AFS/YES Abroad exchange student, Carly, during her study abroad year in Indonesia.
Hosting an AFS exchange student from Germany has been one of the best experiences for my family, and particularly for me.
My parents were hesitant when I first suggested hosting. They only agreed to it on the condition that we would be a Welcome Family, which means you host for just a few weeks before the student moves to a permanent family.
But of course, my family fell in love with Fionn (something I had totally predicted!). After only a few weeks, our house began to feel empty when he wasn’t around, and something seemed amiss if he wasn’t at the dinner table. You can probably guess what happened next…
We officially became Fionn’s permanent host family! That means he’s here for the entire school year, and I get to go through my own cultural transition with a sympathizer by my side.
See, I recently returned from my own study abroad year in Indonesia as an AFS/YES Abroad participant. Readjustment has been difficult, to say the least. My exchange experience was life changing in so many ways, and yet so many things back here in America haven’t changed at all. On the other hand, many things are different, particularly at school. Plus, there’s the language adjustment…
Switching back to speaking English all the time was pretty strange. Indonesian has a lot of expression and is exciting to speak, whereas English now sounds really monotonous to me. In my head, it’s like there are two different personalities battling, and there are all these things that just don’t translate between the two. Fortunately, this is similar to what Fionn is going through as he transitions from German to English.
If you are a returnee, I definitely recommend hosting. It has made my adjustment back into American culture so much easier having someone to accompany me through it. Plus, it’s a perfect way to give back for the awesome host family you had while abroad.
I once told Fionn that I thought study abroad returnees make the best hosts because they understand what the exchange students are going through. He corrected me by saying that my mom and dad had never gone on exchange but are amazing host parents nonetheless. This was a great point!
Even if you’ve never even been out of the country, you should still consider hosting a student. There is no such thing as THE perfect family, but there are tons of families who would be great for just about every student out there.
Until next time,
More photos of our hosting experience:
Carly was a recipient of the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange & Study (YES) Abroad scholarship, provided by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational & Cultural Affairs.