F is for Foreign Exchange Students
Map of the World from here
My family was the host family for foreign exchange students when I was in high school. We hosted a total of 6 students from 5 different countries from the time I was in high school through my early college years.
Marc from Spain
Lena from Germany
Guilherme from Brazil
Maria from Guatemala
Akiko from Japan
Daniel from Brazil
Guilherme and Daniel are brothers, but they were not here at the same time. Daniel came a couple years later (after he heard about how cool we were from his older brother).
Hosting foreign exchange students is such a big learning opportunity, but more importantly, it's a lot of fun! I always had fun taking them trick-or-treating. Yes, we were too old to partake in this child's activity, but when someone is only visiting the country for 6 months you go for it. Ignore the grouchy old lady who says you are too big, because this is the only chance your friend will get to participate in the American tradition of stuffing a pillowcase full of chocolate bars! I wouldn't want anyone to miss out on that!
I remember building lots of snowmen, and one very intricate snow fort. We went sledding and ice skating, and there was even some camping when the weather got nicer. We all learned about the different ways Christmas is celebrated around the world. They would occasionally cook for us, but mostly they adjusted to eating American food; this was harder for some than it was for others.
Growing up I remember my mom saying many times that she wanted our family to be a foster family for kids who needed a home. We never became a traditional foster family, but we were a family to six high school kids that needed a family to love them while they visited a foreign country. I got along with them all and became amazing friends with many of them. Their home countries are places that I want to visit simply because it is the home of my foreign brother/sister.
I have spent endless hours imagining what it would be like to move in with an unknown family in a foreign country. How would I cope with being away from my own family for 6 months to a year? Would there be traditions I didn't understand, or wasn't willing to participate in? What if I didn't like their food? Would I be able to keep up with the conversation? I think that is a scary situation for most adults to go in to, let alone a kid. Imagine the ball of knots that must have been in each of their stomachs as they boarded the plane to come here. Excited and nervous. They were brave, much braver than me. I applaud each of them for taking on such a big challenge in life and coming out stronger because of it.
I know that they all struggled at some point. You don't take on a task this big without having your share of good and bad days. I believe (I hope) that in the end they each had a good experience here in the United States. I greatly enjoyed having each of them come into my life and they will forever have a place in my heart.
Thank you Marc, Lena, Guilherme, Maria, Akiko, and Daniel for accepting the challenge to become foreign exchange students and teaching me a little about the world along the way.