We have been the writing online sine 2014, when we brought our first foreign exchange student (from Spain) into our home here in Portland, Oregon. Since then, we have hosted about a dozen students from countries around the world – places as far apart from each other as Germany, Colombia, Italy, Venezuela, and Hong Kong — as well as short-term summer-stay students from Japan and France. We’ve welcomed them into our lives and in several cases have welcomed our “children” back again when they have returned for visits. We hope to be a part of their lives when they finish college, if they go; when they marry and have children of their own; and when things happen in their lives, both good and bad.
We have also been local liaison/coordinators for almost nine years for one of the largest educational foreign exchange programs operating in the U.S. We find host families, help them through the screening process, and find them a student who, we hope, will “fit” into their family’s activities and lifestyle for the coming semester or academic year. We offer advice to host families on how to bring their student more completely into the family, how to address cultural issues or homesickness, and how to deal with normal teen issues that host families may not have faced before or which may just be different with a foreign student. We work with the students to help them adjust to what may be a radically different way of life, and help them understand that life here is not better or worse than their lives back home – just different. We cheer our students on to A’s in their American high schools (as well as pull them through times of failing grades), advise them on how to adapt to seemingly strange American customs, smile at their prom photos, and help them through personal crises.