In the Spring of 2014, we decided to be a host family after seeing a post on a local social media page looking for families. We had a 15-year-old daughter and an 11-year-old son at the time. We had hosted students on a short term basis, 1 week or 6 week programs, in the past but never for a full year.
We were up for the experience, and thought it would be fun, but we felt overwhelmed when we were shown the list of students to choose from! How would we ever choose from all of the profiles that were telling us “PICK ME! PICK ME!”? So as a family, we chose the qualities that we thought would work best with our family and narrowed it down. Then we read through their student letters, and one stood out immediately. She was a young girl from Norway. Her parents were divorced and she lived with her mom, so she was looking for a two-parent household. Our hearts melted immediately and we chose our Norwegian daughter, Iselin. When we were finally able to see her photo, we about fell off our chairs! She looked like she could be our own daughter (even more so than my own children! Both our children look just like Dad). Little did we know how she would change OUR lives!
The year was filled with ups and downs. We loved her like our own. We fought with her like our own. We laughed and cried with her like our own. We watched her go from a shy, young girl unsure of herself to a confident young woman ready to conquer the world! We connected with her own family back in Norway and fell in love with them too! We watched her relationship with her father and step-mom get stronger. It was an amazing transformation both for her and for us. Not all exchanges will have such a dramatic experience, but ours did and we wouldn’t change a thing. Norway is forever a part of our family. We still refer to her as our daughter that lives in Norway and Skype with her at least once a month.
She even helped us choose our next exchange student, Saeka from Japan. Before Iselin left, she wrote a sweet message about us to Saeka on the chalkboard wall in the room, now known as the “World Room” (the bedroom that all exchange students get). Being a full-time host family changed our family forever. Saeka has been with us for the 2015-2016 year and has also become one of the family. From day one, she asked if she could call us Mom and Dad, and we have cherished those words every time she says them. She has become our resident Asian chef and has made a Japanese dinner at least once a month! Her excitement for everything new is contagious and she makes us laugh as her eyes light up and she says the typical Saeka: “OOOOOOHHHHH”.
Being a host family has become what we do; who we are. We can’t afford to travel the world, so we bring the world to us.
-Mike and Kathy, Host Parents in Utah
Interested in sharing YOUR corner of the world with an international exchange student? Learn more about becoming a host family at: http://aspectfoundation.org/host-families.