Tomorrow is the big day. Tomorrow, the plane arrives, and we invite a student into our home. We committed to this back in January, and although our lives have changed a bit for the crazier we’re still following through and hosting an exchange student.
We’re hosting through Compass USA, and our area has two programs each summer for 3 weeks: one for Spain and one for France. Because the French program is closest to us we’re participating in the French program again this summer.
Hosting an exchange student is an amazing way to learn about a country. Although our kids are very young, the students don’t seem to mind as long as they get interaction with peers outside our family.
People seem to think that hosting an exchange student is a major disruption and a huge responsibility. It’s really not that bad! The Compass program coordinates 2 field trips a week for the students, as well as a few parties and get-togethers. They handle all the transportation problems to and from the airport and major field trips, and we just have to drop the students off at the correct point.
The students get to go to fun places like DC, tour an American high school, go shopping at an American mall, and do a pool party for some of their group outings. The rest of the time is host family time and they simply tag along and do whatever we’re doing.
Last year, that included a trip to the dentist, grocery stores, routine errands, and all the fun things we normally do, like parks, playgrounds, museums, and so on. We initially worried that our student would be bored but that wasn’t an issue at all.
At the end of our visit we asked her what were the most memorable things that we did. Her answer? A trip to a super Target (she said every European should have that experience!) a visit to the drive-through pharmacy, and watching racing pigs at the county fair!
But what about the language barrier, you might ask? Not a problem. Every student we met spoke very good English and the host families had no trouble communicating. We occasionally had a few issues here and there with slang or colloquialisms, but we never even needed the translation app that we loaded onto our phones.
Inviting anyone into your home always means a little extra work and a little more shared time. Hosting a student is no different. We give up some space and some time in exchange for the opportunity to meet someone from another country. To teach our kids that we don’t live in an insulated bubble; that we’re part of a bigger world that doesn’t look or talk like us. It’s a good learning experience. A good stretching experience.
I want my kids to grow up as part of a global community. I want them to travel the world, to see other cultures and communities. I want them to realize that there’s a whole wide world out there full of interesting things and people. Short of plopping them on an airplane (not doing that with three little kids!) hosting an exchange student is the easiest way to help with these goals.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to go pick up the clutter of toys that the whirlwinds left behind so that we don’t shock the students on their first day here. We’ll ease them into the chaos gradually!