At Aspect, February is “Share the Love” month! Is there a better way to share the love between our students and their host families than by bringing everybody together for a Valentine’s party? We don’t think so!
Aspect host mom and International Coordinator (IC), Tonya from Texas, says: “It was actually my exchange daughter Pien’s idea!” Tonya and her husband, David, have been hosting Pien from the Netherlands since last August. With February 14 just around the corner, Tonya and Pien started talking one day about Valentine’s Day. Tonya explained that it may not be as big a deal as Pien might expect at high school, but that at elementary school, the kids would bring Valentine’s cards to their classmates and teachers and have a little party with cookies and snacks. And thus the idea of the Valentine’s party was born!
Tonya called Sherri, who is not only an Aspect Manager but also Pien’s IC, and Sherri also loved the idea! Thanks to Tonya’s sister who works at the county’s medical society, the group quickly found a place for their party. All the host parents agreed right away to bring snacks and finger food and the students immediately took charge of decorating the room. All students were also asked to bring Valentine’s cards for the other students and their host families. “I bought and decorated little mailboxes for each student with their names on them. I thought they’re all going to bring just like a little tiny Valentines. But some of them went all out and made little goodie bags! Needless to say, the students’ Valentines didn’t all fit in their mailbox. Valentines ended up all over the table and around their mailbox. It was crazy!” IC Tonya laughs, “But you could see that even though this was something so simple that we did when we were kids, the students thought it was really cool.”
“I really enjoyed the opportunity to experience the American Valentine’s Day! I also loved when we exchanged Valentines between the exchange students. It was super fun and I’m excited for the next party and to be able to see my exchange student’s friends again.“, Angela from Spain confirms.
The students and families were asked to send in pictures prior to the party. Matej from the Czech Republic, who is being hosted by IC Sherri and her husband, Brian, then put all the pictures together into a slideshow with music. Pien from the Netherlands says: “I thought it was really cool that Matej made a video with pictures of everybody. It made me kind of emotional seeing all those pictures and see everybody grow so much. I always enjoy all the get togethers, seeing everybody and hearing about how everybody is doing and their experiences and just seeing so many cultures together.” IC Sherri confirms: “Everybody in the room had big smiles on their faces because of the pictures. Some of the students didn’t know their host parents had sent in all those pictures.“
What brought the biggest smile to the families’ faces, however, was when all the students lined up and were asked to talk about what they love and what they have learned so far during their exchange. IC Sherri recalls: “It was so amazing! Some of the students said: ‘I learned that I love my host family more than I ever thought possible after just five months. I learned that I love them so much.” She adds: “These host families really do grow to love their students and the students really grow to love their host family.” Matej from the Czech Republic confirms: “The coolest part was at the beginning where we had an opportunity to say thanks. The students thanked their host families and coordinators because we know that they don’t always have an easy job all the time and that our host families are putting in so much time and effort to help us.” Emma from Germany adds: “The part I enjoyed most, was when we all said what we liked best about the US. I think it was also great for all the host parents to see their students summarizing all the positive things about their experience here. It made me very happy to hear about their different stories.“
As an additional way to thank their host parents this Valentine’s Day, the student also decorated little wooden hearts that IC Sherri had bought at the local craft store. The students used permanent markers to turn them into cute fridge magnets for their host families. Most of them said things like, “I love my host family”, “Best host family”, “Best year of my life.” Mario from Spain sums up the evening perfectly saying, “One of my favorites exchange students meetings was definitely this last one. All of us sat down, ate, and had fun together celebrating Valentine’s Day. We also all watched a slide show that one of the students did, and we made some personalized magnets for our host families. I personally loved it! It was a fun and emotional evening that I’m definitely going to remember.“
Would you also like to work with students from across the world? We are always looking for great candidates in many communities, large and small, across the U.S. For more information about the International Coordinator position and how to apply check out our website!