A statement from one of the exchange students in our NW Oregon group this year, as she thinks about returning home in just over a week…..:
“I graduated from an American High School that became my family throughout this year. Many people say I went on a vacation. All of those people are wrong. What I learned is not comparable to what a year of regular Italian school could have taught me. I learned the meaning of setting your mind to a goal and work to reach it, I learned how to be a great leader in the community, I learned to help the others in rough times, I learned that school is not just about grades and studying but also about getting involved and participating, I learned that you don’t need to have expensive bags and shoes to be a cool person. All you need is yourself and a lot of positivity to transmit to people. I learned that is not cool making fun of people, I learned how much joy can give you volunteering and supporting the special ones, I learned that you always have to learn. That was my first big accomplishment and I’m already ready for another new one!”
Being part of this process is part of that intangible thing people gain as a host family. When I think about some of the difficulties this student had — difficulties in adapting, feeling a need to challenge host family rules, host family expectations that may not have been reasonable, conflicts with host sister — it solidifies in my mind what can happen during an academic year and reinforces, to me, the positive changes and growth that can result for both a student and the host family.