CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Hanna Hoff emerged from the airport terminal all smiles and a few tears of relief as she and her fellow foreign exchange students were instantly surrounded by their host families.
"I'm excited and a little bit overwhelming but I'm thinking it will be great," the 16-year-old said of the coming 10 months she will spend studying in America.
Hoff, of Norway, and nine other students from Germany, Denmark, Italy, Switzerland and Sweden arrived at the Eastern Iowa Airport on Sunday afternoon and join more than 40 exchange students who will spend their year staying with families across eastern Iowa.
There to greet the students on Saturday were families from Iowa City, Lisbon, Solon, Oxford, Mount Vernon, Cedar Rapids, and North Cedar, all wielded signs and gifts to welcome their new arrivals.
"It's such an opportunity for our family to experience the world without leaving Lisbon, Ia.," said Eric Hasselbusch, Hoff's host parent and international exchange coordinator with exchange program Education First Foundation.
Hasselbusch, 46, and wife Andrea Hasselbusch, 43, hosted their first foreign exchange student from Germany last year. Their family had such a fun time hosting they knew they had to do it again.
For Andrea Hasselbusch, hosting an international student is important for her three daughters who are six, nine, and 11-years-old.
"I think the biggest thing that's driven me is exposing our daughters to other cultures," she said. "We want them to view the world as a big place and not just have blinders on and not just see what's in front of their face."
The Hasselbuschs both serve as international exchange coordinators who support students and their host families throughout the coming year. They also organize events for the exchange students to attend – including an upcoming trip to a Cedar Rapids Kernels game.
Hoff said she too is excited to get to know her family. Although she doesn't know much about Iowa she said she's excited for her experience.
"I wanted to do something different and I wanted to learn English," Hoff said of her decision to study abroad.
Last year, more than 29,000 international students studied in the United States and Iowa hosted 567 of them, according to a 2012-2013 International Youth Exchange Statistics report by the Council on Education Travel.
Becky Corbett, EF Foundation's Iowa regional coordinator, said though many students have host families there are a few that are still looking for families to host them.
"It's awesome to see students grow and families grow," she said of her 30 years with the program. "Everybody should have that experience."