Cultural exchange

Host families needed for World Link program

-Submitted photo
Mariam Murvanidze, an exchange student from Ukraine, shows the tacos she made with the help of her host family in Georgia in 2020. The program was completed virtually during the pandemic. World Link is seeking host families in Fort Dodge for the 2021-22 school year. The plan is for the program to be in-person this year.

World Link Inc. is searching for three more Fort Dodge families to host foreign exchange students and give them the opportunity to experience American culture.

World Link is a nonprofit exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs. The program seeks to provide exchange opportunities with countries that the U.S government wishes to have a better understanding with.

“We still need three loving families to come forward in Fort Dodge to host students for us,” said Karen King-Fitzgerald, regional program manager for World Link.

She said between 40 and 50 students are placed in Iowa every year. 2020 marked the first time in those 20 years that exchange students remained at home and experienced their program virtually.

For the 2021-22 program, the plan is for exchange students to arrive in the country in person in August.

“We are planning on it to be in person,” King-Fitzgerald, of Adel, said. “There’s a slight chance that they could delay it, but at this point the State Department is telling us they are in the process of scheduling flights, so we are trying to plan accordingly.”

Fort Dodge Senior High agreed to five exchange students, she said. Two spots have been filled.

Students will visit from Africa, Asia or Europe.

“We work with about 60 different countries,” King-Fitzgerald said.

Students will stay with their host families for the entire school year.

“They will arrive in August and start leaving mid May through mid June,” she said. “We place about 155 students and we have about 40 students placed so far. So there are still quite a few students who need homes.”

World Link students are selected by the FLEX and YES programs. These programs are sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with funding from Congress to aid in the development of better understanding between the people of the U.S. and a select group of countries.

Through the application process, World Link tries to create a good match for both the student and the family.

“If a family goes through application and approval process,” King-Fitzgerald said. “Once families are approved they can go through and fill out the form. If they want one student or two — we try to match what the family’s interests are to what the students are.”

She said it’s a wonderful learning experience for both the families and students.

“I have been involved in the program for nine years,” King-Fitzgerald said. “I love the students and to see each student grow while they are here. I like to see them open their eyes and see all those things that are the same and different. We like to see them learn. We teach them about volunteer services, we have them run projects while they are here to take those things back to their country to work on alumni projects in their home country as well.”

For more information, contact King-Fitzgerald at (515) 491-1551 or email karen@worldlinkinc.org. Information can also be found at www.worldlinkinc.org.


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