Host family, foreign exchange student form lifelong bonds, learn from each other

Maddie Jewett, Features Editor

Senior Ani Mamisashvili, a foreign exchange student from Georgia, said she came to America for a world full of new things.
“I came [to America] for the new experiences, new culture and new friends,” she said. “I love the adventure.”
In order to come to America, Mamisashvili entered a contest with other students hoping to become foreign exchange students and then became a finalist.
For the contest, Mamisashvili had to write several essays and pass multiple rounds of applications.
Mamisashvili said, after the application process was over, her host family chose her.
Mamisashvili’s host mother Amy Morbeck said her family got the idea of hosting a foreign exchange student from their family and friends.
“We were inspired by our family and friends who had [been host families] in the past,” she said. “They all had great experiences with it, and so we wanted to try it out as well.”
Mamisashvili is not the Morbeck’s first foreign exchange student. Lingling Khopanlert lived with the Morbecks last year as a foreign exchange student, and, like Mamisashvili, attended Blue Valley as a senior.
The Morbecks and Khopanlert still keep in touch via Skype and other methods.
In order to become a host family to both Mamisashvili and Khopanlert, the Morbecks applied and went through background checks. They then wrote essays about their family and why they had a passion for becoming a host family.
Once they had applied, the Morbecks were sent profiles of the students who met their criteria.
After the family chose their student, both the Morbecks and Mamisashvili were approved by the school.
Mamisashvili said she likes BV more than the schools in Georgia.
“In Georgia, we don’t choose classes,” she said. “We don’t rotate from classroom to classroom. To go to university, you write four tests, and that’s all you do. If you have good scores, you’ll go to university. The teachers here are more helpful and pay attention more to each student.”
Festivals, horseback riding and Taekwondo are just a few of the activities the Morbecks and Mamisashvili have tried.
Mamisashvili said her favorite activity so far has been horseback riding.
“We did a 5K [run], and that was very hard,” Mamisashvili said. “I’ve never done any sports in Georgia, and now I come here and have to try and break a board in Taekwondo.”
Morbeck said both Mamisashvili and Khopanlert have been great role models for their three-year-old daughter, Kaylee.
“It’s really just been amazing,” she said. “Both Lingling and Ani are incredible people. They are both so loving and caring, and they both provide a great example for Kaylee.”
Mamisashvili said she has learned a multitude of things from her host family.
“They have taught me how to find a balance between relaxing and studying,” she said. “Also, I have improved my English a lot. I have learned so many different things from the Morbecks. They are very cheerful, very kind and very sweet. It’s sad to have to think about leaving later.”
Mamisashvili said, so far, she has gained both friendships and knowledge from her experience of being a foreign exchange student.
“I have made a lot of friends here,” she said. “I have seen the different cultures, and I see both positives and negatives of both. Here, there is a huge relationship between family and friends. The education here is very different.”
Morbeck said being a host mother is an incredibly rewarding experience.
“I’ve gained a mountain of things,” she said. “I’ve gained two beautiful daughters that I love with all my heart. When you take in students, they really are your children now, and I really do love them to pieces. I’ve also learned more than I can even begin to say about cultural differences. I’ve learned how fortunate we really are — freedom really is understated in America. From being a