Ezekiel Arthur is pretty much your average teenager. He’s into video games, along with soccer and books, and enjoys hanging out with his friends. He’s like most teenagers living in Conyers, with one exception. He’s also an international exchange student from Ghana, here to experience American culture for an entire year.
Arthur is originally from the city of Accra and is attending Salem High School this year as a senior. His visit was made possible by an international student exchange program called "international Experience" or iE. The program, which falls under State Department guidelines, allows prospective host families to choose the student they would like to host and makes appropriate matches between host families and students."It’s a great opportunity for families to share their lives, culture and experiences with students," said Emmenette Mason, the local iE coordinator in Conyers. "Host families also receive benefits such as a tax break, and if their child chooses later to go outbound as a foreign exchange student, $1,000 are taken off from the fees."
Arthur, a polite 16-year-old, faced some visa delays initially, causing him to miss some days at the beginning of the school year and nearly jeopardizing his place in the exchange program. His host family and the event coordinator gave impassioned pleas on his behalf before the school board, and a special waiver was granted allowing him to be considered a full-time student even though he was not able to attend all 180 days.
He said the best thing about his experience of living in Conyers has been his host family, the Bradleys. Leon and Cheryl Bradley along with son, Camryn, an 11th grader at Salem, say they have learned a lot from the whole experience.
"It was pretty spontaneous," said Cheryl, recalling how they decided to host a student. "We got the e-mail and my husband approached me with the idea and I was in agreement with what he said." Leon is a deacon at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia where iE is doing a pilot program.
"I’m really glad we did it; I really am," said Cheryl, who has become Arthur’s host mother. Camryn, who is interested in studying video and film in college, said he will miss his exchange brother’s character the most when he’s gone. "He’s a funny person," said Camryn.
Arthur plans on studying law in college and would like to be an attorney for real estate. "I may get into politics in Ghana after that," he said. His father is a fire officer in Ghana and his mother works as a secretary for a veterinarian clinic. Arthur has one younger brother about a year old. Back in Ghana, Arthur attended an all-boys boarding school, Adisadel College. It was through school that he was introduced to the iE program.
"I really didn’t plan to go abroad. My dad wanted me to study abroad once I was in college. But then they told us about this program and I told my dad, and he said that I should go for it," he said. "I have friends that are also going to school abroad this year, but through different programs. Some are in Michigan and other states," he said. Arthur said that his school in Ghana also hosted many foreign exchange students from the U.S. and England. When asked about coming back to the U.S., Arthur said, "I’d like to come back and visit the Bradleys, but I’d also like to go to college here."