Program brings cultural experience home

Jason Chen, third from left, is living with the Murvis family, which includes, from left, Michael, Gabe, Julie, Isaac, Sam and Joe. (submitted photo)

Jason Chen, third from left, is living with the Murvis family, which includes, from left, Michael, Gabe, Julie, Isaac, Sam and Joe. (submitted photo)

By Amanda Foust

Many people have the desire to learn more about different cultures and develop meaningful global relationships, but obstacles such as the cost of travel get in the way.

University High School has introduced a local learning opportunity and partnership with gphomestay, an organization that trains host families who welcome international students into their homes. These families offer students an integrated American experience.

“This program is really a great and rewarding cultural exchange opportunity,” said Mike Culver, gphomestay residential coordinator.

One Carmel family, Michael and Julie Murvis, have been with gphomestay’s program for two years hosting Jason (Xuanzhou) Chen. Chen attended University High School his freshman year and has returned this fall for his sophomore year. The Murvis family has enjoyed helping Chen adapt to a new culture and academic environment.

“UHS, being a uniquely small and supportive environment, makes the natural academic challenges much less difficult,” Culver said.

Becoming acclimated to American studies is not the only learning Chen has experienced. Chen grew up in the large city of Shanghai as an only child. Now he is living in the U.S. with a family of six who lives down the road from several horse ranches. In addition to the opportunity to study at UHS, he has participated both in basketball and baseball programs.

“The program is good, and they found me a good family to stay with,” Chen said, “I have learned a lot in sports. Sometimes we need to do something together, not just by ourselves.”

The Murvis’ have also learned from their participation with gphomestay.

“It is a great opportunity both for the student and for the host family to learn about other cultures in what is an increasingly global society,” Michael Murvis said.

Host families receive a monthly stipend and additional support, tools, and communication assistance to encourage family success.

“I, personally, am proud to be a small part of a program that is helping make Carmel a multi-cultural city,” Culver said.


For more information on how to become a host family, visit or email Michael Culver at


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