The following is a post from 2010, however it really belongs in my family history blog and worthy of re-posting given that I can look back on this from the fullness of time. A student exchange from another country isn’t as isolating and immersive as it used to be, a decade ago, given that social media allows one to keep in daily, or even instantaneous touch with others across the globe, nevertheless, it is an experience!
Many students come with the idea of an adventure or challenge in mind, some have a goal to see another part of the world through their own eyes, some wish to learn another language, and some to connect with others or find themselves.
Many years ago we hosted an exchange student from Denmark, a wonderful girl who became an integral part of our family. She stayed with us for 11 months and attended the local high school.
In those days, my boys were quite small and prone to making noise in the early morning, such as banging on our old piano…which probably annoyed the hell out of our student, but despite those and other minor issues, the year she spent with us, was such a wonderful experience that I hoped to welcome other students in to our family someday…..
Years later we went to visit her and took our first little trip around Denmark.
For many subsequent years, not having space due to having another child, was really the only thing stopping us from hosting more exchange students. We did have a short term Canadian student, but 2 weeks is not really enough to get to know someone and their culture well.
So an opportunity arose recently, when a student needed to transfer from the country to the city rather quickly, and would be here for another 5 months… and this is where we put our hand up. Now I am a mother to four children again.
Loving Scandinavia, and having a little swedish in my background, welcoming a student from Sverige into our home, seemed just perfect. She has been here a week already and has superbly fitted in to out family nest. We like her a lot and I think she likes our home and family….Having some one from another culture living in your home gives you many opportunities to experience another way of life and learn so many things, both tangible and intangible.
My own son was so taken with stories and pictures of Denmark and danish life that he always planned to travel and be an exchange student himself in either Denmark or Norway. And so it has come full circle. A little of our family and culture has influenced a Norwegian family where my son’s exchange was spent, and now we in turn, are hosting another student… perhaps in time, my youngest child may also be tempted to spend time overseas in another family.
I am sure it is not all plain sailing, though. There can be many challenges for the student and the family. If conflict arises, it has to be resolved otherwise a student may need to change families ( as many of them do) and this in itself, is disruptive and a setback in their process of integration in the community. It is a shame that there are only student exchanges… I myself would love to go on an adult exchange program… wouldn’t that be fun? Not having the confidence or inclination or exposure to do this as a student, where the only overseas destination was America… ( and I was not interested in going there) it seems that it is too late for me. But not for my children.I can thoroughly recommend an exchange experience for anyone or is open minded and likes to learn from other cultures…. you can literally have the world in your living room!
Another lovely girl from Italy came to stay with us for a few weeks, and we took her on holidays with us to the beach. She spent 11 months in a country town, and that was quite difficult for a fashionable girl from Milan. Despite it all, she persevered and stayed seeing the year out. Many times she wanted to quit and go home to Italy or come to stay with us, in the ‘big city, but it was not possible at that time. What strength and resilience she had to continue! I really admired her for that.
We missed all of the girls when it was time for them to return home, and they took a small piece of our heart with them. What an honour we had to raise someone else’s child for a year!
Looking back – their stay with our family was not without conflict: especially with the girls that stayed the longest: the Danish and Swedish girls – it was nothing serious though: sometimes it was with just an issue with them not sticking to rules. Or, sometimes they felt a little down due to squabbles with siblings or school friends. But it was altogether an enriching experience for all of us, and I really think it was for them too.
I really enjoyed bringing the world a little closer!