Recently, a friend of mine asked me how I ever became involved with high school foreign exchange students. She didn’t know me back then and wondered how I started down a path that would lead to hosting over a dozen different teenagers from all over the world (not concurrently, mind you).
Well, the year was 2003. I was very pregnant. We had just moved into a new house and boxes were everywhere. I also had a foster daughter in the 1st grade that we were in the process of adopting. Meanwhile, my husband and I were both working full time and he was taking college courses at night. To say we were busy — would be an understatement.
Through a friend of a friend, typical networking, we found out about a young lady coming to the United States from Russia. At the last minute, her volunteer host family fell apart. It happens. A wonderful woman, named Tanya, was scrambling to find a place for this teenager to stay. I remember telling Tanya that we did indeed have an extra bedroom, but it was filled with boxes and I was very pregnant, still working, etc. However; she didn’t miss a beat. I was willing to open my home so she was willing to help. She literally helped me unpack boxes and get that room ready. She even went with us to the airport to pick up our student upon arrival. That young lady from Russia stayed with us for the school year. She says we changed her life; but I say she changed mine. All in the most wonderful and profound ways.
This experience launched a path in which I had NO idea would evolve into global friendships and even a career. That first exchange student we hosted from Russia was 15 years old back then. Present day she is married with children ~ and we still keep in touch. Meanwhile, Tanya and I have remained good friends and are connected in so many ways. I truly consider her a dear friend and someone I am honored to know.
Working with high school foreign exchange students and volunteer host families is a unique experience that has shaped my life in many ways. Not just mine, but the lives of my children. I even have a video where I interviewed my daughter about what it was like being raised with folks from other countries living in our home. Here is a link to the YouTube video if you are curious: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQu-7obfKIg&t=24s
Meanwhile, here is a photo of us at the airport with our very first foreign exchange student from Russia and my friend Tanya, the local coordinator at the time.
If you or someone you know would like to learn more about what it’s like living with — or working with –teenagers from around the world, please reach out to me. Or visit this link!
As always, make champion choices,
The Healthy Habit Lady
Host Family Referral Form – complete this form and if the family you refer is new to Greenheart and ends up hosting a qualifying student, you will earn a $200 Visa gift card!