Congratulations to the 2018 AFS Reel Life Winners: The Lounibos Family, who will be reuniting with their host daughter, Lison, for a trip to Orlando, Florida! If you haven’t seen their video, check it out here.

At first, Jenny and Tim Lounibos had their concerns about their ability to host an exchange student. Jenny was starting graduate school and they worried they wouldn’t be able to juggle all their commitments.

But then, they got to thinking: “My grad school program is only two years and if we waited until after, our oldest daughter Heeli would be in college. We wanted to host while she was still here, so she could have this experience. So I talked to my husband Tim about it and we decided, let’s just jump in and do it! And we’ll do the best we can.”

“We decided to focus on all the wonderful aspects of sharing your life with another person, another child,” Tim said.

What blossomed as a result was a life-changing experience for both the Lounibos family and their host daughter, Lison. “In terms of feeling like Lison was our daughter, it started from day one. This changed our lives,” said Tim.

Lison integrated seamlessly into their lives and became a close sister to both Heeli and Spencer, her little brother. Their most cherished memories with Lison include the day-to-day moments like eating breakfast together, watching TV, and sharing inside jokes. According to Spencer, “I just really like how Lison is.”

Tim compares the experience of hosting an exchange student to opening the doors of a new, exciting room of your home. “It’s sort of like living in your house and knowing your bedroom and knowing everything about it, until all of a sudden, you open your door and discover another room with so many wonderful, amazing things and you’re like, ‘Wow. Now I want to see the whole house.’”

When asked why they feel cultural exchange is important, Heeli stated, “Opening yourself to other people fosters understanding, which fosters respect and love. The world could use more of that.”

Her dad, Tim, shared a similar sentiment: “We are universal creatures. The more people that host exchange students, the more we can spread friendliness among everyone.”

It’s clear to see why the Lounibos Family said “Yes!” to hosting. If you’re inspired by their amazing story, click here to get started on becoming a host family!