Exchange students experience life in Taylor County

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There are 11 international exchange students in the Campbellsville and Taylor County Schools

By Zac Oakes


 They are only here for a short amount of time, but their presence provides a great deal of cultural education and diversity to the community.

The international exchange student program at Campbellsville and Taylor County high schools bring students from various parts of the world to spend a semester or year studying in the United States.

Kathleen Lesperance is an international exchange coordinator (IEC), where she seeks out and screens families for hosting international exchange students, speaks to local civic groups, as well as doing presentations and attending school activities. Lesperance recently retired from Taylor Regional Hospital.

She lives in Campbellsville after moving from Casey County around seven years ago, but works with families in several different counties including Taylor, Adair, Green, Marion, Washington, Russell, Casey, and Metcalfe counties.

Locally, there are 11 international exchange students in the Campbellsville and Taylor County school districts. Six students attend Taylor County High School, and five students attend Campbellsville High School.

Among the students, there are multiple countries represented. Lesperance said that all the students she works with are from Europe and Asia. Among the countries represented are Japan, Thailand, Taiwan, and South Korea, as well as Norway, Sweden, Germany, Austria, Spain, Italy, Denmark, Netherlands and Switzerland.

There are also students that come from South America, according to Lesperance, but they typically apply through a different office.

For many of these students, they like to be involved with multiple extracurricular programs in addition to their academic work.

Several students are involved in athletics, cheerleading, band, or other extracurricular activities in the community.

 Lesperance said that there are a lot of benefits of having international exchange students in the local school districts. One of those benefits is providing cultural education to other students in the schools.

She said the international exchange students teach other students about what life is like in their native country, which makes the students more culturally aware and provides a great educational opportunity.

Lesperance said she feels like many students in the area are not aware of different cultures around the world, and having international exchange students in local schools provides students the ability to ask questions and learn more about what life is like in different parts of the world.

The students are great ambassadors for their country, according to Lesperance.

As for the family screening aspect of her job, Lesperance said there are several aspects to it.

She said that families who wish to host an international exchange student must first complete an online application form. From there, they are screened for basic requirements, which include not being on any public assistance and bringing in an adequate income. Families must also be able to provide proper transportation to and from school and school activities, three meals a day and snacks at home, a bed (not a futon, convertible bed, etc.) and a door for privacy, according to Lesperance.

There is also an age requirement of 25 years old, but those who are under 25 years old can work with the program by referring families.

The students come to the United States with their own spending money, she said, and they purchase their own personal items as well as their own entertainment. Students also come with full health insurance.

“There really isn’t a lot of extra costs to the family,” Lesperance said. “Just a little extra water, a little bit more electricity, and food at home, and a lot of times, that is food that would’ve been thrown away anyway.”

Lesperance said that they are currently seeking families for two students. For anyone who is interested in hosting an international exchange student, they can contact Lesperance through her email at lesperanceke@gmail.com or by phone at (606) 303-2367.