Life in the U.S. / Student Spotlight

Student & Host Family Spotlight – Raphael from Germany living with the Gibsons in Texas!

Today, we are shining the spotlight on Raphael from Germany and his host family, the Gibsons from Texas. They both share their appreciation for cultural exchange and of the memories they’ll cherish of their time together!

Raphael gave our office a call to express how amazing his experience has been thus far and how thankful he is to have been placed with such an “awesome” host family – a family that opened their home to him on very short notice after Hurricane Harvey hit.

He recalled some of his fondest memories of his exchange year, including when he’s traveled to different parts of the country like Indiana and Tennessee, when he visited his host dad’s large extended family at Thanksgiving, and when he and his host family have taken the time at least once a month to go out to dinner or a movie all together.

But it was really the small, everyday gestures that Raphael wanted to express gratitude for towards his host family. From driving him to and from school and his extracurricular activities (something he is not used to in Germany) to being welcomed into their church which he attends every Sunday, Raphael said, “they really make an effort to spend a lot of time with me, involving me in everything and treating me like a real member of the family”.

His host mom was an exchange student herself in Germany, so she enjoys practicing her German with Raphael at home. Raphael even reads German books to his younger host siblings who are 2 and 4 years of age. Raphael’s voice was full of affection when speaking about the two of them, which is evident in these adorable photos! After school, he really tries to carve out at least a half an hour to play with them as he says they are just so cute and fun to be around!

When I asked what he will miss the most about Texas he replied, “definitely my host family” along of course with the friends he’s made at school and in soccer practice. He closed our conversation with, “I hope I’ve made an impact on my host family” because they certainly did on him.

Raphael’s host dad also shares some beautiful words about his family’s experience in hosting multiple exchange students like Raphael:

We love the way our family has grown from hosting exchange students. We have so many great memories with Johan [their former exchange student], and we’re still making memories with Raphael! Our family has definitely grown through these programs, and we’re really excited to be welcoming another student into our family this summer from Spain!

We’ve had so many of our friends and family express interest in hosting an exchange student, but they feel overwhelmed or inadequate. I felt the same way, but opening up our home and family to these last two young men was far easier and far more rewarding than I ever would have guessed. We definitely get way more out of the experience than we feel we put in.

The organization that we’re currently using [Aspect Foundation], we really recommend. They do a great job of providing support every step of the way. We’ve got a great relationship with our local coordinator and we know we can call her any time we’ve got questions or problems.”

Have you ever considered hosting an exchange student? Check out our website to see how you can grow your family internationally!