Family learns, grows through foreign exchange program

The Schuchmann kids are pictured hanging out with the family’s current exchange students. They are, from left, Sean Schuchmann, Chinese exchange students Tina and Olivia, Brittney Schuchmann and Angie Schuchmann. (submitted photo)

Kent Schuchmann and his family never planned on having more children than their own, but ended up doing just that.

The Smithton family has hosted foreign exchange students since 2005, and this year is no exception.

Though they’ve had students from many different countries over the years, this year is the first they’ve hosted Asian ex- change students.

“It’s a different culture,” Schuchmann said.

Olivia and Tina both attend Gibault Catholic High School and are exchange students No. 8 and 9 for the Schuchmanns.

Though Kent said having these two has been a lot of fun, they will probably mark the end of his and Pattie’s hosting time.

“I really enjoy it,” he said. “I enjoy being around young people because it keeps you young.”

He said the benefits of hosting exchange students are all about diversity.

“It really teaches you not to judge people until you get to know them,” he said. “In this country, especially, we’re very judgmental. But people are re- ally the same all over the world.”

Having exchange students over the years has been extremely helpful for the Schuchmann kids, as well.

His two daughters have been able to travel all over Europe visiting past exchange students.

“It’s kind of neat,” he said. “They’ve been to Italy, Norway, Germany, France, Sweden… something around eight different countries.”

The Schuchmann family still keeps in contact with all of their past exchange students and has visited several of them, along with having several of the families come to the United States.

“We’ve had two sets of parents come back and personally thank us for taking care of their kids,” he said.

Olivia and Tina will stay with the Schuchmanns until May.

Kent’s wife, Pattie, always said she wanted 10 kids.

“Now I have that and even more,” she said. “Not only have we learned about our (exchange students’) families and cultures, but we have learned so much about us as Americans: how we are perceived as wasteful and The Schuchmanns have big plans for taking their communication with past exchange students to the max.

“Someday, hopefully in the next few years, we plan to rent a large house in Orlando, Fla., and invite all the students to join us for vacation,” Pattie said. “It would just be awesome to have them all together.”

Get involved

Gibault is currently seeking more families to host exchange students.

They have 14 international students placed for the 2014-15 school year and will accept only a few more for the coming school year. Countries that are represented include Ecuador, Brazil, Nigeria and China.

The first three families accepted into the Host Family Program will host students for the next school year. Other families will be put on a waiting list for future international students.

To be accepted into the program, a family must complete an application and interview with Principal Russ Hart and/or members of the administrative team.

Those interested can contact Pat Herzing ( for further information and an application.

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