Global families

Tricia Wisniewski’s family has grown after opening up their home to exchange students.
Krystle Wagner
Dec 4, 2013

Wisniewski, a Grand Haven resident, said the experience has provided her family a chance to learn about different cultures and extend their family into countries across the world.

Wisniewski’s family became involved in International Student Exchange after her daughter, Sydney, expressed an interest in being a host family because her friend had a great experience.

Wisniewski has since become a representative for the country.

At first, Wisniewski said having an exchange student felt like having a visitor in their home. That feeling passed once the student became part of their family.

Last year, the family opened their home to Ana Parodi from Brazil.

“Now, I can’t imagine not having an exchange student,” Wisniewski said.

When families apply to host students, they must complete background checks and have in-home interviews.

Although families can look through student profiles and learn more about them, they receive students who would be a better fit for their families. For example, an only child might not be placed with a family with many children.

Grand Haven High School senior Iñigo Urdiain joined the Wisniewski family when he arrived from Spain in August.

Urdiain said he looked forward to studying in West Michigan because his friends had told him it was the best place to study abroad.

“Coming here is my best experience in my whole life,” he said.

In addition to taking high school courses in Grand Haven, Urdiain takes online courses from Spain so he can receive a diploma from his home school and one from Grand Haven High School in the spring.

Although the 17-year-old said he misses his family and friends, he doesn’t want to go back to Spain.

To read more of this story, see today's print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.

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