In a world filled with borders, JennyLyn has become a bridge! Hailing from Utah, she has become an extraordinary member of Aspect Foundation. As a host mom, International Coordinator, and Aspect Manager, her journey into the world of exchange has not only transformed her life but has also touched the lives of countless others. She’s learned new customs and has become more open-minded and empathetic throughout her journey. As an Aspect Manager, she loves to connect with International Coordinators and students to foster a sense of community and support. Read more about her experience below!
I have been a host family and an Aspect Foundation Coordinator since 2014. I have hosted 17 students in my home; some full-year and some for a few days/weeks/months. We have had students in our home from Norway, Germany, Pakistan, Ukraine, Indonesia, Japan, Estonia, Denmark, Poland, Brazil, Spain, and France. My children love to host students and beg me every year to host another. I really enjoy learning the differences between my life and the lives my students live in their countries. I love to learn the differences and find the similarities between our countries.
The best experience I had hosting was with our YES student, Syed from Pakistan. He really wanted to be a part of our family and got involved in the school. He didn’t want to miss a day and volunteered to participate in many things. He was a member of the Hope Squad, the wrestling team, and debate team. He participated in the school’s history day competition and advanced to the district level. He called me “mom” and wanted to be with us for all of our family activities. He even participated in the Christmas play that we do annually by helping with the lights and sound. He always had something to say and questions to ask. We enjoyed singing together in the car with his Bluetooth speaker. Still today, songs come on the radio that remind me of him.
He is doing great things now and it doesn’t surprise me he has a leadership position in his school and community. While he was here, he experienced some loss and we helped him to grieve the loss of a friend. He was a good example and role model for my children. I know he might be unique, but he wasn’t interested in “Disneyland” or other typical recreational destinations. He just wanted that American high school and American host family experience.
Another part of the experience I appreciated was learning about his religious customs. He is Muslim and I learned so much about his beliefs and practices while he was here. He had so much respect for our religion, too. He came to church with us and attended youth activities. I think he was a bright spot in many lives in my family and community this year.
Having hosted so many years, I have learned to be open and tolerant to differences. I have religious practices for myself that may seem strict to some, but I have learned to be open, tolerant and flexible to the beliefs of others. Due to the experiences I have had with the students I have hosted and those I have supervised, I feel I have more connections and understanding with/for others.
I have traveled more since I have been involved in Aspect foundation. Traveling was not a past-time for me. I have appreciated the opportunity to travel to new places. It has helped me to understand the challenges that come with going to new places, trying new foods, and new smells. I have more empathy for my students and the new experiences they encounter when they arrive. I admit, I don’t enjoy the long flights and the different smells and adjusting to new time zones, but the experiences have helped me to better connect with my exchange students and understand some things they might be experiencing.
The best advice I have for someone hosting for the first time is to–
1. Speak up and keep communication open. If something is bothering you, immediately take the opportunity to say something and address it with your student before it gets worse.
2. Give the student opportunities to be a part of the family. Plan for opportunities to cook a meal and have them help with the chores.
3. Encourage your student to get involved in the school by attending school functions, clubs, or sports.
4. Be on time to pick up your student at the airport; positive first impressions are critical
There are many things I love about being a manager, but what I love the most is the relationships I have with the coordinators I work with. I love helping, training, and supporting.
When coordinators have a problem or need extra help, I help them to know the appropriate procedures and protocol and talk with their students or host families when needed. When a coordinator or student struggles and I have the opportunity to help them through it, I have felt more connected to them. I have also felt more connected to the Aspect Foundation leadership team. It feels like family. I know I haven’t been perfect or always made the best decisions, but I have enjoyed working with dedicated, responsible, reliable, respectful, and caring coordinators.
The best advice I have for a coordinator is to–
- Communicate regularly with your host families, students, and manager.
- When problems arise, know that you don’t have to deal with them alone.
- Attend our conferences. This provides a great opportunity to feel connected and find a sense of belonging.
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!