CT Post – Looking for a cultural exchange? Apex International Education Partners can help

May 31, 2022

When Daisy Benson was looking to fill her empty nest, she wasn’t sure where to turn. She then saw an ad in her local paper for Apex International Education Partners.

The Connecticut-based organization connects host families with international students who are seeking education in the U.S. Benson was inclined to apply for the program when she saw AIEP partnered with her daughter’s alma mater, Lauralton Hall. Benson went through the application process and was paired with Mia, a high school senior from China. That was eight years ago.

“Mia set the bar so high,” Benson said, noting the two still keep in touch. “It was a fabulous experience.” After hosting Mia, Benson received an email from AIEP’s president, David Guerrera. He was looking for coordinators to come on board; Benson just so happened to be looking for a new job. “I took a leap of faith and joined the company a year later,” she said. “This August (marks) seven years I’ve been with AIEP.”

For more than a decade, AIEP has placed hundreds of international students with host families all over the northeast. The organization is accredited under the Council on Standards for International Educational Travel, which believes that safe and reputable youth exchange provides schools with a concrete means to increase diversity, strengthen instruction, and build programs that imbue students with global competence.

What also sets AIEP apart from other homestay providers is the high level of dedication demonstrated by every member of the staff. As a senior territory development manager, Benson’s full-time job is meticulously vetting families who apply for the program. These managers communicate with prospective host families throughout the application process and up until the point the student arrives.

“We communicate with the (partner) school to make sure they know the host family’s information and make sure the family knows when their student is arriving,” Benson said. A student coordinator takes over after move-in day to keep tabs on the relationship 24/7. AIEP also has a hotline participants can call if any problems arise.

“From what I’ve heard about other companies, once a student arrives (there is) no coordinator that contacts the family — it could be months before they hear from someone,” Benson said. “The difference with us is we’re all here locally. If anything happens, we are here for our families. Our level of support is different.”

Before the pandemic, AIEP sponsored trips, events and community service projects to engage participants. Benson hopes those will resume soon.

“Exchanging culture and understanding how people … on the other side of the world live and think and feel has never been more important or easier to do than it is today,” AIEP’s James Kearns said. “We’re proud to help facilitate that cultural exchange and global understanding of (one another).”

AIEP is currently seeking families to host students for the fall 2022 school year. A generous monthly stipend is provided to host families. Those interested can apply online at www.aiepusa.com, or call 203-992-AIEP to begin the process. If you know someone who may be interested in hosting, AIEP offers a $500 referral bonus if the applicant mentions that you referred them. Full terms are available on their website.

Host families must have a private room for the student’s individual use and internet access in a single-family dwelling. They must live within a 10- to 12-mile radius or no more than 30-minute driving distance of one of AIEP’s partner schools.  International students average between seventh and tenth grade and range from 13 to 16 years old. They must pass an English proficiency test to participate in the program, and will be set up with their own bank account and ATM card.

Once prospective host families contact AIEP, a staff member will virtually visit the home to view possible accommodations and build a profile to share with the international student’s family. Once a match is made, AIEP will contact you to talk about plans and logistics.

Article Reference – CT Post