Speed Reads

It wasn't all bad

Decades after befriending Austrian exchange student, Wisconsin man hosts her teen son

If his friend's family hadn't welcomed an exchange student into their Tennessee home years ago, Jerry Gulley's life would have ended up a lot differently.

Gulley now lives in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, having moved there with his husband, James Schend, after they met in New York City. He was inspired to take the leap and go to New York after meeting his friend's Austrian exchange student, Lisi Begander. "That was the first time I knew anyone from outside my own city," he told the Kenosha News. "If it weren't for Lisi, I don't know if I ever would have left."

Gulley knew he wanted to become a host dad at some point, and after reconnecting with Lisi online, he welcomed her 16-year-old son, Jakob Begander, to his home for this school year. Lisi called Gulley and Schend "the best host dads we could ever have wished for," and Jakob said so far, being a teen in the United States is "awesome." Gulley believes foreign exchange programs make "the world a better place," and his host son "changes the other students that he meets. It's a ripple effect. He might never understand the impact he had at school."