ThaakatFoundation
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STORIES TO SHARE

The exchange experience has changed so many lives. Every day we receive touching stories from both exchange students and from host families. We would like to share these stories with everyone who is concerned with our program.


Gabriela Takes a Look Back on Her Exchange Year...

heidi picOne year ago I arrived at the Lee's house in Texas. I didn't know how things would be when I was on the airplane here in Brazil. I remember how I used to wonder how everything would be when I met my host family, but nothing was like I expected. They were better than any host family I could ever imagine. Since the first day in Fort Worth, I felt like part of the family and was inspired by the way they lived every single day. What wonderful people they are! My biggest thanks to the Lee Family one more time, for the opportunity to do this exchange program and to live and learn so many things in such a little time. I will never forget the people I met, the friends I made, and how receptive they were with me.

This picture is of our unforgettable trip to South Dakota. I advise everyone who desires to live abroad and to know a different culture to do an exchange program one day.

Miss and love y'all,
Gabriela

Henrike looks back on her exchange year...

The following post is from Forte student, Henrike who has already completed her exchange year and is now back in Germany... 

"With those two packages that arrived today my exchange year is now completely over. The things inside the boxes are the last things I had in America, the things that didn't fit in my suitcase. Now I'm busy unpacking all afternoon, with tears in my eyes. With everything I take out, there's a picture in my head, a memory reminding me of how awesome my last year has been. The clothes still smell like "home", my second home with the honestly and without a doubt best host family that's out there. So yeah, before I start crying too hard, for the last time: thank you everybody who made my year in America as fabulous as it was! All of you will always stay in my heart!"

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An end of the year THANK YOU!

Dear Mr. Kincaid,andrew student photo

I decided to write you a letter to thank you for everything you have done. To accept me at Burnet High School in the first place was amazing. I heard that there used to be many exchange students at the same time but they had to limit this number and I am pretty sure I was the only one this year. This makes the fact, that you allowed me to come here even more meaningful. Please be sure that I absolutely loved my time here. Not only did I learn English and took some of the most amazing classes but I also made friends for life. It was not always easy and being the new kid, I struggled a little bit in the beginning but I got used to everything and everyone. This school made me feel so welcomed and everyone was so interested in me and the culture I come from, that it never got boring. I also experienced the American schooling system and learned how different it is compared to the German one. Honestly, I could not decide which one I like better and some classes that I had here, were so different and amazing, I wish,
we had them in Germany. I am talking about subjects like Nutrition and Wellness and Tech Theatre. I am really sad that my year is almost over and I am not yet ready to leave. I will miss this place and I will miss, being a Bulldog.

Thank you Mr. Kincaid for making this semester one of the best I ever had. Best wishes and once again, Thank You!

Jeanne Englert

A Natural Father's Letter of Appreciation for his Daughter's Exchange Program

Dear Pat, Cathy, and Annie,

We hope you and your family are well. We sincerely thank you for very kindly allowing our daughter, Yaya to stay with you over the last 8 months in your custody during her student exchange program. This was the first time that Yaya has been away from home for a long period and at times, she felt homesick. We greatly appreciate your kindness and patience with our daughter and Yaya is very grateful for everything you have done for her. We are all very happy with the improvement of Yaya’s English and because of your help she now feels much confident of her ability to speak and write English. Yaya will be able to use her English skills to assist her in her future studies. We hope that we will all keep in touch. And I also want to thank you so much for your very kind hospitality and warm welcoming for me while I was in Washington. I had a very great time there. If you travel to Thailand you are cordially welcome any time to our home and our resort.


Yours sincerely,

Mr Chaiwat and Mrs. Orawan Turasakul and family

Pictured below are Yaya, her Natural Father and her host mother, Cathy.

cathy and yaya

Igor Is Right on Track!

Forte student Igor from Brazil was happy to share this message from his track coach, Coach Angie.

Great job today! Volunteering to run 800m AND 3200m! You are a great leader and role model for our junior high kids. Your performance in the Medley helped 2 jr high kids letter in track. Your 2nd place finish in the 3200m helped our team move up a place in team points ~ Coach Angie
Igor is seen in the top two pictures. In the bottom picture Igor is seen in orange with some of his track team mates in South Dakota.

download download 1 Lauri on left and Igor in Orange e






A Former Exchange Student from Macedonia...All Grown Up!

Back in 2000 I was the Local Representative for a young lady from Macedonia. A plaque from her country still hangs on my wall. In the last 14 years she has gotten married and I think she has a child. Here is something her husband just posted on Facebook:

"I've been always proud of my wife Gorica Atanasova-Gjorevska, and especially today, when she was honored as the first woman-diplomat in Macedonia with the "Order of the Star of Italy in the grade of Commander" from the President of the Italian Republic."

