Life in General Perspectives

Wonderful World of Student Exchange

This article was originally published on July 31, 2018.

Gabi Ricci at the Detroit Pistons game

Just imagine. The anticipation is frightfully exciting. The plane has arrived. The host parents and family made a colorful and inviting sign. Who knows what exactly will transpire? The shouts, the hugs, the tears! You have arrived to a unique family and community. American High School life awaits.


Over the past seven years, in St. Clair, Sanilac, Lapeer, Macomb and Oakland counties this dream has come true for students from Germany, Denmark, Spain, Mexico, Brazil, Thailand, Japan and several other countries to mutual delight.

Pictured left to right: Gabi Ricci, Augustin Laurer, Connor Bagnell

After several posts on Facebook to find host families, two amazing families were found in December 2017. Gabi Ricci from Piracicaba, Sao Paolo, Brazil was selected by the Shannon family of Marysville and Augustin Laurer from Klagenfurt, Austria was chosen by the Bagnell family. LeeAnne and Denny Shannon have raised 7 boys and were just time to have a daughter. Gabi is a delightful girl, a talented guitar player, singer, and dancer. She attended Landmark Academy in January. Her ability to communicate was strong and improved steadily. We attended a Detroit Pistons game in February with four other Council for Educational Travel USA (CETUSA) students and saw the Detroit Tigers win at Comerica Park in May.

Gabi bonded very closely with the Shannon family and with other fellow students at Landmark. She enjoyed her weekend in Chicago and trips to the Upper Peninsula and Mackinac City. We will surely miss her radiant smile, laughter, and optimism.

Tricia, Shawn and Connor Bagnell from Wales Township hosted Augustin and attended Memphis High School. He is an avid NBA fan, follows FIFA soccer and became a fan of college basketball. Upon learning he was coming to the Detroit area, he seemed to know everything about Detroit sports and also followed closely MSU and Michigan. He was extremely proficient in English and adapted well to his community. Augustin attended the Auto show, went to Chicago and attended the Piston game at Little Caesars Arena.

Pictured left to right: Kirstine, Gabi, Maria, Caio, Patrick, Augustin. Photo Credit, Tricia Bagnell.

Caio Rodrigues from Brazil spent his 2018-20190 school year at Port Huron High School. He loved his stay at the Juvenal and Iris Santillano home and their loving family and also the Fred and Michelle family in Kimball. He loved school activities camping and hanging out with family and friends. In the Spring, he went to Colorado and enjoyed that adventure. He saw the Detroit Red Wings, the Pistons, and the Detroit Tigers.

Gabi, Augustin, and Caio all went to school events, attended prom and walked at graduation. As most students will, they stay in touch with their hosts and will be back again. Perhaps their hosts and friends will visit them in their villages and cities. What a great experience to host and meet young students and become a close part of their life and a piece of their heart!

As a supervising coordinator, I stay in close touch with student, hosts, and schools throughout their stay. Families must provide basic meals, a bed, and a mattress and may share a room with a host sibling. Students have spending money for fun opportunities, essentials, and travel expenses and are fully insured.

Gabi Ricci, Caio Rodrigues

Hosts must complete a Host Family Interview, complete profile with references and CETUSA will get a school acceptance from the preferred school district.

There are still many fantastic students looking for hosts to fulfill a lifetime dream for the 2018-2019 school year. Michigan is a highly sought destination, the excitement of high school sports, activities, apple season, hayrides, Thanksgiving and Christmas traditions, springtime, the Great Lakes, and best of all SNOW DAYS! A smiling face at the dinner table. Share our culture with them. See the world through a new pair of eyes!


Patrick J. Loftus, a native from Mount Clemens and a 1976 graduate of L‘Anse Creuse High School, has lived in Port Huron since his marriage to Nancy in 1988. He graduated from Western Michigan University and earned his teaching certification in 1984 in German and History. His profession took him to Carlyle, Illinois and East Detroit. Besides instruction, he coached soccer, tennis, Quiz Bowl, German Quiz Bowl, and Debate. Patrick had an enthusiastic German Club and took students to Germany in 1985, one of five trips he made mostly to German speaking lands. Mr. Loftus closely follows state and national politics. In his spare time, he follows and watches sports. He follows FC Köln and enjoys traveling. Patrick places international exchange students at CETUSA (non-profit) in St. Clair, Macomb, Sanilac and Lapeer Counties as a Local Coordinator. 

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Disclaimer: Blue Water Healthy Living is an online magazine located in Port Huron, Michigan. Our purpose is to promote healthy living by showcasing the Blue Water Area, its people, issues and surroundings. This online magazine is devoted to providing healthy living related stories, local happenings, and commentary. Often inspiring and uplifting, our stories come from our heart and soul to promote the enjoyment of a more fulfilling Blue Water Area lifestyle. The material on this web site is provided for informational and amusement purposes only and is not to be confused with any medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The views and opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the opinions and values of Blue Water Healthy Living.

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