20 Russian students to spend 4 weeks here

May 19, 1994|By Sherry Joe | Sherry Joe,Sun Staff Writer

Sara Seifter and Lisa Emmerling are on a mission: find seven Howard County families willing to be host to Russian exchange students this summer.

"We feel it's very beneficial to learn about other countries," said Ms. Seifter who, with Ms. Emmerling, is co-coordinator of International Training and Exchange, a San Francisco-based organization that sponsors 300 student-exchange programs each year.

For the first time in the organization's 12-year history, Russian exchange students will visit the United States, said Ms. Siefter, a Columbia resident.

A group of 20 students from Moscow and its suburbs will spend four weeks in Howard County, from July 15 through August 12. They range in age from 13 to 17 and all speak some English.

"We're very excited," said Ms. Seifter, who received a master's ,, degree in Russian language from the University of Pennsylvania and is eager to learn more about the economic and political changes occurring throughout the former Soviet Union.

Fourteen host families already have been found for the exchange students, but seven are still needed.

Being host to an exchange student is not as difficult as some would think, the coordinators said. Host families are expected to provide room and board -- not entertain the students 24 hours a day.

"We look for someone willing to do their part," Ms. Seifter said. "Someone to provide meals and spend time with the students during the evenings and on the weekends."

Said Ms. Emmerling, an Ellicott City resident: "They should treat them like one of their children."

The students have medical insurance and spending money.

When they arrive in the United States, they will follow a busy schedule, including three-hour language classes four days a week at Christ Memorial Presbyterian Church in Columbia.

The students also will take day trips organized by the exchange group to Washington, D.C., Annapolis, historic Ellicott City, Cunningham Falls in Thurmont, and Hershey Park, Pa., among other sites.

"We keep them very occupied," said Ms. Seifter, who added that host families are encouraged to join the trips.

Ms. Seifter and Ms. Emmerling have been hosts to exchange students and say the experience has given them a richer appreciation of cultural differences and similarities.

"Both of us feel very strongly that these programs help different cultures learn about each other," Ms. Seifter said.

"Sometimes America tends to be isolated and thinks the whole )) world speaks English."

The experience also can lead to lasting friendships.

Both women have visited former exchange students in their home countries, including France, Germany and Spain.

To be eligible, families need not have have high school or college-age children. Single parents are accepted as hosts.

Information: Sara Seifter at 410-531-2419 or Lisa Emmerling at 410-461-3883.

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