I don't know exactly what this means, but it is no doubt a great honor. I love watching these students become adults. I love watching their unique contributions to a better world! Congrats Gorica Atanasova-Gjorevska
!

Arna from Taiwan Reaches Out

Stephanie Estep, Arna's local representative shared with Forte the following story as it was shared with her by the host mother, Molly Bryan in Florida.

Arna had only been in the U.S. for a couple of weeks; when at school one day she noticed a student sitting all by themselves in the lunch room.  Arna watched this student, and then Arna decided to walk over and sit down with this student to say,  "We are both eating alone, would you like to eat together?", and then she introduced herself to the unknown student!  

Stephanie said this was a great example of one of our exchange students reaching out to a "lonely American student" and it just warmed her heart. 

In addition, Arna is quite the artist and has shared a few of her amazing pieces with Forte.
They are posted below.
IMG 2094edited unnamed unnamed 1

One Proud Host Mom

Im so incredibly proud of Julia and the Tinley Park titans swim team!
Not only did Julia win a gold medal in the 400 relay....they won their swim conference so they are now conference champs and she made it to sectionals! She will always be a legacy at Tinley Park High school as her picture will be placed in the hallway of the school for her achievements. Awesome job Julia Lira!
I'm one happy host Mom!
Below is Julia (far right) and the girls who did the 400 relay with their medals celebrating their victory.

1Julia swimming


At the End of Hailey's Exchange Year

Hailey from Korea with HF in Fredericksburg Va
Time is flying by way too fast. It seems like it was just one week ago when I met my amazing American family who made this year such an awesome experience. Even though the start was a hard thing to swallow...This year has been the best year of my life!  


I just want to say THANK YOU FOR BEING MY HOST FAMILY and THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR EVERYTHING YOU HAVE DONE FOR ME! I really enjoyed every second I spent with you. I'm so lucky that you've been in my life.

I have learned so much from you. I can't believe that it is all over and there are only two days left of my time in America. But I’m not going to be sad that it is over.
I will be happy to that it happened! THANK YOU GOD FOR LETTING ME IN THIS AMAZING FAMILY. You are not just a 'host family' to me, you are like a real family to me. Like my Korean family! I promise I will never forget you and I will miss you all so much. This is not a goodbye. It is a see you later.

I love you all, Thank you for being my family. 

Apissada's heartfelt goodbye to her host family.

BYE BYE ILLINOIS
It's hard to say goodbye in here without tears. You guys made my exchange student year to be AWESOME! Every minute I spent with you was very useful. No words can explain my feeling right now. I tried not to cry at the airport but I couldn't do it. I know my flight was very early, thank you for coming and saying goodbye. Thank you so much for everything you made for me! Thank you for being my host family! I promise I will come back and visit you guys! And I do NOT forget the promises that you gave to me. I am going to miss you guys so much! I LOVE you soo much - Andrew, Carrie, Hadley, Jillian, and Ellory!!! Thank God for letting me know this cute, funny and AMAZING family...We will not say Goodbye, we will say See you later!
Kaooat Apissada

Host Mom, Debbie and her exchange student Mia

I had to send a picture of our daughter and host daughter Mia.  Mia (the red head) who is from Denmark has only played handball.  Our daughter Tori is very active in sports, so Mia got involved in volleyball, basketball and track. Mia who has never done track went out for field events such as shot put, discus, javelin, triple jump and high jump.  She ended up doing very well in the track season and helped the girls win 3rd place over all in districts which qualified them for divisional.  At divisional, Mia ended up placing 3rd and winning a medal, she helped advance the girls team to an overall 2nd place finish at divisional, which advanced her to state. 

The first is the picture I took of my two girls with their divisional medals.

 Mia from Denmark with host sister Tori   

The second picture is Mia standing on the podium.  

Mia won 3rd place at divisional track meet and helped advance her team to state

Third picture is of the girls with their divisional trophy.  Siri who is an exchange student from Sweden also qualified for divisional in shot put she is the blonde on the end with the black sweatpants on. 

croppedMia won 3rd place at divisional track meet and helped advance her team to state

Love our exchange students!!
Host Mom, Debbie in Montana

Student of the Year Newspaper Article

Forte's 2013-2014 exchange student of the year, Alvaro was featured in the Ashland Times-Gazette!

Alvaro Newspaper Article

We have a little more to share about Alvaro, 
here on our Facebook page.

