What’s With the Signs and Balloons at the Airport? 

 July 29, 2011

By  Laura Kosloff

Tomorrow, July 30th, is arrival day for our first group of students, the “camper kids” – the exchange students who have been at an optional language and culture camp before joining their host families.  The campers come to the U.S. several weeks to a month earlier than non-campers and tomorrow the first group will be leaving their two-week camp to head for their new homes.  Shortly before noon Pacific time, excited and nervous kids will begin to arrive at the Portland airport to start their high school semester or year in this country.  They will be met by people they have never met.  They may not even have spoken to their host families; perhaps the only communication has been an email or two.  Yet these strangers will meet these nervous, hesitant teens with excited happy screams, welcoming balloons or signs, open arms, and the kind of the enthusiasm usually reserved for members of one’s family.

In fact, in a way these teens *are* members of these strangers’ families.  By the stroke of a pen – well, and some required paperwork, of course – these students are now part of their new host families for up to 10 months.  These “stranger” mothers will register their new sons or daughters at high school, make sure they brush their teeth, and worry when they go out at night.  These “stranger” dads will transport them to soccer practice, make sure they eat their vegetables, and take them to a football game.  These “stranger” brothers and sisters will take them around town, show them the local sights, introduce them to the American concept of front-seat rivalry known as “shotgun,” and squabble over who gets the X-box first.

Easy, right? Well…not exactly.  There’s a bit of an untraveled road to discover first, and there may be some potholes along the way.  But there’s fun and excitement in that road of discovery, and an unparalleled opportunity to share one’s life and culture.  Let’s get to it! The 2011-2012 year begins!

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