German teacher struggles to find housing for incoming exchange students

Deposit paid.

Bags packed.

A phone call.

Months worth of excitement and preparation crushed.

This could be the case for many students hailing from Germany and preparing to come to the US through one of the many student exchange programs (such as the German American Partnership Program or GAPP) if host families are not found. 

In late October following Perry’s own exchange of students to Germany, German students will be coming to the United States in hopes of experiencing the culture and lifestyle that the people of Perry Meridian experience every day. This cannot happen, however, if there are no families willing to host them during their stay. 

This year has been especially difficult to find host families for exchange students, even though exchange student rates at Perry have gone down tremendously in the past couple of years.

“When I first started working here,” GAPP sponsor and German teacher Beate Westerhouse said, “it used to be up to 15 exchange students in the building.”

Now, however, with the financial responsibility attached to hosting an exchange student, Westerhouse is struggling to find housing for the students hoping to come in the next couple of months.

“People are financially not as well off,” Westerhouse said. “Because even if it seems like it isn’t, [hosting an exchange student] is extra money.”

Financial responsibility as well as the housing shortage are just a few reasons Westerhouse contributes to the lack of host families, however, none have affected the exchange programs more than the pandemic.

“Every country has their own issues with how they deal with the pandemic,” Westerhouse said, “and so I think people don’t always trust that.”

With all the chaos that came out of the pandemic and the fear it has put in the hearts of Perry families, Westerhouse doesn’t know how to convince people to host.

Hopefully, people can reassess their financial and housing ability as well as pandemic weariness so homes can be found for the incoming Germans.

Deposit paid.

Bags packed.

Flight boarded.

A new experience.

Memories for life.