Miley's Exchange Year with the McBride Family

FollowupPhoto McBride-cropped
An amazing young lady occupied a spare room for 10 months. She got bit by a snake, saw our sons first steps, knew of ...our pregnancy first (& experienced it from beginning to end!!), made us some amazing food, completed all Ohio graduation requirements, played in snow for the first time ever, lived through a move of houses (& a construction project), rode roller coasters, survived all the major holidays & much more! Until we see you again (soon), Miley ... We love you. We miss you already & we can't wait to see where you end up. You are a blessing to our family! Keep your key, you're always welcome in your American home!

Joy's Exchange Year Memento

Hi!
I'm Joy, 
a Taiwanese exchange student in Michigan.

Here is a picture that I took with my host family.

Joy Wu


My host-father, who is an engineer, then made a frame.

Joy Wu Frame


So it turned out to be a photo frame with a Michigan shape!!!

Sincerely,            

                   Joy 

Nearing End of Exchange Program Year

Dear Forte,

Words cannot express how much we have enjoyed "our girls." They have been a bright spot in our lives. Yes, there's been challenges ;-) but there's not anything that we wouldn't do for our girls. And yes, we are going to miss them. But we wouldn't take anything for this past year.

By the same token, we are excited about "our boys" coming in August.

BIG heartfelt thank you to you and everyone at Forte for all that you do.

Best,

Host Parents Jim & Virginia in Arkansas
2013-2014 academic year

Many Thanks From Brazil!

Dear Forte,

I just want to say hello and thank you very much for the help and support given to my son João during his interchange experience up North in the U.S.

He has learned a lot during this time and met such wonderful people at his high school.  

His host family was incredible and gave him the opportunity to travel a little bit while experiencing American culture for the first time. He really enjoyed his stay in Mandan and Bismarck.

We are very grateful for everything you have done and please congratulate all the Forte staff at as well. It was an honor to have my son a part of such a fantastic experience in U.S.

Thank you very much and best regards,
Carlos

Mansfield, Ohio

My experience in Mansfield, Ohio so far: I am in America for 10 weeks now, and I am sure that it was one of the best decisions I made. We have the same sense of humor, so we laugh a lot and have fun together.

The first week of school was kind of tough to find all my classes at the right time, understand the teachers and the most difficult: to understand the students. I had to work very hard in the first few weeks on homework and study for tests. After I got used to the language I can now do my homework in a short period of time. Two weeks ago I decided to join the basketball team at my school, which is a lot of fun!

I go with my friends to football games, meet for school projects, and have also a lot of fun at for example at the Reformatory, which is a hunted prison.

Outside of school I do a lot of things with my family. With my mom and sister I go shoe shopping a lot, because we all love shoes! But we also ride the horses, which is very beautiful now in the fall. We all went to Buffalo for the long weekend last week and visited their parents and other family members. I could take pictures of all the great buildings in Buffalo, and get to know the real buffalo pizza and wings. Yesterday I went to an other scary place with my dad, which was more funny than scary. However, it was a lot of fun!

I have a very good time here in this family and looking forward to Halloween next week.

Thank You Forte!

Dear Forte,

We have come to the end of the stay for Marcus, who leaves for Denmark tonight.  Before he steps on the plane, we would like to express our gratitute to Forte, and our Area Director, Teresa.

Teresa, we have seen nothing but genuine dedication to making the experience a 'once in a lifetime' from your end throughout the whole process.  From finding a wonderful host, to helping us through the challenges we met, you have shown consistent interest in Marcus' wellbeing, even though you have had your own house full of students as well.  And though you are 'off duty' now regarding Marcus, we know you will keep an eye open when he returns to finish the 12th grade.  We sincerely hope we will meet you at some time in the future, and until then we hope to stay in contact with you. 

We thank the organization of Forte in the US, for having expedited and answered every question without hesitation.  Your dedicated staff and representatives in the US left us sure that Marcus had been left in the right hands, as soon as he was on your side of the pond.

We wouldn't hesitate to recommend Forte to anyone at any time!

Sincerely,

Maj-Britt & Ole

2013 School Year

Maria's Year in the U.S.

After this great time in the United States, which has gone by faster than I could ever imagine, I find myself waiting to take a last plane that will take me home.  Saying goodbye this morning to those wonderful people that I can now call family has been one of the hardest things I have ever done.  I can't thank them enough for all they have done for me since the very first moment I got here.  I can't...thank them enough for giving me the opportunity to come here and get to know them and lots of other great people, and for sharing with me their home and lives, welcoming me as if they knew me all their lives, and making me feel a part of their family.

