Foreign exchange can grow extended family

Hosting a student or an au pair builds lifelong ties

02/08/2012 12:00 AM

02/06/2012 3:24 PM

Ever thought about opening your home to someone from another country?

Teri Kirkpatrick has hosted 10 au pairs and one foreign-exchange student.

From 1994 to 2001, she has hosted female au pairs from Scotland, France, England, Sweden, Denmark, South Africa and Germany. She also hosted a male au pair from Hungary.

Her most recent international guest was a summer exchange student: Cami Guiducci, from Italy.

Kirkpatrick, 50, a resident of Concord's Beech Bluff subdivision and mother to 18-year-old Alicia Tapp and 16-year-old Drew Tapp, works as a full-time IT manager for Bank of America, but her passion is helping others experience the lifetime friendship that comes from hosting an international exchange student.

Kirkpatrick works as the EF Foundations local coordinator for the Foreign Exchange program in Mecklenburg and surrounding counties.

The EF Foundation, which has its headquarters in Cambridge, Mass., and has been in operation since 1979, has matched more than 100,000 exchange students with families throughout the United States and is designated by the Department of State an Exchange Program Sponsor.

In 2000, Kirkpatrick's family, including her father and stepmother, traveled to Scotland to attend the wedding of her first au pair, Heather Campbell.

In 2011, Kirkpatrick's daughter Alicia traveled to Italy as a summer exchange student, staying with Cami Guiducci's family.

One of the Kirkpatrick's au pairs, Rikke Donaldson, who came from Denmark to care for Kirkpatrick's children in 1997, stayed in the U.S., went to college, married and now lives in Dilworth with her husband, Tom Donaldson, and their four children.

The Donaldsons hosted 18-year-old Sofie Iverson of Denmark - Rikke's niece - as an exchange student from summer 2008 through summer 2009. Iverson attended Myer's Park High School.

Though Iverson is Rikke Donaldson's niece, hosting her as an exchange student let Donaldson see what it's like to be a teenager in the U.S., which will help when her children - the oldest is 7 - reach that stage.

As a host family, the Quickels of Mooresville's Pinnacle Shores learned quickly it was less about hosting and more about family.

Brought in at the last minute to host after the original family suffered an illness, the family of four welcomed the opportunity.

Andre Stark, the 17-year-old German exchange student who stayed with the Quickels, attended Lake Norman High School in spring 2010. He will return for a visit next summer.

Bo and Paula Quickel said they believe the most valuable experience is seeing how passionate their children - 14-year-old Mckenzie and 11-year-old Cooper - have become about experiencing other cultures.

Brad and Kim Couturier of Shepherd's Vineyard in Huntersville experienced parenthood for the first time hosting Swedish exchange student Dan Ljungstrom, now 19, from August 2010 to June 2011 while he attended North Mecklenburg High School.

Kim Couturier, a 36-year-old executive assistant, said the most memorable experience was teaching him how to drive. Even though Swedish drivers drive on the right side of the road, there are still many different rules, which made for an interesting experience.

All these families were brought together because of Teri Kirkpatrick's initiative to bridge global communities.

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