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Bergers Find Niche Offering Cultural Experience
Mother and daughter team, Carol and Susan Berger work at home for Forte International Exchange Association to help match exchange students with families in the area. VIRGINIA STILL/The News


Offering your home to an exchange student from another country may be something to think long and hard about, but for Carol Berger it was an easy choice. Starting out being a host family, Berger invited several exchange students into her home over the past 20-plus years and has been a representative for exchange companies for more than two decades.

Currently, Berger and her daughter Susan have joined Forte International Exchange Association (FIEA) based out of Virginia.

“They have been in business for 14 years,” said Berger. “It is a small company but they are blossoming.

“They are very supportive.”

The Bergers have only been working for Forte for approximately six weeks, however, they expressed that the company answers questions quickly and gives them the flexibility to get answers.

“They will answer our questions right away so if a host family has a question we can get them an answer right away, which is what we like to work with,” said Berger.

FIEA’s mission statement is as follows: “fostering mutual understanding and cultural exchange between the United States and other nations worldwide. Our staff’s extensive experience with language and culture outside of the United States coupled with our close relationships to our overseas partners has FIEA poised to become one of the most sought after exchange programs for students, families and local representatives in the U.S. Why? We listen. Our dedicated and mature staff seeks not only to promote student exchange programming, but relationship building through public diplomacy. We serve the people who have committed to participate with Forte in this exchange adventure. Join us as we strive to build a peaceful worldwide community through this experience.”

Only child, Susan, spent her life growing up with exchange students and believes that it is a valuable learning experience. Susan has been a representative for the past seven years after learning the business from her mother. Susan started out at a young age going to home screenings, picking up students from the airport, counseling and everything in between with her mom teaching her every step of the way.

“I wanted to get involved because I followed my mom around and learned the business also, having students in our home as well,” added Susan. “By just having students come here and learn a little bit about their country through asking questions made me just want to be a rep and just seeing what my mom has been doing through the years got me interested.”

There is a process to become a host family and the Bergers, your local representatives, can walk you through the process. They are always looking for families to engage in this cultural experience to host an exchange student.

A single parent, mother or father, a family with kids, or a family without kids can host an exchange student. The families can host two exchange students at the same time however both students would have to speak different languages. The students also have to have their own bed, area for their belongings and a place to hang their clothes. The student can share a room as long it is with a student of the same sex. The host families must go through a screening and the students also go through a screening before they can be an exchange student. The student also has to have good grades, show maturity, and have teacher references. Students also speak English and have had a minimum of two years learning the English language and some have had many more.

“It is a great experience that is really enjoyable,” stated Susan. “They get to learn about our culture and we get to learn about theirs.”

For more information about the exchange student program or becoming a host family, visit, email Carol or Susan at, or call Carol at 209-863-2247.