Create lasting links with international cultural exchange services

“It’s his shirt, his necklaces. It’s literally like she’s my sister.

“I just don’t want this to end.”

With over four thousand miles between them….
Ryleigh and Andrea met in a rather unique way.
Ryleigh lives in Benzie and Andrea is from Spain.

“I saw that other people at my school had a good relationship with their exchange students, so I was really, really want that,” says Ryleigh Frisbie.

“I work for International cultural exchange servicessays Debbie Kwaiser.

Debbie Kwaiser is a big part of an international student exchange program in Northern Michigan.

She explains: “It’s an exchange company that brings high school students to the United States. We are looking for foster families, we have over 700 children right now, across the United States. We look at all the different family activities and try to match them up pretty well.

She knows how it will affect someone’s life–
Because it affected his.

“I did a student exchange in Denmark for 10 weeks. We were soul mates at 16 and now we are soul grandmothers. And it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had,” says Kwaiser.

The program is a 10-month commitment that comes with a lifetime connection.

“The children arrive at the end of August, they stay until the end of school in June.”

Ryleigh says, “They’re not just like a person living in your house, they’re part of your family…She’s my best friend.”

For Ryleigh and her family, it’s like they’ve opened their door to someone who now truly feels like part of their family.

Deb Frisbie, Ryleigh’s mum, says: “It’s so exciting for us to show him new things or teach him what we do… When I looked at the app and the way his mum l described is that she brings the family a lot of joy and that’s how I would explain my daughter to anyone. And I just knew it was going to be a good game.

With a big smile, Ryleigh said, “All my friends are his friends and his friends are mine. I never had a sister and I love it! I like having a sister.

And for Andrea, it’s no different.

Andrea Gimeno Montero shares: “We always like to joke, laugh. We do everything together. It’s like going upstairs, in which room are we staying today? Yours, mine… Let’s make up together, in the mirror together. My relationship with my family back home is just amazing with all of them.

This one-of-a-kind experience teaches you a lot about yourself and the person you invite into your home —
But it’s also a fun way to learn about another person’s culture and traditions.
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For Andrea, “The schedules are so different. In Spain, we eat at three o’clock in the afternoon and have dinner from 9 to 11. And I have lunch at 12 p.m., and I was thinking how am I going to have lunch at 12 p.m.?! I have lunch in Spain around three or two. But now I’m hungry at 12.

As unusual as they are…

“We ate 12 grapes on New Years. Like they eat 12 grapes on the countdown. So we went to the Cherry Drop and we all brought grapes and we all stuff them in our mouths,” Ryleigh says with a laugh as she explains.

And even though the end of the school year is approaching…
This is really just the start of a special friendship.

Deb Frisbie says, “This relationship won’t end when she gets home. And she has already asked her parents for an extension. She was supposed to return home in June and her visas not yet until July 15, so she is staying until July 14.

“I’m not going to lie, sometimes you miss home, but you have to, like, you’re going to love it. I don’t want to go home… would you come back here? Yes, of course,” Andrea said.

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