Exchange students broaden horizons

Published 12:30 pm Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A handful of exchange students have arrived in Suffolk recently to spend some time in America.

The students from Foreign Links Around the Globe will attend Suffolk high schools, live with Suffolk families and, for all intents and purposes, be Suffolkians.

Cindy Fegley and her family are hosting two exchange students, one from the Ukraine and one from Brazil. Her son Christopher gets built-in friends from the experience and also will get the chance to learn about both cultures without even having to buy a plane ticket.

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At my high school, we had several exchange students throughout the years, though none of them ever wound up being in my grade. There were some from Germany and Brazil, but the one that affected our school the most was Andrew Wafula of Uganda.

Wafula was 6 feet 10 inches tall and led our boys basketball team to the state championship tournament that year. But more importantly, he was a genuinely nice guy who took time in several school assemblies to teach us about Uganda.

He went on to the University of Rhode Island on a basketball scholarship. He always talked about wanting to major in engineering and then return to Uganda to help improve its condition, but I was never sure what became of him.

Exchange students can open up meaningful doors in the minds of American children, for many of whom this exchange student will be their first glimpse to life outside the United States. But it also is a wonderful opportunity for the exchange students, as well, to live in another country for an extended period of time and see how Americans really live.

“We’re really going to have a multicultural family,” Cindy Fegley told News-Herald reporter Matthew Ward for a story published last week. “It’s great (for Christopher). It’s exposing him to other cultures and giving him the opportunity to appreciate some of the things we have here and see them in a different light.”

Those who have a chance to host an exchange student, whether just for the summer or for an entire school year, should take the chance next year. Chances are, you and the community will be better for it.