When I mention to people that we are hosting an exchange student, I get a myriad of standard replies:
“What made you decide to do that?”
“We’ve talked about hosting, but maybe when our kids are older.”
“I just don’t know what I have to offer to a teenager.”
These are thoughts that most host families have had at one moment or another. To be honest, they are questions my husband and I asked ourselves. I am a seasoned host mom, having hosted two different students and provided a temporary home to another when my daughter was little. All our host experiences were amazing, and we’ve kept in touch over the years. All the kids, including my daughter, are grown now and my second husband and I have been empty nesters for years. We’ve enjoyed the freedom, having lived in a different state for a couple years and travelled significantly. So, when I raised the idea of hosting a student, we both had some hesitation. My husband had never hosted before and the idea of having a stranger in our home concerned him. But, as with most things, he placed his trust in me and gamely joined me in the application process.
A month in, we both can say it’s the best decision we ever made. Not only has welcoming Silvia to our home made us aware of how staid and dare I say “boring” we had become, but it’s reminded us of our love for learning new cultures, sharing experiences and how fun life can be when viewed through someone else’s lens. We are reexperiencing the offerings of our own community and the surrounding area. Something we too often begin to take for granted after years of living somewhere. We are growing our family exponentially, because when you take in a foreign exchange student, you also embrace their family.
Deciding to host an exchange student doesn’t require having children of a certain age or even children currently living in your home. It doesn’t require having a preset checklist of experiences you can offer a student. What it requires is an open heart and the willingness to accept one of the best experiences of your life. The exchange program often focuses on the students, but host families from all walks of life gain just as much if not more in the process.
As I wrap up this post, I am listening to teenage chatter and laughter down the hall.
Hosting - best decision ever.