Life in the U.S.

Beyond the Departure: Part One

Curious about the lasting impact of welcoming an exchange student into your family? Join us for a very special feature this week with one of our newest coordinators, Libby from New Mexico! With a career spanning over four decades as a compassionate nurse, Libby is starting a new chapter as an International Coordinator with Aspect Foundation. She was first introduced to the world of exchange when her family hosted a student from Germany in the 1970s. It ignited her love of international travel and in her teen years, she had the incredible opportunity to stay with families across Europe. Read her experience below!

Libby and her husband visiting the Red Square in Moscow, Russia.

Q: What motivated you to become an International Coordinator?

I was looking for something that felt like I was giving back and I saw this, so I thought this would be fabulous! I also had experience with a foreign exchange student that my family hosted when I was 7 or 8 years old. He was my older brother’s age and school grade. They are now nearly seventy, with the former exchange student back in Germany and my brother living in Australia, they continue to travel to see one another and their respective families.

I grew up in a home that really fostered diversity. I traveled as a teen, not as a foreign exchange student, but six weeks visiting Europe, Scandinavia and Russia and staying with families with teens our age, via an international organization promoting travel and diversity experiences for high school students. I’ve been to France, Russia, Denmark, Holland, and England. I stayed in people’s homes; it was a shorter time than a semester or a school year, but it was such a different experience than anywhere I’ve traveled with a tour guide.

Libby (second to the left) with her host siblings in Holland, 1976.

In Holland, the family I stayed with lived on this huge farmland property. I can remember the food vividly – the bread, the butter, the sugared strawberries! The baked beans on toasts in England! Some of the families had kids my age, some had kids with different ages. I stayed with one single woman in Denmark, and then a couple with no kids in England. I really got a kind of gamut. It was an experience that stays with me to this day, and I still keep in contact with several of the families. 

Libby (light blue jacket) visiting the “Little Mermaid” in Copenhagen, Denmark, 1976.

Q: What are you looking forward to as a coordinator?

Recruiting is great, but I also look forward to the experience after the student gets here and meets the family. I think it correlates with my 20 years taking care of hospice patients in their homes, but being in homes is a completely different experience than if you see somebody out of a hospital bed. Obviously, I’m not going to be there as often, but to really see them in their home environment and know them in their own way, that’s what I’m really looking forward to.

Libby (center) with a host family in Shanghai, 2018.

Q: What advice do you have for future host families and students?

It’s a tender age, older adolescence. I can speak with experience, and I would say my advice is to be real. I benefited from seeing an authentic experience in people’s homes and in their regular lives. On the other hand, maintaining boundaries is also really critical for sustainability for entire school year, or even in a semester. My advice is very simplistic, but is to establish an honest and open mind of of direct communication between the host parents and the siblings with the exchange student, and the coordinator. Speaking up kindly about any concerns as soon as they arrive. I can say interpersonal interactions that addresses concerns after they’ve gone on can cause frustration, hurt feelings, and I feel like it’s more difficult to resolve later. I would say this applies not just with families, but with students as well.

Stay tuned for next week, where we hear from Libby’s brother, Howard, who shares his personal experience of having a host sibling and the positive influence it had on his life!

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!