Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 2:40 PM on Wednesday, June 6, 2012

International exchange program new to Homer

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer

Students interested in going abroad or coming to Alaska have a new way to come and go now that AYUSA (Academic Year in the U.S.A.) Global Youth Exchange, is expanding its Alaska presence.

Nancy Deaver of Homer is the program's regional director and Sue Arseneau, also of Homer, is AYUSA's new community representative.

"The main difference is that with our company, you get to pick your own students," said Deaver of what sets AYUSA apart from other exchange programs. "Host families are not just assigned a student. They can go on the website and choose a student that matches their family. ... It's not a new program, just new to Alaska."

Begun in 1981, the program headquarters in San Francisco, Calif., and is offered in 65 countries. According to information provided by AYUSA, it is a founding member of the Council on Standards for International Educational Travel. It opened a regional center in Tokyo for its Asian program in 1985, with additional offices opened since then in Yugoslavia, Germany and Ecuador. It is the international youth exchange provider to Kiwanis International and Key Club International service clubs worldwide and, in 1999, was incorporated into the U.S. Department of State, operating under the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. In its 30 years of existence, AYUSA has provided cross-cultural experiences for more than 50,000 participants.

It offers three main programs: a global youth exchange, study abroad and "world leaders," a three-week summer leadership experience for young people from around the world that takes place at the University of California, Berkeley.

Deaver's focus is finding host families and additional community representatives, and creating a strong AYUSA presence in Alaska. With foreign students expressing interest in coming to the Kenai Peninsula and Deaver's goal to provide for 10 visiting students, the push is on to find host families.

"There is a girl from Taiwan, a student from Germany and also a 15-year-old boy from China that specifically want to come to the Kenai Peninsula, possibly Homer," said Deaver.

Arseneau will be assisting Deaver in locating families that will open their homes to visiting students.

"I find host families, help match them with kids and also do once-a-month checks to make sure the kids are doing good and everything is working out well between the families and the kids," said Arseneau, who, like Deaver, has gone through training provided by AYUSA.

Once the application and a background check have been completed, host families can begin the search for a student that will fit in their home. Families can commit for a semester, for a year, "whatever the host family wants. And if you don't find a student that you want to host, that's fine. There's no commitment until we make a placement," said Deaver, adding that host families also are provided with orientation, "and any kind of help they might need."

For students from this area interested in studying abroad through AYUSA, costs range from $4,000-$10,000, "but there are a lot of different grants available," said Deaver.

To learn more about AYUSA, visit www.ayusa.org or call Deaver, 299-0977, or Arseneau, 399-1582 or 235-0122.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.