We have hosted 6 students from Japan, Peru, Mexico (*3), and the USA. We’ve sent 2 of our 4 children to Mexico and the USA. It can be hard work, but like most things in life, the more you put in the more you get out. The benefits of the exchange program far out weigh the effort required. Each of the 6 students were different, for some the language barrier was huge, but it is amazing how laughter can get the message across. For others there were no barriers, a good sense of humour and an attitude to make the most of the opportunity make the distance from host to home seem so very small. Before you know it the 3 weeks are up, and the guest is packing their bags. They have become a true part of the family in the short period of time and parting can be a challenge. For the next 2 weeks you will find underpants, shirts and other articles in places you never expected, little tokens of the wonderful time shared with someone so young.
As parents we send our children off into the big wide world, out of the comfort of the bubble we cocoon them in. The apron strings are cut and their little independence allowed to assert itself. Communication may or may not be frequent, it depends on the teachers and the host family. Some believe no contact is the right thing, for others frequent contact is the way to go – but can have its down side. The internet and social networking allows an overview of the experiences, but the return has to be the best part. For some they didn’t want to leave and can be a challenge on their return, for others the experience was one to be shared with everyone.
I recall the foreign language dictionaries, the laughter, the cultural cringe, the humour, the tears of joy, home sickness, and sadness of the departure, but most of all the friendships made that will endure for a long time to come.