Student exchange rules will still allow single hosts
More than 10 years ago, when Tim Scott told his friends he was planning on housing an exchange student from Germany, they said, "Do you have any idea what you're getting into?"
He didn't. In fact, he could have never imagined how fulfilling being a "host dad" would be.
A few months ago, while hosting his eighth exchange student, Scott received an e-mail concerning a proposed regulatory provision to the U.S. Exchange Visitor program that would "prohibit single adults without a school-aged child living in the home or without a child who visits the home frequently from hosting exchange students."
The single lawyer feared one of the most "enriching" parts of his life might be taken away from him.
Scott said the proposed rule was "pure discrimination, categorizing a particular class of people."
He wrote letters to local representatives explaining the discriminatory rule and asking for help in fighting its implementation.
Scott suggested exchange organizations increase their background checks, expand the number of references they require and follow-up on the evaluations students fill-out at the end of their stay in the U.S.
Scott was not alone in his disagreement with the proposed rule.
According to U.S. Department of State documents on Oct. 27, the Department received 1,190 comments, and only 77 of the comments were in support of the change.
According to the federal documents, those in support of the prohibiting single adults from hosting students was due to the idea that only one person in the home "increases potential risk to the exchange student as there is no additional person in the home with whom the student can communicate, should the relationship with the host parent become strained or abusive."
However, those 1,113 individuals opposed to the rule claimed that excluding single adults without children would not only be discriminatory but would "eliminate approximately 10 percent of current host families, many of whom, sponsors reported, provide excellent experiences for their exchange students and who tend to repeatedly volunteer to participate in (this) exchange program."
Scott said he could be described as one of those 10 percent who "provide excellent experiences for their exchange students."
So when Scott learned on Nov. 29 that the rule was denied, he was happy and relieved the state chose to "keep the door open" to an entire class of people who, although single, can provide life-changing experiences to students from other countries.
Since 1999, Scott has hosted nine exchange students from Germany.
A story in the Nov. 18 issue of the News highlighted Scott's eighth foreign exchange student, Timon Lauck.
In the article, Lauck spoke fondly of the many outdoor adventures he has taken part in since arriving in the U.S. at the end of summer.
Scott said trying to find interesting activities to do with his exchange students has forced him to look at the Midwest "through the eyes of a tourist."
Scott said he constantly asks himself, "What's worth seeing around here?"
Scott studied in Germany from 1988 to 1990 and said he understands the differences students see between the U.S. and Germany and knows "where they are coming from."
Scott said he has learned a lot about his own country through his years as a "host dad."
"You see your own country in the eyes of a foreigner" by their questions and observations of the culture," Scott said.
Christian Wolz stayed with Scott eight years ago while attending New Richmond High School for a year. One year later he came back to visit and is currently staying with Scott while he studies one semester at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.
Wolz said his first year with Scott "was a really nice year, that's why I came back."
Wolz considers himself Scott's "ninth-and-a-half" exchange student, since this is his second time staying with Scott, even if it is for only one semester.
Wolz said Scott has taught him a lot about life.
Wolz isn't the only exchange student Scott has had a life changing impact on.
Scott said his first year hosting was a "phenomenal year." Not because he had the perfect, well mannered, polite and happy exchange child. In fact, the first student he hosted arrived with a lot of personal issues.
Andreas Huhn told Scott he signed up for the exchange program to get away from his life in Germany.
Huhn had personal image, substance and family issues when he came to live with Scott.
Huhn opened up to Scott like he could have never imagined. Through countless heart-to-hearts, tears and looking to religion for understanding, Scott was able to help Huhn permanently turn his life around.
Scott said Huhn let his "masks fall," and became honest and open with him. In a letter to Huhn, Scott wrote, that he appreciated Huhn, "sharing who you really are with me."
The personal creed essay Huhn wrote upon returning to Germany started with, "The German exchange student Andreas Huhn in America is a different person than the Andreas Huhn in Wedel, Germany, six months ago ... I am more at peace with myself."
The rest of the essay, which Scott had framed along with a picture of Huhn, described the issues Huhn overcame and the changes he saw in himself, which he planned to carry into his future.
Scott described his time with Huhn as year of, "A lot of healing and a lot of growth."
Scott said that year with Huhn was a "growing year" for himself too.
He had never anticipated how close he would grow to the troubled teen and how helping Huhn change for the better would change his own life, even after Huhn returned home to Germany.
After his exciting, emotional and uplifting year with Huhn, Scott took a year off from hosting exchange students. He even left Huhn's room untouched for months.
Scott described his time with Huhn as, "A year I'll never forget as long as I live."
Scott and Huhn's relationship is the epitome of a "host family" truly becoming family.
Scott flew to Germany for Huhn's high school graduation and in a card wrote that of all the young people he's met in his life, there is "not one I would be more proud to consider my son than you."
Since his initial stay with Scott, Huhn has visited eight times and Scott has visited Huhn in Germany. The two talk on the phone at least once a month and Scott is considered "Grandpa" to Huhn's newborn baby.
Scott appreciates the fun times and special bond he has formed with each of his "kids," and said he enjoys playing the parent role, and even during those occasions where he has to be the tough dad.
"As a single individual you don't have an opportunity for that," he said.