MUSCATINE, Iowa–For high school students, studying abroad can provide a first experience of international travel or a chance to experience another culture up close and personal. This year, three international students, Anna Finiuc of Moldova, Madalena Gomes from Portugal, and Laurin Roeblreiter from Austria, have come to Muscatine to experience living and studying in an American city. Through their positive experiences, they hope to encourage other families in Muscatine to host international students, especially through American Field Service USA, or AFS-USA, which has partnered with the Stanley Center for Peace and Security to find more hosts for the upcoming school year.
All seniors, each of this year’s exchange students welcomed the chance to explore the world outside their home countries. “I always wanted to see the different world,” shared Anna. “It’s a good opportunity to develop my skills.”
“I was always interested in American Culture because there are a lot of cliches you see in the media and movies and I wanted to find out if it’s true,” said Laurin.
Full year exchange students, Anna and Madalena have had many good experiences in the approximately six months they have spent in Muscatine so far. Madalena has loved getting involved at school and taking part in many extracurricular activities, including cross country, track and field, student council, Key Club, and Fellowship of Christian Athletes. “I’m never at home doing nothing,” she noted.
For Anna, both participating in clubs like speech and debate, student council, and volunteering as well as getting to experience school sprit at sporting events has proved most enjoyable. She reflected, “I like the ability to be involved in everything and it’s available at school.”
Though Laurin only arrived in Muscatine at the semester change, he too has already started to get acquainted with the city and has had fun trying American food: “The food is insane–I love it. It’s a bit of a culture shock,” he explained, elaborating that he has most liked ice cream and steak. “My host dad makes a mean steak,” he added.
As organizations such as AFS-USA, which brought both Madalena and Laurin to Muscatine, prepare to find more host families for the 2023-2024 school year, all of this year’s international students hope that more students and families will give the experience a try. “It’s really weird living with strangers, but they become a second family and they treat you like their kid,” said Anna.
Laurin agreed, as he has relished the opportunity to, “just experience American things,” and found getting to live with a host family a much more immersive experience than visiting a country as a tourist. As he put it, “you’re very integrated in family life.”
If you and your family would like to give a student from another country the chance to study in Muscatine, Jill Woerner of AFS-USA encourages you to reach out and learn more. People my find out more about hosting, ask any questions they may have, and start the application process by visiting the AFS-USA website or by calling their hosting team at 1-800-AFS-INFO.