By Katie Murdoch Enterprise editor
LYNNWOOD — At a time in their lives when young people aren’t tied down to house payments or limited to two weeks vacation a year, some have the opportunity to study abroad and experience a foreign culture.
Andeo International Homestays offers such opportunities for people to study abroad and for families to host international students. Programs include short-term summer homestays and year-round study and immersion programs for high school and college students.
In 2008, the Portland-based company arranged for more than 1,000 international students to participate in homestays in the Northwest and placed more than 350 American students abroad in nine countries.
Staff focuses on helping students experience other cultures, make new friends and network across countries.
Earlier this month, Andeo placed four teenagers from Spain with host families. The four will attend Meadowdale High School for three weeks in September. The experience will help the teens improve their English, experience how American teenagers live and attend an American public school.
Sarah Lam, Washington program coordinator, said the families offering their homes will have a lot of fun.
“We’re grateful to the families who opened their homes,” Lam said. “They were so welcoming — we were really impressed.”
Next spring, Andeo representatives are planning a larger-scale homestay open to students in the Seattle area.
Traveling and living abroad teaches people there is more than one way to cope with stress or other personal issues, Lam said.
“You see intimately how people deal with things and it shows you there are different ways to deal with things,” Lam said. “You see things through someone else’s eyes.”
Lam’s experiences have helped her encourage young people to travel and empathize with their uncertainty. From the age of 11 to 21, Lam lived in Japan with her family. In college, she studied abroad in Spain for six months.
“It changes your life — as long as you let it,” she said.
She recommends starting off with a short home stay and remain open minded to unfamiliar lifestyles.
“It doesn’t matter which home you’re staying in,” she said. “You can make it a better experience if you’re willing to try something different.”
She said students should challenge themselves by adapting in another culture.
“You learn that when you’re in your own comfort zone, other people are outsiders,” she said. “But when you’re the outsider you’re more sensitive and have a new perspective.”
Participating in living abroad benefits the host families and travelers, she said.
“You’re living together so you really bond,” she said. “And you have an open invitation to another country where you’re a guest and not a tourist.”