Exchange students share Thanksgiving, culture

rdymond@bradenton.comNovember 23, 2010 

MANATEE -- German exchange student Louisa Sinz’s Top 5 American favorites? Sea World, South Beach, Lido Beach in Sarasota, Sandra Bullock movies and Key West.

Louisa, who is spending her sophomore year at Lakewood Ranch High School, can thank the Rich family for introducing her to some of America’s treasures.

But it’s a two-way street because having a student from another culture living in your home for five months is also a lot of fun for the host family, said Louisa’s host mom, Debbie Rich.

“The hosts provide room, board and a once in a lifetime opportunity for their family and a lucky exchange student,” said Rich, who is also a regional adviser for Cultural Academic Student Exchange, the nonprofit organization that sponsored Louisa.

Cultural Academic Student Exchange, which places Asian, European and South American students, ages 15 to 18, with an American host family, is seeking Manatee County host families, Rich added.

“Cultural Academic Student Exchange would like to have host families identified by the first week in December to allow time for the host family and their selected student to begin corresponding before arrival,” Rich said.

Louisa, who arrived Aug. 18 from Owingen, a small German town near Stuttgart, will leave in June. Louisa plays the alto saxophone in the Lakewood Ranch High wind ensemble.

“It’s been a lot of fun having her,” Rich said. “We have two boys so having a girl in the house is nice. It’s fun learning about her culture, what is the same and what is different and showing her stuff around here.”

“I’m proud that I did everything on my own,” Louisa said. “I flew here by myself, I’ve improved my English. I have no regrets.”

Her impressions of America?

“The language is a little hard,” she said. “The schools are so big. Our schools in Germany are not as big.”

Teens are the same the worldwide, she has learned.

“School here is a little easier than in Germany,” Louisa said. “There, we have essay questions and here, multiple choice.

“I miss my parents and friends,” Louisa added. “I’m glad my mom doesn’t cry when we talk on the phone because I would cry, too. Sometimes I miss the food, also. I miss our bread. The bread here is different.”

Rich is hoping a Manatee County family would like to host two students who hope to arrive after Christmas.

They are 15-year-old Filip from Germany and 16-year-old Isabela from Brazil.

“Filip enjoys reading, listening to music, playing sports and his guitar and taking part in family activities,” Rich said. “Isabela is a sweet, determined and respectful girl who attends church every Sunday and enjoys gymnastics, reading, watching sports, and learning to cook. She is a very good student who plans on becoming a lawyer after her schooling.”

The exchange requires each student to have their own pocket money, roughly $300 per month, for toiletries, some meals and shopping, Rich said.

The organization provides full medical insurance.

The host families are asked to provide room and board.

Host families do not have to have a separate room for the student, only a separate bed. It is open to rural and working families with or without children, senior citizens or single parent homes.

For more information, call Rich at (941) 896-5230, e-mail her at or go to

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