Today we are shining the spotlight on single host mom, Jan in Utah and her exchange daughter, Hanna from France! These two have created a special bond, one that extends beyond borders. Read more to hear why Jan has chosen to host students as a single person and the experience Hanna has gained by being under Jan’s care during her exchange year!
What initially sparked your interest in hosting exchange students generally and as a single person?
My interest in becoming a host parent goes clear back to when I was 5 years old, when my grandparents hosted a student from Norway. I was always fascinated by the fact that she came from a part of the world that I knew nothing about. It’s been 43 years since she first came here and I love that after 43 years, everyone has kept in contact with her and her family. She definitely became a member of our family when she came to stay with my grandparents. It’s because of that experience that I decided to host. I wanted to give my family, and the student that I hosted, experiences they’d never forget and more people to call family.
As a single person, I was very nervous to host. I wondered if my student would be bored only having a host mom in the house and if we’d have things to talk about. I also worried that the student would feel sad because they wouldn’t have the American family life with host siblings and 2 parents. When I chose my student, I looked for students who didn’t have siblings or ones that maybe had an older sibling that was out of the house. I looked for a student who said they spent a lot of time with their mom because my student would be spending a lot of time with me.
I wanted to give the student I chose a situation that was similar to the one they had at home. I felt it would be difficult for a student to come to a single host mom if they had a large family with lots of siblings, especially younger siblings, at home. At first, it was difficult because there is a stranger in your home, who doesn’t speak your language as fluently as you do, and you’re trying to make sure they feel welcome and aren’t bored. But, as you get to know each other it definitely gets easier and you find LOTS of things to talk about. Plus, the students start school, meet friends and become active in all sorts of sports and activities.
This is my 2nd time hosting. Initially, I thought it would be ‘one and done’, and I hadn’t really planned to host again but my coordinator called and asked me if I would temporarily host a student until they could find a permanent family for her. So, of course, I said I would. But, after I started reading the students letter, her family’s letter, seeing her pictures and receiving an email saying how excited she was to be coming to America and to be staying with me, I couldn’t let another family have her, I knew she was meant to stay the year with me! I’m so glad too because both of my hosting experiences have been equally as great!
What would you say to folks who think hosting isn’t for them because they are single and/or have no children of their own in the household?
If someone single asked me if they should host I would tell them to definitely do it! I feel like I’ve been able to show my students a LOT of things because I don’t have other children and their activities to work around. If we want to go somewhere, we go! Also, I feel like I’ve been able to take her to see and do more things since I don’t have a family to also pay for. Taking a family on a vacation can be costly so I feel that by not having family it has allowed me to take my students more places that I probably wouldn’t. It has also helped me become more involved in the school community. Before, I never attended any school activities, but with both students I’ve had, they have been very active in extra curricular activities so I have attended their games and meets and I’ve met many parents that I would never have had the chance to meet.
Below is what Hanna has to say about her experience as an exchange student, specifically living with a single person.
When I first heard that my host family in Utah was going to be a single parent, I didn’t know what to expect. I was at first a little anxious about the potentially awkward moments or loneliness I could feel from living with a woman I didn’t know by myself, for 10 months. But as soon as I arrived in Utah and met her and her family, I felt comfortable and I knew I would enjoy my stay with her.
And I was right! Living with her for the last 9 months was amazing. I learned how she lived, what her routine was and tried to adapt myself to her lifestyle to experience American life. As we started to know more about each other, we started having more conversations leaving no place for awkwardness. I think what I enjoy the most are rides with her around the city that we live in or even during road trips. The same thing always happens: we start talking I finally fall asleep she takes a picture of me and we laugh about it.
Being with Jan means having a lot of endless laughs and teasing. I love it because there is always something to talk about. Dinner is also a time that I like. We watch TV together and laugh together about what we see. The food also happens to be delicious so that’s also a plus!
But most importantly, living with a single parent doesn’t always mean that the exchange year will be only the two us. Jan is really close to her family and we see them pretty often. We do a lot of activities that I didn’t do in France together, like painting Easter eggs or go trick or treating. Finally, living with a single host parent is far from boring, we learn about each other and enjoy our day to day life together.
Are you a single person who is looking to make a difference with youth? Why not host an exchange student for the 2019-2020 school year. Click the image below to find out more!