Hundreds of international students still in need of host families

Published: Aug. 16, 2022 at 5:40 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - This year, foreign exchange programs are seeing an influx in students coming to the United States. But before those students start, they need host families.

Debbie Splean, with International Student Exchange, or ISE, has been matching international students with host families for nearly 10 years. This year, the process changed.

“We’re basically trying to place more than we’ve ever had,” she told TV-9. “I approached, for instance, Washington and they were filled before the end of the school year with foreign exchange students for the upcoming year.”

ISE is responsible for placing over 3,000 students this year. That’s compared to the nearly 2,500 they have had as a yearly average.

Now that the strictest of COVID-19 safety precautions have been lifted, more foreign students are enrolling, making it harder for them to find an equal amount of host families.

“It’s a thing now where the local area schools are telling me they’re full In Cedar Rapids, but I am searching all the small towns,” said Splean.

She’s talking about towns like Ely, Tipton, or even Solon, where Angie Capper recently welcomed in a sixth child into her home as a part of the program.

“We brought it to our kids one night and spoke with them because we wanted to make sure it was a family decision and that everyone would be happy with that,” said Capper.

She says she and her husband were a little worried at first. But that feeling was quickly overcome with excitement and gratification when they met Edgar Strozzi Cuevas.

“He’s brought so much cultural diversity to discussions that makes you think differently and maybe understand that you have misconceptions about what you thought,” said Capper.

Now, her advice to anyone who is on the fence about becoming a host family is simple:

“Take the leap, we did. It was one of the most rewarding experiences we have had for ourselves and for our entire family.”

To contact Debbie Splean about becoming a host family, email

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