PETAL, MS (WDAM) - Families in the Petal are taking foreign exchange students from across the world into their home through a high school program.
The program is through Cultural Homestay International. Students between the ages of 15 -18 from Japan, Spain, France and several other countries live with host families for a semester or an entire academic school year.
Organizers said the families are not paid, but the kids come with their own money to pay for other expenses such as entertainment, school activity fees, trips, medical insurance, uniforms, etc. They said all host families must be able to provide food and shelter.
Sharon Rhymes said she jumped at the opportunity to take in a foreign student.
"I just loved him," said Rhymes. "It's been a wonderful experience for me and he's really enjoyed it too, I think."
Students can participate in school activities such as band, sports, clubs, and other activities. Marin Benguijuy, from France, said he is enjoying his stay because where he's from, they don't offer such activities.
"I'm in the band," Benguijuy said. "And that's awesome."
For many of the families, this is their first time hosting a foreign student and the first time for many students staying in the United States for an extended period of time.
Elena Pedrero, from Spain, said there are several cultural differences, but she's enjoying every step of the way.
"The food and the schedule," Pedrero said. "For us back home, we do everything late like eat and things like that. So it was really hard in the beginning. The language, the different cultures and the people, everything was so different, but it was fun."