Hosting foreign exchange students has changed Audrey Bishop's life.
Before this school year, the Canton resident had apprehensions about the process just like many others. But now, she is not only on board but a regional exchange student coordinator.
"Everything about this has been an enjoyment," she said. "These kids brought life back into our home."
That breath of new life came in the form of two boys who arrived in August. Pedro was from Brazil and stayed until January. Roberto is from Mexico and is still living under her roof.
They are a few of many that have come to the United States recently. Her daughter in North Carolina hosted a few of those many, and this was the inspiration for Bishop's decision to follow suit.
And although her daughter didn't think foreign exchange students would want to live in the Kansas, Bishop looked into the possibility and found the International Cultural Exchange Services program.
She chose to host boys because of her step-son living with her, and tried to match interests with that of her family.
Bishop said she wasn't sure what to expect and wondered what it would be like to have strangers living in her house. But her apprehension quickly turned to friendships with them and their families that she expects to last a lifetime.
"I didn't just take on two boys, I took on their families too," she said.
Both families have offered to host Bishop's family if they visit, and even sent her a birthday present recently.
The multi-cultural family, which includes her husband also, has enjoyed many things together, from traveling across the country to playing pool in their home. Bishop said it has transformed her family into one that would sit in front of the TV, to one that could enjoy playing games and talking.
"It changed my whole family," she said. "We're not just sitting around growing old anymore."
The experience has brought so much joy to her that Bishop has become a regional representative for the International Cultural Exchange Services and coordinates pairing up students with host families. Her area covers homes up to 120 miles in any direction.
She encourages families to consider being a host and letting the experience change them, their kids' lives, and the lives of the exchange students.
"I'd like them to know how really easy it is. I'm basically putting a roof over their head, meals and transportation," she said, adding families are already cooking and might have a spare room regardless. "Everybody gets into the same routine. This will get you out of that."
International Cultural Exchange Services already is taking applications for the upcoming school year. Bishop said the organization prefers to have the students at their host homes before the school year begins.
Page 2 of 2 - If individuals are interested in hosting, they may call her at 620-628-4830 or contact International Cultural Exchange Services directly.
Bishop said in many ways, programs like this could influence a lot of lives.
"This doesn't end when they go home," she said. "This is a lifetime friendship, not just with these kids but with their parents.
"This is what this world needs. This fighting between the countries is useless, and maybe something like this would change the world. They'll see our culture, we see theirs and we need to work together to bring this world as one rather than fighting all the time."
In Bishop's home, the fall will bring her two more boys — this time one from Germany and another from Hong Kong.
"I'm going to work my way around the world with these kids," she said. "I can't wait until the next year and what it's going to bring. As long as I can do it, there's gong to be kids in my house."
Contact Jenae Pauls at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @PaulsSentinel