Foreign Exchange Artists -- A Guest Blog by Diane Knetzer, for Ayusa


"Columbia is the kind of community that is the heart and soul of international exchange." -- Diane Knetzer

Since we often refer to any of the various forms of visual or performing artistic expression as a "universal language" perhaps  it is not surprising  to find that many of the international teens who choose to experience educational and cultural  exchange are also artistically talented.  Travelers and artists share the ability to dream and to think "outside the box."

Bright, creative young minds  that are curious, observant, imaginative, and open to new ideas are naturally drawn to both travel and the arts. Like artists, travelers tend to be intuitive, resourceful, and innovative. This may account for the number of gifted young dancers, singers, instrumentalists,  actors, visual artists, filmmakers, and budding poets and novelists who apply to travel and study internationally with exchange student organizations each year.

One such organization is Ayusa, a not for profit that has dealt in quality educational and cultural exchange since 1981. Annually, Ayusa welcomes approximately 1150 students from more 60 different countries worldwide to its program,  including many young artists--and 2012-13 will be no exception.

Columbia is the kind of community that is the heart and soul of international exchange. It offers an authentic slice of American life for international visitors--with one important distinction: arts opportunities abound.  Few American cities of Columbia's size can boast the number of dance companies, theater groups, art studios, choral societies, orchestras, writers' workshops and more that comprise the arts community here. Columbia's active arts scene, with its blend of professional and amateur arts organizations is rich in  inspiration and opportunities,  and provides an ideal setting for artistically gifted exchange students.

If you are an arts professional or teacher who would like to mentor a promising student, if you are a parent nurturing a young artist of your own, if you enjoy helping and encouraging young people to achieve excellence in their intellectual and artistic pursuits, or if you simply appreciate and support the arts, your family may be a perfect match for an artistically gifted exchange student.

Exchange students arrive in August for a semester or academic year program. They are 15 to 18 years old and have their own spending money and medical insurance. They speak English, but want to improve. Volunteer host families provide meals,  a bed, and a nurturing home environment. Host families may select their own student, or call upon staff to  assist with their choice. Experienced, dedicated Ayusa staff are always on call and work closely with participants on an ongoing basis to promote a rewarding experience for all.

Both artists and arts lovers know that without growth and experimentation -- without taking some chances -- the arts would cease to exist. Exchange students from countries as diverse as Albania, Brazil, China, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Korea, Kosovo, Liberia, Macedonia, Mexico, Montenegro, Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Serbia, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, and Yemen know this, too, and they would like the opportunity to learn and grow along with you.

For information about how you can host an artistically talented exchange student, please visit or contact Diane Knetzer, regional director of Ayusa in SC at  (803) 781-4727/