Jenny O. and Beth R. were very familiar with foreign exchange and travel– Jenny’s family hosted students three separate times while she was in high school, they’ve lived abroad together, and two of their children are studying abroad in Morocco and France.
However, when Jenny and Beth finally had an empty nest, they weren’t sure about hosting any exchange students: “I have to say we were a little hesitant because we’re not your classic Mom and Dad family. Being a gay family, we thought we weren’t going to be able to do it.” However, AFS welcomes host families of all shapes and sizes.
They also weren’t expecting to have any kids in their house for the year. They had plans to go away for a weekend.
Then, they got two and became a multicultural family.
Their change of heart came from their daughter Molly, who is studying abroad in France through AFS. According to Jenny, “When we went to one of Molly’s orientations, she was looking for a host family, and all our kids were gone, so we said, ‘Why not pick up two kids?’”
Those two kids are Lorenzo from Italy and Nihat from Germany. As a family, they bonded over discussing politics and school: “Lorenzo is funny, funny, funny, so I can’t even remember half of the things he tells us because they’re just outrageously, ridiculously funny.”
The best part of hosting these two boys? “They will have those connections forever.”
In addition to Lorenzo and Nihat, Jenny and Beth are also host parents to two boys from Rwanda attending Dartmouth. They spend most of their time at Dartmouth but live at Beth and Jenny’s on school breaks and holidays. When asked to share some of their favorite hosting memories, Jenny and Beth described Thanksgiving in Cape Cod with all four of their exchange sons:
“I remember our way back from Cape Cod, Lorenzo and Nihat, who are a little bit younger than the guys at Dartmouth, talked about how much they enjoyed hanging out with them. African culture and college culture are very different than anything these guys are familiar with, but they were really listening and really appreciating, and honestly really liking these guys. That’s a really nice connection, four different guys, from four different worlds, all connecting over cards. That’s what brought us all together, just everyday life.”
Ultimately, Jenny and Beth understand the tremendous value of cultural exchange, both for their children and for their community: “I don’t think you can understand your own culture without having exposure to other cultures…it makes life so much more rich. I love having friends all over the world, and I love those connections where friends and family meet each other. I like kids, so it’s another way to bring kids into our lives. There are quite a few kids in our lives.”
When asked for their final thoughts on being host parents to two boys this year, Jenny and Beth did not hesitate to say: “Two is better than one.”