Opportunities abound for hosting foreign exchange students

Published 6:51 pm Thursday, June 13, 2019

For foreign exchange students, studying abroad can be the experience of a lifetime, and for host families who welcome these students into their homes, the experience can be just as enriching.

For more than 40 years, Washington resident Nancy Campbell has seen the impact of foreign exchange programs firsthand, and it’s an experience she wants to share with local residents. She’s a representative of NACEL Open Door, an international exchange program that links students and hosts from around the world.

“Over the years, I’ve hosted off and on, I’ve placed students — I’ve just had a really good time with my exchange students,” Campbell said. “They enlighten you, they teach you a lot and everyone’s personality is different.”

Working with host families within a 120-mile radius of Washington, Campbell is looking for others who might be willing to host a foreign student for a year or six months.

“It’s a great organization,” Campbell said of NACEL. “They’ve been around for a long time. Their offices are up in Minnesota, and we place students all over the United States.”


Most recently, Campbell hosted a young man from Italy named Alessandro Azzano during the fall semester. For six months, the two lived under the same roof, sharing meals, making memories and learning about each other’s cultures.

“It’s a challenge,” Azzano said in a phone interview from Italy. “Before you leave your country, it’s hard because you’re leaving everything for six months or a year. It’s kind of hard leaving everything — your friends, your family and your routine. That’s hard to change. You don’t know what to expect, because you just don’t know the family.”

Fortunately, Campbell and Azzano clicked. Both said they built a strong bond during his time in Washington. Campbell has become like a member of the family to Azzano and his parents. In the process, the two learned from each other and grew in interesting ways.

FAST FRIENDS: Washington resident Nancy Campbell, left, hosted Italian foreign exchange student Alessandro Azzano during the course of the 2018 fall semester and is looking for host families for future students. (Nancy Campbell)

“It’s an exchange — I get something and I give something, the family gives something and gets something,” Azzano said. “I was not the first one (to live with Campbell), but every time is different and new.”

Of the six months the two spent together, Hurricane Florence sticks out as an experience Azzano will never forget. From weathering the storm to venturing out afterwards, the experience was something new for the young Italian, whose home country doesn’t really have an equivalent.

“I was really shocked,” Azzano said. “We took really great pictures that I still show my friends here.”

For Azzano’s mother Vivianna, she sees a definitive change in her son after his time abroad. Overall, she would recommend the experience for both students and hosts, saying it’s one of the best experiences of her son’s life.

“He really, really changed,” Vivianna laughed. “He came back five years older than when he left.”

For those interested in becoming a host family, visit nacelopendoor.org or email Campbell at ncampbell@team.nacelopendoor.org.