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Foreign student exchange program back in action at Lexington-Richland 5

The program was suspended for a few years due to the pandemic.

IRMO, S.C. — Recently Lexington-Richland School District 5 decided to reinstate their foreign exchange student program. 

"The night after the board approved, we had three come in (to enroll)," said Teresa Farell, Dutch Fork counseling director.

Now, a new group of students, specifically foreign exchange students, are rushing into the district. 

This comes after the school board recently revived the international program after suspending it due to COVID. 

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A Chapin resident who is now hosting two students from Italy and Spain, Erin Long Bergeson, brought the reinstatement request to the school board.

"I felt really compelled to help host them and get them here for them, as well as for the community here, so they could experience having someone from Italy who could tell them what it's really like to live in Italy," Bergeson said.

There's a maximum of five foreign exchange students allowed per high school at Lex-Rich 5, so 20 in total.

After applying and gaining acceptance, these students enroll at their selected high school, create their schedules and school leaders get to know them and pair them with a buddy.

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"Usually, we'll put them in an English 3, which is American literature and writing, so they have that experience. We usually put them in US history and then a math and a science and electives," Farrell said. "So they get to choose their math and their science and depending what they're trying to accomplish, whether they're trying to get our credits or just be exposed to our culture is a little different, too."

Farell manages all the paperwork for the foreign exchange students at Dutch Fork High School. 

She remembers the benefits of her family hosting a student when she was in school.

"We still communicate with that student. I know my brother had an exchange student and they still go to Germany and meet with that student 10 years later, so the relationships that you develop as a host family and our students here have that, such a huge advantage," Farell said.

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A year abroad is benefitting all parties involved.

The South Carolina Department of Education tells News 19 they're not aware of any other districts in the Midlands that suspended their foreign exchange student program during COVID.

According to Lex-Rich 5 there are eight foreign exchange students in total that will start school on September 6, 2022. There are two at Chapin high, three at Irmo High School and three at Dutch Fork High School. 

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