While many Mainers are willing to open their homes to students from around the world, there are not as many Maine schools that take in exchange students.

“Maine’s a wonderful state with down-to-earth families that are just so kind and generous,” says Raymond resident Kathy Hansen of Greenheart Exchange, one of several national groups that help arrange student exchanges. “There are a lot of host families in Maine, but not as many schools.”

“Schools (can) say no to take our students, and they have valid reasons,” Hansen says. “There are all kinds of reasons. Some schools are overcrowded. We respect and honor whatever their decisions are because we can’t place students without schools.”

International travel and exchange programs came to a temporary halt during the pandemic. While Maine’s exchange student population is not back to what it was before the pandemic, there is progress.

According to Department of Education’s Bureau of Cultural and Educational Affairs’ data, Maine hosted 172 exchange students at the secondary education level in 2023. In 2019, the number was 234.

“For the academic year that just ended, we hosted around 20 exchange students in the state of Maine and plan to host the same number for this upcoming school year,” says Candace O’Malley, a development manager at AFS, a New York-based nonprofit that oversees intercultural exchange programs across the country.

“We’ve been slowly regrowing in all aspects since the pandemic. Our volunteer base, host families and students have grown in number. This year we hosted about 1,100 students across the United States,” O’Malley says. “People still want to connect and have a unique experience. They want to bring a new culture to their own home, to their communities, and experience that culture even if they themselves cannot travel.”

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