Life in the U.S.

Opening Hearts and Homes since 1994: Part Two

Step into part two of the lifelong journey of a compassionate family from Colorado who have opened their hearts and home to the world! For nearly three decades, since the year 1994, Susan and her family have hosted an impressive total of 22 students from around the globe. Beyond her time as a host parent, she has also been a guiding light as an International Coordinator and Team Manager for over 200 students. Hear their motivations, the cherished memories they’ve experienced, and how their children have flourished in the company of their ever-expanding family of host siblings.

Susan and her family with Alex from Germany (third from the left), 2015.

Q: When did you become a coordinator?

I had Christine when we lived in Toledo, OH. Then in 1994 during the fall, we moved to Dallas, TX. In January, I signed on to be a coordinator with ARC. In 2002, at the end of the year, they merged with Aspect, so I’ve been with Aspect since 2003.

Susan and her family with Diego from Spain (white shirt), 2016.

Q: Why did you become a coordinator?

I really liked it, it was fun. I was a youth director at our church and worked in a battered women shelter with women and children prior. Pretty much my whole life span has been some type of social service work. I had one professional job for 8 months and that just wasn’t it. I’ve always done social service advocacy work and it was something that I could do from home with my kids, I had a six week old baby and a soon to be two year old. We always knew we wanted more children, so I wanted something I can do from home. I always felt I had a good rapport with teenagers

Q: Do you keep in touch with the students you have supervised?

I have a lot of kids that didn’t live with us that still call me mom. One of my shining stars, Trang, now lives in the Bay Area and is a pediatric dentist. She actually went to Vietnam with us and it was such a cool experience having a local with us. I went up to her small village where she was born and raised, and they literally had never seen an American woman there. I was like a celebrity there!

Susan and her family with Khwezi from South Africa (right), 2017.

We were also in Europe for three and a half weeks last month and we got to see our four most recent kids and meet all of their families. My husband and I visited seven or eight different countries. We did some interesting things, but I also got to see my former students that were just in my group who I kept in touch with, so I think it goes beyond just the kids that we’ve had in our house.

Q: What are some of the most memorable souvenirs/gifts you’ve received from the students who have stayed with you?

I still have a little vial of holy water from the Jordan river, which is cool. The cousin to my own Kuwaiti kid made me something in the pottery class and it’s still sitting on my desk right now. It’s kind of a cube thing that has different Arabic messages on it like, laugh, love, live. Not exactly those, but you know prosper, be happy!

Susan and her family with Rebecca from Italy (second from the right) and Sefeda from Albania (right), 2019.

Soline, our Belgian daughter, made the most hideous gargoyle thing during her pottery class and we still laugh about that. And it was so heavy! She said “I am not taking this home”, but I was like,”Oh my God, I’m going to keep it!”. It’s ridiculously bad, but adorable. It’s so funny, but I also received lots of jewelry, and some really cool Pakistani stuff.

Susan and her family with Soline from Belgium (second from the right) and Josephine “Jo” (third from the right) from Germany, 2020.

Q: What advice would you give to a family who is considering hosting?

I found over the years the most successful experiences are if you’re just calm and patient. You’ve got to be calm, patient and accepting of what you have and make the best experience that you can make with the student, because that is someone’s child. No matter what that student says or does, you know you’ve got to try and make the best experience and don’t have so many expectations.

Susan and her family with Caterine from Italy (left) and Julia from Germany (second to the left), 2022.

I can give you an example – a lot of families have problems with device use. I don’t because I don’t make it a problem. If I can see the whites of your eyes and you’re sitting in my living room, and I can have a conversation while you’re on your phone, I don’t care. I’m not going to make that a battle. Having that open, patient, and tolerant love for the actual student and admiration for their bravery. Making sure that the student knows they are loved and accepted, and you will do whatever you can to help them navigate the year, and it’s not always easy.

We’re a very affectionate family. We like hugging and all those kinds of things such as family time together. Don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s a short time in the grand scheme of things.

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!