I guess it was around this time last year, likely closer to June or July to be honest, when I clicked on a little Facebook post advertising that there was an organization looking for host families. I had always wanted to host an exchange student, but I wasn’t sure if the timing was right. I was in the middle of getting divorced and I felt like my life was a mess. One thing I did know for sure, was that I have a huge heart and three of my own kids who would get to learn a lot from another culture. I spoke with the coordinator who placed the ad, explained my situation. She assured me that host families come from all kinds of backgrounds and diverse family units. She encouraged me to go ahead and fill out the application to become approved. I worked hard on my application and made sure I had it ready to go within a few days!
I won’t go into details about the entire process, but I will say it was easy. I got to look at a long list of eager teens hoping for a chance that an American family would pick them. I read their bios they wrote. I read of their accomplishments, some wrote about their love for cooking, or their ability to excel in certain sports. Some had great talents for singing or instruments. Each and every student had a high level of English, and even those with not the HIGHEST (though still well above average) were allowed to spend a few weeks in the USA at a beautiful facility where they get to learn more of our culture and language through immersion before heading off, full of hopes and dreams, to their new American family. I picked a lovely girl from Brussels, Belgium. Honestly, I assumed they spoke German (they don’t, they speak Dutch) and I wasn’t even sure what they ate. I tried the Google, but it just told me waffles…
Having my Belgian live in my home has been an amazing experience. I have learned so much from her! I know she has learned a lot from my family as well. Her English from the first day until now, these final weeks, has improved so insanely well. I have learned some Dutch and French from her as well. She has taught me some of the history of her country, popular culture from there (Smurfs originated from Belgium! Who knew?)
Only a few months into her stay with me we learned of another student from Taipei, Taiwan, who needed to find another home. After some talking it over, my Belgian and I decided to go ahead and open our home to her as well. It was an adjustment for everyone, our newest girl too. But we have all made the best of this.
Our Taiwan girl has come out of her shell so much in her time here. When she arrived she stayed really close to me and didn’t really want to speak up. Now here we are in April, and she is on the varsity softball team for her school, she was invited to a super bowl party by the girls at her school, and she is so much more outgoing than she was when she arrived. She has shared what life is like in her home country. She showed the kids on the globe where to find it.
I wouldn’t trade this last year for anything. We had our ups and our downs. I am not a traditional mom. However, I did teach them how to cook, how to clean a microwave without scrubbing, how to manage finances, how to fix a dishwasher without hiring someone… I made sure they stayed with their studies and I made sure they explored American life the best I could. I encouraged them to hang out with their friends, make new friends, go to the movies.
Hosting a student does not require the host family to have a lot of money. My girls have paid for their own entertainment and my Belgian even picked up some babysitting jobs for extra cash. My girls have been just as happy with our park trips as anything else.
I encourage anyone, no matter what your situation is, or how imperfect your life is, if you have an open heart and want to open your heart to a wonderful student who just wants to live this dream, consider hosting a student!
If you would like information on becoming a host family for the 2016/2017 school year, please email me at aimeesherrod at the google email.