Share your Memphis with an exchange student

By Cathy Marcinko

Young people around the world are fascinated by American culture, and many dream of having a chance to experience and learn about our way of life. Students from countries like France, China, Brazil, Spain, Italy, Sweden, Venezuela, India, Serbia, and Ethiopia come to the US every year through international exchange programs like the Program of Academic Exchange (PAX). PAX is a non-profit educational foundation that promotes cultural understanding and world peace by arranging for high schools students, ages 15 to 18, to live with American host families for up to ten months during the academic school year.

David and Tara Martin of Collierville had the rewarding experience of hosting a PAX student, Chris, from the Frankfurt region of Germany during the second half of the 2010-2011 school year. The Martins have two older sons in college, and with a bedroom to spare, decided to host Chris who happens to be the same age as their youngest son, Hunter, a junior at Houston High School. Tara teaches German in the Shelby County school system, and the family had been to Europe before, so they knew it would be a unique experience to have Chris live with them for a time.

Like most PAX students, Chris has excellent English skills, so much so that he was able to take English at Houston High School at the junior level. According to Tara, it was a little bit of an adjustment to have someone new in the household, but Chris soon fit in and was even given his own set of chores to do around the house. “Frankfurt is much cooler than Memphis, so he also had to adjust to our weather. He missed certain foods, but he was never really homesick.” Tara commented.

Outside the day-to-day routine of work and school, the Martins and Chris took time to visit Graceland and Beale Street, attend a Redbirds game, and see Starry Nights at Shelby Farms. In May, at the close of the school year, he returned home to Germany, but the Martins and Chris still maintain contact through Skype. Tara enthusiastically recommends hosting a student, especially if the family has a son or daughter of a similar age who is learning to speak the language of the visiting student.

PAX exchange students are between the ages of 15 and 18, have basic English skills, full medical insurance, and their own spending money. Host families provide students with meals, a place to sleep and study, transportation to school, and a warm, supportive environment. Private rooms are not required, and all types of families are welcome to apply, including single parents, young couples, and retirees. For more info or for an application to become a host family, contact Cathy Marcinko, PAX Community Coordinator, 901-596-8149 or

Author: LampLighter

The voice of Cooper-Young, a vibrant, diverse neighborhood to live, work and play, in the heart of Midtown Memphis, Tennessee.

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