Host families wanted to welcome students from afar

By: Anne Papineau Journal staff writer
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It’s a chance to see your hometown through someone else’s eyes and learn about faraway places. Volunteer host families are urgently needed to provide homes to exchange students from Japan March 3 to 17. At the urging of her husband and teen daughter, Christy Briggs took the host family plunge and has since welcomed a total of six students from the Far East to her Auburn home. “My husband traveled abroad and spent some time in Okinawa for a year-and-a-half in the Air Force. He enjoyed the culture,” Briggs said. “At Cordova High School there were exchange students. Then when my oldest got to high school, my daughter came home and said, ‘Please, please, please can we do this?’” The Briggs family got in touch with Cultural Homestay International, based in San Anselmo. The company brings a group of around 30 students, ages 15 to 17, to the Auburn area in spring and summer. “The kids come from a school or collection of schools back home. It makes it easier for them in an international travel setting,” Briggs explained. For stays of two- to three-and-a-half weeks, each student becomes a part of a family. They attend weekday classes and then return to their homestay family. “They tend to be very shy,” Briggs said. “They start learning English at a young age, and the ones who come can read and write and can speak it, but not great. It’s hard to practice without a native English speaker.” The Briggs family is composed of Michael, an emergency room R.N. at Kaiser in Sacramento; stay-at-home mom Christy and their daughters, Megan, 18, and Emily, a Bowman School seventh-grader. Megan graduated from Placer last June. During homestay the Briggses indulge in family activities locally, since their visitor has no first-hand knowledge of the United States. “One of my favorite things is introducing them to my favorite foods,” Christy Briggs said. “We love root beer. But in Japan, root beer is synonymous with the taste of medicine. “Their reaction to the grocery store is really different,” Briggs said. “Here we have everything under one roof, and they walk the aisles, wide-eyed.” Briggs said plenty of tears accompany their homestay student’s departure, and her family tries to stay in touch with them all. She also noted that economic challenges have cut into the program. “The economy has affected everyone. There’s not a lot of money to send your children abroad, but in Japan, I think they tend to think of it as an investment in their child’s future,” she said. There are fewer host families, as well. Briggs asks Auburn area families to contact her to learn more about serving as hosts for the Japanese students’ visit to Auburn in March. She can be reached at (530) 305-7316. Want to host? What: Host families needed for Japanese exchange students coming to Auburn When: March 3-17 Call: Christy Briggs, (530) 305-7316