Miller encourages interest student exchange program

The Freese/Miller family hosted another student through the EF program two years ago, Ann-Kathrin Henseler from Germany. Miller said both of their exchange students got involved in school and met friends while here. Roasting hotdogs while at a bonfire are, from left, Jordan Lorenzen, Brooklyn Stark, Henseler, Kaitlyn Yousse, and Nicole Stark.

Three years ago, the Freese/Miller family hosted Bea D’Archvio from Italy as part of the EF High School Exchange Year program. The experience was positive for all involved. While D’Archvio was here, the family took a trip to St. Louis. D’Archvio is seen in front. Standing behind from left are Nicole and Brooklyn Stark, Carla Miller and Shawn Freese. (Photos submitted)
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     Since 1979, the EF (Education First) High School Exchange Year program has placed thousands of students from 13 different countries around the world with host families in the United States. Two of those students from Italy and Germany were lucky enough to stay with a Monticello-area family and attend Monticello High School.

     Carla Miller and Shawn Freeze of Monticello hosted two different students in two different school years. Three years ago, Beatrice D’Archivio from Italy stayed with the family. D’Archivio was a senior in high school. Two years ago, Ann-Kathrin Henseler from Germany arrived. Henseler was a junior.

     Miller said the arrangement worked out wonderfully because her daughters Nicole and Brooklyn Stark were also in the high school at the same time.

     The Freese/Miller family first showed interest in hosting foreign exchange students after wanting to become foster parents.

     “But the rules are so strict,” she said of fostering children.

     After getting some advice from a friend about exchange programs, specifically EF, Miller looked into the opportunity. Aside from being a host family, Miller is also an international exchange coordinator for EF.

     “I just liked the experience so well,” Miller said of being a host family. “I thought why not help to promote it?”

     In her role with EF, Miller serves four area school districts: Monticello, Cascade/Western Dubuque, Maquoketa Valley, and West Delaware/Manchester.

     After four years of working with EF, Miller wants to encourage other families in Monticello to host as well.

     “It’s a great program all around,” Miller said. “It’s good for the students coming here and it’s good for the students here (in Monticello). Everyone learns about a new culture.”

     As for why they chose EF, Miller said for a couple of reasons. One, the organization thrives off of education versus a vacation trip for the exchange student. Two, the families are not paid to host students.

     “We were not looking to be paid. They (EF) do it for all the right reasons,” Miller said. “We had extra room in our house and wanted our children to experience another culture. We did this for the pure joy of hosting and opening our home.”

     With both of their experiences with D’Archivio and Henseler, Miller said the Monticello school district staff and school board went out of their way to welcome the exchange students. “They were fabulous,” she praised. “They went above and beyond for these students.”

     While Henseler was here as a junior, she was named an honorary senior and was allowed to walk in the graduation ceremony.

     For most of the EF exchange countries, Miller said the students do receive credit for the time they spend in school while in the States. They have to maintain a “C” average while here as well.

     In addition, most the EF students take English as a second language, and speak fluent English while visiting the U.S. “Quite a few speak more than two languages,” she said.

     While at MHS, both D’Archivio and Henseler got heavily involved in athletics and arts. They made friends with local students, many of whom they still communicate with today.

     Before the girls arrived, Miller said EF sets up a strategic timeline for getting to know one another. Letters, e-mails, and photos are exchanged back and forth. The host parents video message the exchange student’s parents in an effort to get to know the family first. House rules are set in advance in terms of the expectations.

     “That’s what I would want for me if my kid went abroad,” said Miller.

     EF also allows the students and host family to choose how long they want to stay together: a semester or a full school year. D’Archivio was here for a year, while Henseler stayed for just a semester.

     “I still cried when they both left because you get so attached,” Miller said of having to say good-bye. She said the girls each felt like their own.

     EF students are required to provide their own insurance while in the U.S., and have spending money while staying with their host for incidentals. Miller said it’s up to the host when it comes to what they expect the students to pay for.

     With EF coordinators in different regions throughout Iowa and the country, the EF hosts also plan group dates throughout the year as well to bring all of the exchange students together.

     Miller looks at the students as representatives of their home countries, too. “They do a wonderful job representing their countries,” she said. “They build strong relationships.”

     To find out more about EF and how to become a host, contact Miller at or visit



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