In Florida: It’s Like Giving Birth, Without the Stretch Marks

Having hosted over 75 students from more than 20 countries, I realized many years ago that the heart seems so small, and yet every student I host makes my heart like Jell-O….there is always room for more.

I have given birth to one son, and he was the reason I agreed to host a young man from Poland for his senior year. We had just moved to a new town. My son had always wanted a brother, and this was the only way it would happen. It was the best thing that could have happened to us: not only did it open up a new world to my family, it started my addiction.

I was hooked….not just hooked – addicted. I had found a cure for Empty Nest Syndrome. photoblog

Andrew, my son, moved out and started his own life; I had only raised a son, but now had the opportunity to host a girl in my home. I redecorated the bedrooms, taught crafts that my grandmother shared with me, and helped my new daughter get dressed for the Prom and plan sleepovers. I got to do all the little things you just don’t get to do with the boys!

But hosting just wasn’t enough for me (I did tell you I was addicted). No, I had to become a Coordinator. I had to spread the word that we need more host families.  I had to spread the word that more communities, parents, brothers and sisters can experience what I am experiencing. We need more of these kids in our schools, on our soccer teams and in our neighborhoods, sharing their perspectives and learning about our own. Only children need brothers and sisters. Families with 2 or 3 kids could have another sibling to look up to. If your child is leaving for school or the military … bring another child in to your home! After all, it is only for 10 months, you have the extra bed, and this is your opportunity to make a truly unique and lasting difference – both for yourself, your student and your community.

Many who know me realized this was not a job for me, but a sheer passion. It was an addiction to sharing – not just my home, but also a part of my life and culture that we have a tendency to take for granted.


Whether you are an International Coordinator or a host parent, what you receive from these students is something that can never be purchased, replaced or duplicated. From the first hug at the airport on arrival to the tears at departure, the experience of hosting and mentoring these students is something so wonderful that I feel everyone should be able to take part in and share.

Every year, I look forward to a new arrival…like giving birth without the stretch marks. The labor is getting things ready for the new arrival, and you already know if it is a boy or girl.

The thing to remember is not to let your fears stop you from hosting or asking a person to host. When you do, you are denying someone the excitement and enjoyment of bringing that new life into their home.


When my kids arrive, they are all given a house key and when they leave, they keep the key. We never say goodbye at the airport on departure, we just make sure they have their key. Several have returned and had an opportunity to use their key, and there are those who email me with plans to return. It is wonderful to know that I have been part of a bridge built and the world doesn’t stop at the edge of the water, regardless of the coastline.

Now, I wonder if ACE Hardware will give me a discount on keys….

Allica from Florida