A little over a year ago, my husband and I decided to host an exchange student. When we first broached the subject we were a little hesitant and unsure of making this pivotal decision. Luckily, we had a last minute opportunity to become a host family. The student that we were about to receive was originally going to be placed with another family, but they had quickly backed out. With the help of BFF, we were able to become acclimated with the process of hosting a student. We were very excited to host a 15 year old boy from Majorca (a little island off the coast of Spain).
I can say it was a wonderful experience that my husband and I would quickly do again. We were going to host another exchange student this coming year, but sadly COVID put a stop to it. Needless to say, it was a learning experience for both me and my husband. We do not have kids so being part of a parental unit was all new to us. Our student was very social and made friends very quickly. He was very athletic and joined the soccer team. We attended just about all the games and learned the rules of a sport we had little knowledge about. We became avid fans cheering him and his teammates on. They were a very successful team, just a few games short of making it to the state finals. He also played for the basketball team and began the short-lived season of track and field which abruptly ended with the onset of COVID,
We gave him the opportunity to explore parts of the United States. We visited my home state of NJ during Christmas break and saw the sights of NYC. Such highlights included crossing the Brooklyn Bridge and battling the crowds at FAO Schwarz. He also got the opportunity to visit family in Tennessee. Seeing both sides of rural and city living was quite an experience for him. It allowed him to see the many differences and dynamics of our diverse country. Not to mention the holidays that we celebrate here in this country most specifically Halloween and Thanksgiving. My husband and I are pretty much Halloween kings. We decorate the inside/outside of our house, and we took our student to several haunted houses which he said were much more elaborate and sophisticated compared to his home country of Spain.
With any exchange program there were ups and downs. I’m not going to lie and say it was a rosy experience a hundred percent of the time. Cell phone use was happening ubiquitously. There came a point where we had to limit the availability of it. Being a typical teenager, social media is like oxygen for them as water is for fish. There were times when we had to be very vigilant with his grades as he was not the most studious person. If anyone is new to this experience, keep in mind that these are teenagers and human beings that come with flaws, strengths and weaknesses, just like you and I. Yes, the benefits outweigh the risks.
I don’t want to end on a sour note, though. If anyone is willing to host an exchange student for the first time, I would highly recommend it. Not only do you give a person from halfway around the world the opportunity to learn about our culture, but we get to learn about theirs. We still keep in touch with our exchange student. I’ll never forget the day he was told to come home. He had tears in his eyes, and I knew he did not want to leave just yet. He wrote us a heart-warming letter that we still have hanging up on the refrigerator. We are still in the process of making a scrapbook of his experiences that we greatly anticipate mailing to him sometime soon. So as you can see, even though they are with you for a year, the memories and friendship last a lifetime. We were truly fortunate to host such a wonderful student. He has been telling us that he wants to come back to the United States to visit us. I hope one day that will come to fruition. I also hope this testimony shed some light on an opportunity that I believe everyone should experience.