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Andeo International shows off Tigard to visiting students

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Felix Morillion, 13, a foreign exchange student from Lille, France, is one of two boys currently staying in Tigard through Andeo International Homestays. Along with karate classes, Felix and his host-father Ike Eisenhauer, left, have gone to the beach and seen several sights around Tigard and Portland.When students in other countries envision themselves coming to visit America for the first time, they often picture New York City, Los Angeles, or possibly Seattle.

Not too often do they crave to come to Tigard and Tualatin.

But that’s changing for one Portland exchange group, which has been working to bring students specifically to Tigard for the past four years. Andeo International Homestays has worked with families from across the globe to bring students to Oregon and Washington.

Some students stay for a few weeks, others as long as a year as they work to learn as much as possible about the language and American culture.

Julie Padbury, a programs coordinator with Andeo, said the goal is for students to learn as much as they can about the language and American culture while they are here.

“Their English varies,” Padbury said. “But host families make them feel welcome and come up with some neat things for them to do. You see things for the first time that you might have taken for granted before you had a student staying with you.”

Andeo’s Tigard program places 20 students from Spain with families in and around the city, said Padbury. The students live with local families for the summer and learn about living in America.

“We take them around to local parks, they learn to play baseball and we go to a Hops game,” Padbury said. “This year the Tigard High School girls team will teach them how to play lacrosse.”

Students from San Sebastian, in the Basque region of Spain, arrive this week, in the fourth year of the Tigard program, Padbury said.

Padbury, who lives in Tigard, started the program a few years ago as a way to show kids what life for most American’s is like outside of the big cities.

“The towns are able to sometimes unite around the team (of kids) and it makes it more of a community,” she said. “Portland is so big, and students there have to have a bus pass and be all over Portland and have to be within a 45-minute commute to do their classes or activities.”

That’s not the case in Tigard, she said. Tigard, with its easy access to Portland, the beach and wine country, has a lot to offer, Padbury said. “It’s nice to bring them here.”

The Tigard program is geared for exchange students who want to experience the great outdoors, Padbury said.

“These are kids who want to get outside, do things and be active,” she said. Andeo has similar programs in Albany and Gig Harbor, Wash.

Coming to America

Felix Morillion, 13, and Harold Houriez, 14, came to Tigard a few months ago through Andeo and are preparing to head home later this week. The pair are childhood friends who grew up together in Lille, France, near the Belgian border, and Felix said that it is important for young French students to learn English and to visit America.

“If you ever visit another country, everybody speaks English,” he said. “You need to speak English to do anything, and it helps with understanding.”

Back home, Harold’s mother and sister speak English to each other, and Harold’s sister studied in Seattle for a short time, which sparked his interest in coming to America, he said.

Although he was shy at first, Suzanne Swanson, Harold’s host-mother, said that he soon opened up to them and treats them like family.

“It has been awesome,” she said. “It has been a really good experience.”

The families have gone on several trips around Oregon during the students’ stay, and Felix’s host family enrolled him into karate lessons at Seishinkan Karate on Main, in Tigard, something the 13-year-old has never learned before.

Dawn Eisenhauer, Felix’s host-mother, said that Felix has learned a lot since he came to Portland three months ago.

“He understands much more now,” she said. “He asks questions constantly. The conversations we’ve had are amazing. We’ve talked about everything: How we feel about it here and how they feel about it back home.”

Cultural miscommunications are common, Felix said, but it’s part of learning.

“We went to a parade, but I heard wrong and thought it was a ‘pray,’” Felix said. “There were all these people and I thought Jesus was coming.”

The word is the same in French, but is pronounced “peraud.”

“He kept asking us what a parade was and if it was in church,” said Eisenhauer.

The middle schooler said he plans to be fluent in English by the time he returns home.

“I hope I don’t have a French accent when I leave,” Felix said. “It’s better to be like a regular person, and if have French accent, it’s not perfect. It’s all about perfection.”

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