Until just a few weeks ago, Terri Neil had never hosted a foreign exchange student at her home.
On July 1, a girl from Germany arrived to stay at Neil's house for six weeks. She will take in the culture and perform volunteer work during her stay, Neil said.
"It's great," she said. "The girl that's staying with us is really sweet. She fits right in."
Neil has even learned to speak a little German.
"It's been a positive experience," she said.
AFS-USA is the non-profit, volunteer-based organization that coordinates the exchange program, said Traci Larson-Lee.
She said the organization is in need of host families in Libertyville and Vernon Hills for the upcoming school year.
Larson-Lee said AFS-USA works in 60 countries and will place 2,300 students this year, including 60 in the Chicago area. So far, 48 students have been placed with families, and 12 more families are needed in the Chicago area.
Placements, she said, can be traditional or non-traditional. That means parents with kids living at home, same-sex couples, single men and women, newlyweds, and empty-nesters are all welcome to apply to be host families.
Those host families are then in charge of providing meals for their exchange students, along with transportation to and from school.
Host families can sign up for a full school year, a semester or even just 6-10 weeks as a "welcome family," Larson-Lee said. Some of the students needing host families include a 15-year-old girl from South Africa, a 17-year-old girl from Thailand and a 16-year-old boy from Italy.
"When you express interest, they send you profiles of the kids looking to come over so you can choose one that fits," said Neil.
While the deadline to apply for this school year is end-of-day July 26, families can still contact Larson-Lee to express interest for next year. She can be reached at (847) 877-3451.