Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Adding to the family

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Meet Emily, our soon to be daughter/ exchange student for 10-11 months.  Emily gets here in just over a month and we are SO excited to meet her in person!

I’m not quite sure where I got the idea to look in to hosting a foreign exchange student, but some time earlier this summer, the idea popped in to my head.  It probably has a lot to do with us missing the culture of living in Europe and if we can’t live over there and expose our kids to different cultures that way, the next best way is to bring different cultures to us!  So that’s what we’re doing.

Honestly, the whole time I was going through this process of applying to be a host family I was still on the fence about it.  My family hosted LOTS of people – kids, adults and everything in between – from all over the place (Japan, Russia, Germany, etc) when I was growing up, but they were always for shorter periods of time, usually a few days to maybe a few weeks.  Mark’s family hosted a high school student from Spain when he was 7 years old and we actually went and stayed with Mercedes in Madrid when we visited Spain in 2008.  So neither of us is new to the experience of hosting, but it is different when your parents are hosting versus you being the hosts.  Mark and I talked it over a few times, pretty casually, and we were interested in getting more info on it, but weren’t 100% convinced that we had the time and energy to devote to hosting a student.

I put a message out on FB to see if anyone had any experience with hosting a student and we got some good and positive feedback from that.  Everyone that responded had said that it was a great experience for them.  Mark was actually the one that was convinced first and thought we should do it.  We went through the application process of filing out a bunch of paperwork and giving references and then had to do an in-home interview with an Ayusa (the program we found Emily through) rep.  At this point I still wasn’t 100% convinced so I asked the rep a lot of questions to try to get a better handle on what we would be in for.  After the meeting with the rep we were approved and could start looking at student profiles and I think it was at that time that I really got excited about hosting. 

We looked through TONS of profiles for the students.  We knew we wanted a girl with similar interests to ours and originally we were thinking we wanted a girl from Germany since Mark speaks a little German and studied there for a year.  However, I looked at girl’s profiles from all over Western Europe, which is how I came across Emily.  One of my biggest reservations about hosting was having such an age difference between our kids and the student.  I wasn’t sure high schoolers would be okay with having two little ones as siblings, so when I saw in Emily’s profile that she loved kids and wants to teach little ones some day, I knew she would be a good fit.

So Emily is 16 years old and she’s from The Netherlands.  She loves to dance and ride horses, along with riding bikes and cooking.  She has a twin sister and Emily seems very social and energetic.  The people that interviewed her for the program said she is very friendly and happy.  She said she likes to talk, which is great, because so do I.  We have been emailing her for a few weeks now and every email we get just makes us more and more excited to meet her in person.

I’ve also been in contact with her mom, Ilse, a bit.  I am sad for her family, her mom especially, since I know exactly how I’d feel if I was saying goodbye to my own daughter for 11 months.  And it’s got to be extra scary for them since they really don’t know us at all and they’ve never been to AZ.  They have seen my blog and our FB pages, and I think those are a pretty good representation of who we are, but I still couldn’t imagine shipping my daughter to a foreign country for almost a year at 16 years old by herself.  So I am sad and nervous for Emily’s family but I’m so happy for them too, because I know we’ll take good care of her and do everything we can to make sure her time in the USA is as enjoyable as possible.  I’ve been busy getting our guest room turned in to Emily’s room by repainting it and refinishing furniture.  We bought a desk off of Craigslist that we are going to fix up and refinish for her and I think it’ll look great when it’s all said and done and I hope she’ll like it.

So in a month, we will be a family of five and we couldn’t be more excited about it!  Abbie keeps asking when her big sister is going to get here.  =)

6 comments:

Anna said...

Oh wow! I thought maybe you were going to say a pet or something!

Hope everything goes well with your new addition! Lucky for you she is already potty trained! ;)

J.A. This is our Life... said...

And here I thought you were buying a horse!

J.A. This is our Life... said...

And here I thought you were buying a horse!

Elsbit said...

We look forward to meeting her! :)

Snakeye W said...

Just remember not to tell Emily's mom about the manual chores involved: scrubbing toilets, doing all the laundry, and digging holes in the backyard for all the dead bodies you have stashed away in your garage...

Christy said...

When I was in high school my parents hosted exchange students. We had a boy first, from Brazil and he was like a brother. We then got a girl from Switzerland and she was terrible. She lied and it got to a point that she was moved to a new home, with a family from South West Germany, so her favorite excuse would not work with them, "I didn't understand" since they spoke the same language! (Didn't realizing being told NO, you may not go to the college town with the girl you met at WalMart to party" was hard to understand). Then we got another girl, from Brazil and she was fantastic and like a sister. After I went to college my parents got one more girl, also from Brazil. We all loved her, although my parents felt terrible since I was in college and my brother was at basic training so no one her age or close at home.
We will one day host exchange students, but we want them to be closer to our kids ages, so I'm thinking when our son is high school age, we'll get a boy around his age, and continue that every 2 or 3 years so as each of our kids get older they can experience that, plus I just feel that the exchange student gets so much from having "siblings" close to their age vs a large age gap. That's just our preference, what works for one family and what they're comfortable with doesn't for other families. Either way, it's a wonderful experience when the exchange student and host family fit nicely.
When I was a freshman in college we went to Brazil and visited our first 2 successful siblings (we hadn't gotten the 3rd from Brazil). When I got married our 3rd/2nd successful one, her sister was an exchange student in Wisconsin and she came down for my wedding! When I had my first baby, our 1st student's youngest sister came to visit and meet Jordyn. When Jordyn was having her bone marrow transplant our 2nd successful came and spent a week with me. Our first one's brother was also an exchange student and came to visit our family, and last year our 2nd successful came with her little boy and visited my parents.
So although it's been 20 years since my parents opened our home to the first one, we are all still in contact and although the one did not work out, the other 3 were wonderful and amazing and we love them all.