I remember when I called my parents to tell them I had decided to host an exchange student. A 15 year old exchange student. Me, a 31 year old, single woman. I can still hear my parents laughing over the phone. I think they put the phone down to laugh and picked it up to offer me some form of assurance I was not going to mess this young girl up completely.
I became interested in hosting when I found out a coworker was hosting. Her Local Coordinator saw my interest and offered to send me information right away. That very night I had my student picked out. I was half excited and half terrified to think in less than a month I was going to be responsible for another human. So, how did my first year go? She survived. I survived. It may have been on pizza and chicken nuggets due to one picky eater, and honestly, I did not have such a wide range of recipes as I do now in my ninth year of hosting.
I have always loved traveling, cultures, learning about everything outside of my American life. When I was younger, my father was in the military and stationed in Germany for five years. For me, having the experience of growing up with a broader world view will always be priceless. I did not study abroad in high school or college, but the thought about traveling abroad was always in the back of my mind. Then, the lucky Local Coordinator happened to be at the right place at the right time. If I could not travel overseas, then, overseas could travel to me.
If I could not travel overseas, then, overseas could travel to me.
When I look back on my first year of hosting, I do not think the pizza and chicken nuggets matter so much. Yes, it’s a funny memory, but together we made it through what was supposed to be a 5 month exchange year which turned into a full 10 month exchange year. That year formed a foundation for me and my continued involvement in hosting. You know the roller coaster analogy we like to use to explain the highs and lows of the exchange program? We hit all of them. All of them. I think we went backwards just in case we missed one or two and needed to revisit our favorites. We needed to because I had never hosted - or been a parent - and she had never been an exchange student, so we were both learning. She’s been back to visit three times and has just graduated from university and become a registered nurse.
This year is my ninth year to host exchange students, and I am still excited to read the applications my Local Coordinator sends me every spring. Some years, I like to pick a country because of a news article I read or a current exchange student in our area has made an impact on me. Other times, I like to be focused on an interest, so my student and I have shared interests, and I am open to any country.
So far, I have hosted 15 students from Armenia, China, Czech Republic, Germany, Kazakhstan, Indonesia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, and Thailand.
All of my students offer something special and interesting to me even if I have hosted from the country before. I enjoy visiting my students’ countries through their pictures and stories, and I hope to one day visit some of these amazing countries.