It’s Tuesday afternoon, and Aspect coordinator Cory is headed to the grocery store. After checking his phone for last minute RSVP’s and grabbing what he needs, he heads home for preparations.
His kitchen fills with warmth as taco meat starts to simmer, and the doorbell starts ringing. It’s a few guys from the local church youth group; the next ring brings longtime family friends; the next, a Danish student and his smiling host family; the next, a student back in town visiting from his first semester in college. Cory and his wife Sara’s kitchen and dining room fill, as people pull up chairs, chat and laugh, stomachs grumbling.
Taco Tuesday is a weekly institution at Cory’s house, a long-time host dad and Aspect coordinator. The tradition started almost 9 years ago, when an exchange student his family was hosting needed a way to connect with new friends. “It was just such a good way to connect local students with our exchange student and to have a few of our friends over as well,” Cory explained.
Ever since, Taco Tuesday has been a way for their friends and the community to come together as a family for dinner each week. Birthdays are celebrated, songs are sung, and graduations marked. The exchange students connect with new friends, and members of the community are able to share in part of their American life. “It really creates an environment where exchange is grown and talked about,” Cory said. “It’s been a blessing to host families and local students alike.”
There is a standing invitation each week, with people able to drop by, say hello and grab a taco amongst friends. The tradition has ensured its own future, as relationships grow and new host families and friends enter the fold.
“A lot of times we’ve used Taco Tuesdays as a big farewell party for our exchange students – we have profiles or a banner up during it to say, ‘Hey, there are exchange students for next year!’ It gets talked about,” Cory explained. Three of this year’s exchange student placements for Cory are a direct result of the relationships a student last year made in the community and during Taco Tuesdays. “These are three new families that I’m now close with,” Cory said, “I consider them close friends.”
With people cozied around his dining room table and spilling out into the living room and back patio, laughter is abundant. “It seems like such a small thing, but anything that creates community, draws people,” Cory said. “I think people want community. I think that’s the best resource we have – to create a community among our exchange families.”