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EF Foundation for Foreign Study seeks Las Vegas Valley homes for foreign exchange students

If you’re interested in hosting a foreign exchange student, the EF Foundation for Foreign Study is a nonprofit group that can help with the process.

Keith and Evelyn Petersen have six children of their own and are hosting 18-year-old Norwegian student Silje Hagevik.

Hagevik is the fourth student the family has hosted and the third from Norway.

"They bring us a lot of joy," Evelyn Petersen said.

Hagevik participates on the volleyball, soccer and swim teams at Sunrise Mountain High School, 2575 N. Los Feliz St.

The Petersens selected Hagevik in part because of her interest in athletics.

Host families get to choose from student profiles based on common interests shared with them.

"Look at what they’re looking for in their stay in America," advised Evelyn Petersen. "You can see what the matches are, see if they fit your family."

Evelyn Petersen said it’s important to be strict with students concerning the rules of the house, as all exchange students are expected to do chores during their visit.

One of the Petersen s’ former exchange students came from a wealthy family in Thailand and was used to having servants do everything for her.

When she arrived, she didn’t know how to iron or cook. She didn’t even know what a refrigerator was.

Hagevik, and most of the other exchange students in the program, have a basic understanding of English when they arrive, but there may still be a learning curve.

The Petersens had to learn to slow down when they talked and use more visual cues.

The foundation is always looking for host families. A minimum age of 25 is required, and non-traditional families are welcome to apply.

After completing an application, a local representative from the foundation will meet with the family to discuss the program.

A room and meals are to be provided, but there are no additional fees for hosting a student.

Exchange students are expected to pay for their own clothes, supplies and any extra curricular activities.

Families must pass a background check and can begin the process of selecting a student from different profiles. The foundation placed more than 100 students, ages 14 to 18, in Clark County this year.

Students usually stay for an academic school year. Hagevik arrived Aug. 17, 2010, and plans to leave June 23.

She said it has been a good experience and that she has enjoyed meeting new people and her new family.

Her favorite part, though, has been a trip to Disneyland.

Things don’t always work out between the host family and student, said exchange coordinator Shaunene Edwards.

For various reasons, students may have to be moved to a different host family mid-stay or be sent home.

It’s rare, but it happens, Edwards said.

That’s why she and other local coordinators do monthly checkups with the families and students to see how things are going.

First-time host parents Sean and Jennifer Howerton said they got lucky with 17-year-old Christian Schreier because he has fit in so well with their family of two boys.

Schreier comes from a village of 300 in Germany. He’d never had chicken wings or Dr Pepper before coming to Las Vegas.

He and his new brothers Dallas, 9 ; and Timothy Lederer, 16, enjoy flipping on their trampoline every day. They also love to stay up playing "Super Smash Bros. Brawl" on Nintendo Wii until 3 a.m. on weekends.

Dallas said Schreier has taken over the role of "nag king" in the house.

"He’s like one of the family," said Jennifer Howerton. "It’s going to be a sad day when he leaves."

For more information, visit effoundation.org.

Contact View education reporter Jeff Mosier at jmosier@viewnews.com or 224-5524.

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