Hosting Across Generations

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Host Families

Host Families

Hosting an exchange student impacts everyone involved for years to come after the exchange ends - it's what we call the "Lasting Impact" of exchanges. Sometimes, hosting even spans generations within the same family.

When Jill W. was a child, her family hosted Alvaro - a student from Mexico. Now an adult with her own family, Jill is hosting Alvarito - Alvaro's son! - in her home in Pennsylvania. Jill told us all about her multi-generational international family, and the impact that hosting as had on her throughout life. 

"When I was in 10th grade, our Spanish teacher agreed to have a P.E.A.C.E. representative speak to our classes in October about hosting exchange students. I was immediately interested, and I gave the representative my name, my parents’ names and our home telephone number. The very next day, he called our home and my parents agreed to meet with him. My parents thought they were going to get the same information I got in school. They were willing to listen to the idea, but when the representative arrived in our home the next week to do a family interview and home inspection, it was much to my parents’ surprise!

After the impulse agreement, we received two or three profiles of students who hadn’t been placed as of October. We read through the documents and selected an 18-year-old boy from Merida, Mexico. My family is comprised of only daughters, and my older sister had just moved out of the house to attend college four hours away. My parents were thinking we would host a female; however, we only had males from which to choose.

Everything happened so fast. The next month, we were in contact with Alvaro’s family and learning details of when and where he would arrive for us to bring him home. I can still remember the day my mother, my sisters, and I went to the Elmira/Corning Regional Airport to await our new family member. My father had to work, and we were there without him, wondering what this experience would bring. We had made “Bienvenido, Alvaro!” signs and were so excited to greet our new “brother” on his 19th birthday! Yes, he arrived on his birthday, December 19, 1992.

Alvaro’s English was “poor” and we did our best to communicate verbally and non-verbally. He carried with him a pocket translator, which came in handy many-a-time. He always had a smile on his face and I could tell he was excited and happy for this new adventure. The best part of our initial encounters was my father speaking louder instead of slower for comprehension. We kept telling my dad, “He is not deaf! You don’t have to yell! Speak slower.” Another habit my dad formed was to put an “o” at the end of any word and call it Spanish. Our favorite was, “Come-o to-o the table-o for dinner-o.” We tell those stories every time we get together with our Mexican brother and his family.

Our experiences that year were unforgettable. We attended sporting events, went skiing, ran track, visited family, tried new foods, celebrated births, mourned deaths, bonded together, and learned so much from each other. 

Our experiences that year were unforgettable. We attended sporting events, went skiing, ran track, visited family, tried new foods, celebrated births, mourned deaths, bonded together, and learned so much from each other. Alvaro’s growth in acquiring English was remarkable. He took the required TOEFL test in April, 1993, only four months after arriving and attained his required score. We couldn’t be prouder of his successes, and in June, he walked at graduation with his senior classmates. We couldn’t believe how quickly the time passed and we asked to keep him as long as we possibly could. The last week of July would be one of our saddest that year, when we had to say goodbye (for now) to our brother indefinitely.

Before the age of cell phones, we kept in touch through phone calls and emails. We were thrilled to have Alvaro visit us over the Christmas holiday when I was in college, only five years since he had lived with us. You know a bond is forever when you can pick up right where you left off, without missing a beat, in between five years’ time.

As we grew into adults, we continued to visit each other. My parents and siblings and I attended Alvaro’s wedding to Monica Seijo in April, 2001. We met the extended family and felt connected with them all. Our eyes were open to a variety of Mexican cultures through this experience. Again, in October of 2001, Alvaro and Monica attended my older sister’s wedding. At this time, we were excited to hear of their expecting news and realized we would soon celebrate Alvarito’s birth in March the following year.

In November, 2003, Alvaro did me the honor of being in my wedding. In February, 2004, my husband and I honeymooned for a week in Cancun, Mexico, where we met up with Alvaro and Monica. We then traveled to Merida for an additional four days to meet Alvarito. I had no idea at that point in time, he would become a blessing in my home in the future.

In November, 2003, Alvaro did me the honor of being in my wedding. In February, 2004, my husband and I honeymooned for a week in Cancun, Mexico, where we met up with Alvaro and Monica. We then traveled to Merida for an additional four days to meet Alvarito. I had no idea at that point in time, he would become a blessing in my home in the future.

We continued to celebrate the births of more children (13 grandchildren in total for my parents). Although we have not taken our own children to Mexico, our world-traveling brother and his world-traveling wife (she was an exchange student in France) vacationed with us in the winter on two separate occasions in 2009 and again in 2014. Both times, we stayed all together at a ski resort/water park…all twenty-one of us! In 2016, Alvaro and Monica put complete trust in me to keep their two boys for two weeks in the summer. The cousins were bonding through each visit and we discovered the universal language of play!

Discussions were had of the entire Garza-Seijo family living in Wellsboro for a year to give both sons an exchange experience at the same time. This plan, however, evolved into Alvarito coming alone to gain more independence and responsibility. My family agreed to host “Al” through an organized CIEE pre-placement. The planning and anticipation took much longer than our initial hosting of Alvaro in 1992. The company has a thorough process, which certainly puts both exchange students and host families at ease.

Without hesitation, we agreed to host Alvarito on his own. My parents and sisters were thrilled, even jealous. My older sister keeps demanding that she gets Emiliano (Al’s younger brother) when he does his exchange year.

Without hesitation, we agreed to host Alvarito on his own. My parents and sisters were thrilled, even jealous. My older sister keeps demanding that she gets Emiliano (Al’s younger brother) when he does his exchange year.

So far so good. We are now six months into the ten-month exchange. Personally, it hasn’t all been rainbows and unicorns. My relationship with Alvarito has gotten much stronger since he arrived. My stressors are balancing my own children with an additional dependent. After the “honeymoon” period, I have admit my own children have expressed jealousy, and even anger at times about hosting. I’ve felt embarrassment of my own children’s behavior with each other and with Al. In the middle somewhere, we are finding a balance. I know my kids are being themselves. I’ve tried to include Al as an equal fourth child. I have a tendency to treat him as a guest, who comes first, rather than at the comfort level I have with my own children.

As we emerge through the second half of the stint, I would say the children are beginning to mesh. At ages 10, 12, 14, and 17, my four children are more accustomed to each other and our comfort levels are evening out. My own personal take away as a host family is being open to various reactions of all members of the host family. Kids are kids and are usually the most brutally honest beings we have the pleasure to know. Raising kids is emotionally draining. There are ups and downs. In the end, it’s all worth it.

Hosting exchange students is akin to raising kids – work, adjustments, stress, fun, rewarding, and definitely worth it!

 

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