You’ll have a new member of your family who will forever be a part of you

You’ll have a new member of your family who will forever be a part of you

“Last year at this time, we were about a week into being a host family for the very first time. It was not at all what I expected it to be. I’m not sure why, but I thought that he’d arrive in our home and we’d all quickly adjust and connect with one another, and it would be all sunshine and rainbows. It wasn’t like that at all!

The first few weeks – even months – are rough! The difference between bringing home a new baby and welcoming an exchange student into your home is roughly 15-17 years. You have to keep in mind that you are bringing a child into your home who has been raised by different parents in a very different culture. Not only are they set in their ways (because it’s all they know), but there is also a language barrier between you as well. Sure, they come with a fairly high-functioning grasp on the English language, but there are so many words and phrases that we use that simply aren’t taught in English-speaking courses. It wasn’t until Thi arrived and I was met with so many blank stares that I realized that we use idioms, metaphors, and oxymorons quite often in our conversations!

I have to admit, I got frustrated. I felt like I had to explain the same simple concepts over and over again. Things like “we have to pay for our water so you can’t be in the shower for a half an hour” and “you have to get on the bus each day after school” seemed like simple concepts to me, but quite alien to him. I don’t know how many times I got a call to come pick him up at school! Often it seemed like he didn’t realize there were other people in the family who needed the bathroom or who needed my attention as a mom. There were times I thought I’d have to give up and ask our ICES representative to find him a new family.

But, we stuck it out. And I’m so glad we did. About two months in, Thi went on his senior class trip to Washington DC. I missed him while he was gone and it was then that I realized that this was all going to work out just fine! By June, when it was time for him to go home, we were all quite sad and knew there would be a hole left in our home and family.

I’d encourage each new host family to go into this year with an open mind and an open heart. You will get through the frustrations and the hurdles even though it doesn’t seem like it at first. Try to dwell on the positives rather than the negatives during that time. And, when it’s all said and done, you’ll have a new member of your family who will forever be a part of you.”

Heidi Strawser
ICES host mom in McAlisterville, Pennsylvania
hosted Thi from Vietnam

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