I’m a local exchange program coordinator. My husband and I work with teenaged exchange students between the ages of 15-18 who come to the United States for one semester or a full academic year to live with an American family and go to high school here. We help find host families, “match” students to a family, and supervise/guide/mentor students and host families during the exchange year. We’re also a host family ourselves, having shared our home with close to a dozen students over the last eight years.
Two weeks ago, I Skyped with one of our new “supervisees” – a high school exchange student from Italy, getting ready to leave a few hours later to start his year-long adventure to the United States.
And in that ordinary conversation with a boy and his mother, it hit me. In just a few hours, while I would be comfortably sitting on my deck in the sunshine, or walking one of the dogs and relaxing, he would get up in the dark at 2 AM, leave his home to head for Rome, and from there fly into the unknown. How many of us could have done the same when we were 15, 16, or 17?
So I would like to start off my own new blog adventure with thanks to the people who have made this all possible:
To our new students — the ones we are supervising this year and the ones who will live with us in our home – welcome!
To the parents who are sending their children off into our care — thank you for your faith in us. We will do our best to guide them.
To the host parents who are opening their homes to the thousands of teenaged exchange students headed this way and to the former host families with whom we have worked — many thanks for sharing your world and life with someone you have met only on paper or through a few awkward emails.
And last — but never, never last! — to our former students, both the ones we’ve supervised and the ones who have lived in our home and who are now members of our own extended family — thank you for being you and always reminding us what it’s all about.
Welcome to the world of high school foreign exchange students, their host families, and their families back home. We’ll be posting throughout the exchange year on issues related to the students’ settling-in process, offer tips on how to help them adjust, and suggest ways to develop a relationship that will hopefully last far longer than the 5 or 10 months that the students live in the U.S. Visit us here on our blog, and join us on the adventure.
–Laura, the Exchange Mom
so glad to find your blog. my daughter is spending this year in Austria on exchange. nice to get the host family perspective!
Great blog Laura, and you’re so right… at 16 or 17, I never would have had the courage to leave my family and friends for a year of “unknown”. These kids are so amazing and thanks for all you do for them!
We haven’t talked at the Zeitgeist Northwest meeting today but I talked to your husband Mark. He mentioned your program. It is great that you are doing this exchange program work.
Hopefully talk to you soon.