I am so thankful that I got to know them and the chance to learn from them, helping me grow and become a better person.  For all these reasons, and teh fact that I hate saying goodbye, what I said to my great host family this morning was just a nice, little 'See you later'.  I am sure that I will see them again when I come visit Ohio in a couple of years, and I couldn't be happier if they come to visit me in Spain, because as I hope they know, my house is theirs as well.  I have had a great time during my school year in America and I want to thank everyone for sharing such wonderful memories with me.  I have made great friends that I will never forget and I've met people that played and will play such an important role in my life.  I've learned so much about so many different things, and I'm sure all those experiences have helped me become the person I am today.

I couldn't be happier that for some reason I decided to become an exchange student.  It has been a great year but also a hard year, and right now, the fact that I am going to be home in 11 hours makes me really excited.  I can't believe that I am going to see my family and friends in that little time, and the fact that my exchange year is over seems so unreal.  I don't think I actually realize how much I am going to miss this until I get home and I realize that it's over, because I don't think I really understand that now.  I love you all, and I wish you the best!  SEE YOU LATER AMERICA!!

- Maria from Spain

2012-2013 Exchange Year

Tabea's Story

(from a host family’s perspective)

An American Adventure with a German Girl!

It may be a cliché, but a true statement none-the-less: it takes a special kind of person to be an exchange student. My experience with several exchange students has demonstrated again and again the validity of this cliché. To be an exceptional exchange student, however, requires a young person who is beyond merely special. Tabea is clearly beyond special.

Tabea, from Germany, was placed with our family during the early summer of 2010 and we began communicating with her immediately. While communicating by phone and email, we were struck by two things: how enthusiastic she was about coming to the United States and by her exceptional English language skills.Tabea Marching band It was obvious from the first moment of contact that Tabea would do well in America. She expressed interest in playing soccer for the school team, being involved with our family and experiencing as much of the United States as she could. With each communiqué our family and friends became more excited about her arrival and since her arrival on August 21, Tabea has been everything we expected and more.

Enthusiasm is a big part of Tabea’s personality. She wants to be involved and to experience new things. In 6 months of living in our home, there are countless examples of this enthusiasm. On her first full day here, Tabea was excited about playing soccer in a Sunday afternoon alumni game at her new school. She Tabea Opheliaquickly got involved in the school soccer team, becoming an important member of the program.
Playing the sousaphone in the marching band, she was an invaluable addition to the fall football season, learning music in a few weeks that other students had taken months to master. Softball is a sport Tabea has never played, so she has joined the school team to experience something else that is new for her.
She was a huge hit in the fall play with her over-the-top rendition as Ophelia in “the Complete Works of Shakespeare, Abridged” and she will be in the spring production as well. From everyday activities to family vacations, Tabea wants to soak in every experience she can and does so with great eagerness.

Outgoing and fun, Tabea willingly gets involved in any group. She can carry a conversation with anyone and has made dozens of friends, both in her U.S. high school and in the group of Forte exchange students in our area. She has a great sense of humor and likes to have fun, and that part of her personality is infectious. People like to hang around with Tabea. She takes things in stride, even joking about things that do not go as expected. For example, on the first day of school, the guidance counselor mistakenly introduced Tabea as being from Mexico. She laughed about it that day and even 6 months later she will joke about being from the part of Mexico that borders the Netherlands.

Perhaps the most important thing about Tabea for us as her host parents is that she wants to be part of our family. She wants to do her part and will do everyday chores without being asked. Her first day here, I caught her putting dishes away; she didn’t ask or say anything to us, she saw they needed put away and she did it, figuring out on her own where everything went. She asked to help me rebuild our front porch and was a great assistant. I learned so much about her by spending the day carrying boards and swinging a hammer together. Tabea likes to cook recipes she knows well and dishes she has never prepared before. Tabea has made herself at home and allows herself to behave like she has lived in our home for 17 years. She wants to be a contributing member of our family.

She also treats her host family like her own, desiring to be involved in the activities we are involved with. She happily goes to church with us, to ball games, to the store, on vacation, to family gatherings and reunions, and anything else we may do. Tabea likes to play games as a family including board games and our Wii. She picks on her host sister and host dad and treats her host mom with great respect. She enjoys spending time with any of us and is equally content alone. She is gladly a contributing part of family decisions. She makes a good effort to communicate with her family back home and she has done a great job of bridging her German family with her American family. It is no effort at all having Tabea with us and we are convinced that we are without a doubt; the most spoiled host family in America because Tabea has come to live us.
---By Host Family Dennis and Deaunna, Ohio