said.

She tries to make the students' experience as fun as possible during their stay.

Students arrive in August for the 10-month full academic year. AYA also offers a five-month fall semester program, or a five-month spring semester program.

"I got here in September, but by that time Yannick had already been here a few weeks," Roy said.

Yannick arrived in Victoria in August. Both boys were in contact with Wier since 2008.

Both attended Memorial High School-Senior campus and truly enjoyed their stay.

"The campus was really huge, there aren't any schools like that in China," Roy said. "Our schools are not as big as Memorial."

Unlike their native countries, the boys were able to pick their own classes.

"In Germany, they tell you what classes you're going to take. Here we were able to pick, which was great."

The boys participated in the Foreign Exchange Club and tried different sports like tennis, which are not available to them at home.

The boys took trips to Austin, Corpus Christi, San Antonio and Houston. They both attended their first rodeo.

"The rodeo was cool and it was really loud," Yannick said.

The expressions on their faces when they are seeing and doing things for the first time is priceless, Wier said.

She tries to enrich the students' lives with local culture by taking them to surrounding cities, she said.

"They try to take it all in at once," Wier said.

In true Texas fashion, Yannick bought an entire cowboy getup, minus the horse.

"I bought a hat, belt and boots," Yannick said as he smiled from ear to ear.

The boys stood next to Wier as she showed them pictures of all her past exchange students. Off on one of the shelves was a wallet-size photo of the boys in their cowboy attire at the rodeo.

"Going to the rodeo was great. It is definitely something I would not be able to do in China," Roy said with a laugh.

Wier has treated the boys as if they were her own. Taking them for tours around the state to enrich their lives with Texas culture, she said.

"I love each and every one of them as if they were my own," Wier said. "Even though they are only here for one year, you get so attached to them."

Roy left Thursday to go home to China and Yannick will return home on July 10.

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