At the end of the year for exchange students, the organizers are looking for more host families

BELTON, Texas (KWTX) – The year is coming to an end for many students and many are celebrating in different ways.

This includes the Regional Chapter of International Student Exchange, a group that welcomes international exchange students to Bell County.

It was a last date for the group at Fire Street Pizza in Belton on Sunday. And because the school year is drawing to a close, the group of exchange students is preparing to return home.

“I have a mixture of feelings because I’m sad, I don’t want to leave,” said Judit Paul, one of the Spanish exchange students.

Paul came to live with the Alfaro family in August.

“They could learn from our children and my children could learn from them,” said Caroline Alfaro, Paul’s foster mother.

For Alfaro and his family, the experience was full of positives. But getting others to join has been much more compelling in recent years.

“We have so many students waiting and looking for host families,” said Zubeena Catania. “We had to turn down applications from students, we stopped accepting applications.”

Catania is the regional representative for international student exchanges. She said part of the reason for the halt in applications was due to the pandemic.

Many international trips have been postponed over the past two years. But now there are more exchange students interested in the program again.

“There are students over there waiting for host families, and then there are students over there waiting to apply,” Catania said.

Now there is a surge of people like Catania.

This year, she had 15 host families in the area, but she would like to see more.

“We still have time,” Catania said. “We still have time (until) August before the start of the school year to bring families in.”

And students like Paul are with Catania to try to attract more people.

“I came here mainly for my English, but once I got here I thought ‘there’s so much more’,” Paul said.

So much more, she says, like creating new relationships.

“(There are) a few weeks left, but I told them, this is not goodbye,” Alfaro said.

More information on international exchanges can be found here. Those interested can also contact Zubeena Catania at 916-346-8836.

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