• The first international college exchange students arrive in Homer in mid August
By Naomi Klouda
Kachemak Bay Campus goes international next fall when three students from abroad enroll to spend a year of learning in Homer.
The Kachemak Campus of the Kenai Peninsula College system was registered as a site through Youth for Understanding. YFU is a network of more than 50 independent national organizations worldwide to advance learning across cultures.
Campus Director Carol Swartz said faculty and staff identified this as a longterm goal about a decade ago as part of its endeavor to attract students to study in Homer.
“One program we wanted to eventually offer was an international student program,” Swartz said. “We started looking into that to become a site. Before we could do it, we needed buildings and staff and more of an infrastructure. We’ve been working on evolving to a point with our academic programs and facilities to be able to accommodate and add an international student component.”
KBC has grown a lot in the past decade, adding a new lab, classrooms and offices in a campus consolidation. The Semester By the Sea and long distance education courses have grown. KBC’s growing spurt now means the highest enrollment ever at 700 full and part-time students.
Professor Catherine Knott is the coordinator for the exchange students: She is taking applications for host families and “aunt-uncle” teams to support the exchange student’s primary host. By the end of March, she would like to have this process wrapped up and wants to hear from interested families.
“This would likely have appeal to a family who would be enthusiastic about hosting an older student who could cover their own transportation,” Knott said. “Families who would like to host but in the past felt they couldn’t take on the whole responsibility for a high school student would find these are more independent students. They are older and are tested to assure English proficiency.”
Applicant families and aunt-uncle teams need to pass a background check and be approved through the application process. The aunt-uncle teams would step in if the host family needs to travel outside or for a last minute transportation or as other needs arise. On several weekends, Knott would be taking the students on field trips to enrich their cultural experience.
These students would be 18-25. They work hard to get into the program, often taking several jobs to save money that then can be used for some of their expenses. The YFU is sponsored by the U.S. State Department to promote cross-cultural learning.
The Kenai River Campus of KPC has hosted international college exchange students for a number of years, working through YFU . Those students come from Belgium, China, Denmark, Ecuador, France, Japan, Korea, Kazakhstan, Liberia, Mexico, Netherlands, Russia, Switzerland, Ukraine and Vietnam. KBC’s students, arriving in August, also will be from these countries.
Knott said she is looking forward to the enrichment not only of the visiting student, but for all students enrolled on campus. Two years ago, she hosted a high school student from Kenya. Zumrati Ibrahim cooked meals made from her mother’s recipes. She shared unforgettable songs and music with Knott and her daughter, Jessie.
Sharing friendship and classes with the foreign students helps round out KBC student experiences, making the campus a richer learning atmosphere, Swartz added.
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