International Students Get Taste of America

Forks/Palmer/Easton program provides homes to 32 students from Europe who spend month learning about United States.

Lori Boucher spent a year as a host mother. But then she had enough.

That's when the Lower Mount Bethel Township woman decided to jump right in and serve as coordinator of a program that brings international students to the Lehigh Valley for one summer month to learn about this side of the pond.

"My husband is from France," said Boucher, who has served as coordinator for 14 years. "So we wanted to keep his culture alive."

On Wednesday morning, the group of 32 international students -- high schoolers between ages 15 and 18 -- for the Forks/Palmer/Easton chapter had gathered for class in the Cornerstone Church on College Hill.

There, they received some instruction from Boucher about a field trip to Washington, D.C., for the weekend and got some lessons about America from Eileen Snover, an ESL teacher in the Allentown School District.

"It's fun for me. I like sharing our culture," Snover said. "And hearing them is like listening to the United Nations."

This group is from France, Spain, Germany and Belgium, among others. Another group, the Nazareth chapter, visited the Lehigh Valley in July.

"It's the first time they've ever been to this country," Boucher said. "But Europe knows that English is in such demand. These students can have fluent conversations with no translation."

The program costs $4,000 for three weeks. It includes airfare, insurance, transportation and program fees.

The students are required to take 27 hours of English.

They also go on trips, spending four days in New York City and a three-day stay in Washington, Baltimore and Philadelphia. They also tour the Martin Guitar factory in Nazareth.

The students were also getting a tour of Northampton Community College.

Boucher finds volunteer host families from the area to put up a student or two and take them to their classrooms and provide lodging and meals.

Robin Morrison of Bethlehem has served as a host mother for a decade. This session, she is hosting Elena from Madrid, Spain.

"I look forward to it," Morrison said. "If we can't go to Europe, we bring Europe to us."

Morrison tries to add to the culture.

She has taken Elena to and Dorney Park and will be hitting the Jersey Shore shortly.

Elena and her family have been watching the as well.

"My kids loving having someone here," Morrison said. "With the Olympics, it's great. We watch and laugh. We're really getting to understand each other."

Elena is pleased with her sample of America.

"I like it. I've never been here before," she said, as her fellow students made a beeline for coffee, a big deal for Euro teens. "I liked New York City and I'm looking forward to seeing Washington. This is what I expected about America."


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