Top row: Linn (Norway), Sygrit (Netherlands), and
Juliana (Brazil) Bottom row: Rocco (Italy),
Diane, and Xavier (Spain)
We have been hosting exchange students with AFS since 2000. We have always kept in touch with all of our “kids” and talked about getting everyone together. We finally did it this past Christmas and it was the absolute best having five of them under one roof! It was incredible seeing how everyone blended together into one single family—even though they had never met before and were from different parts of the world. It was a joy to see the ways in which they had matured into young adults, and it was also wonderful to see them act as kids once again. Wearing our pajamas, we opened up gifts at midnight on Christmas Eve and sang Christmas carols while sipping on hot chocolate. Each one said it felt like returning home, and we were happy to echo that same feeling of belonging.
We have heard others mention that having children changes your life. While we do not have children of our own, we find it amazing how much we have changed by hosting five foreign exchange students. Being exposed to other cultures, personalities, and habits changed our thinking and perspective on life. We believe it has made both of us better people: more open, understanding, and caring. Through hosting, we’ve learned how quickly acceptance happens, but more than that, how much love is shared from day one.
Of course it was very hard to say goodbye to our “sons and daughters” after they lived with us for a year, but we always knew we’d see each other again. We are so grateful for our Christmas holiday together. Perhaps the next memory will be from one of their weddings, the birth of one of their children, or simply a trip abroad. AFS has enriched our lives in so many ways—we only wish we had done it sooner.
- Diane & Mike Gambill