In the beginning of September, my family wasn’t just getting ready for a new school year, we were getting ready to welcome a new family member into our home. Clara from Denmark was on her way, and unlike our last exchange student, Clara would be staying all year, rather than for half the year. It was pure excitement when she arrived; after all, we had been messaging her all summer, since we decided to accept her in April. It was good to have that time to get to know her a little bit, so it didn’t feel like we were picking up a total stranger, but the reality is, when you pick them up, you still feel a little like you’re picking up a stranger! There’s always a little bit of an awkward phase, where you’re trying to get to know each other personally, and adjust to each other’s schedules, quirks, and habits. But then things start to relax, and they become their own part of your family. And before you know it, we’re back to April, and you’re realizing that there are only two months left before they go home.
The reality is, they leave. They return to their families in their home countries, and you are left to adjust to life without them, which you think will be easy, but it isn’t. You feel like there’s a hole in your home, and that even though this person has been with you for a year, there’s also a part of you that feels like they’ve always been there.
The leaving is hard, and there’s no way to prepare for it. Currently, we’re laughing about it, and living in denial; I’m joking with Clara that I’m not letting her leave, and we’re saying we’re not going to talk about it. But as it gets closer, and we’re trying to suck up all the time with her that we can, and dividing it with her friends, it’ll get hard.
But then it gets better. You stay in contact with them, and you know that you’ll see them again–if you make the effort. Two years ago, when Pia was with us, we decided then that we wanted to go to Germany the year she graduated high school, and spend time with her and her family there. We’ve scrimped and saved, and planned this for two long years. And now that year is here.
I do know that we’ve been fortunate in the students we’ve had, and that’s been in part in working with Chris Wacholz, the local agent. She offers students based on interests and hobbies, so the families have things in common with the student, rather than just throwing a student into any family that will take them. I also know that not every family’s experience is the same, but in my time here, I’ve seen many more positive stories than not. If you are interested in hosting an exchange student, now is the time to start talking about it–applications are already coming in! Feel free to contact me with any questions! I know we were hesitant at first, but I’m forever grateful that we did, and I know we will again at some point.
June 20th, my children and I will board a plane to go to Germany, and spend time with Pia and her family, and since Denmark isn’t far away, and we’d love to meet Clara’s family (and see her a little bit more before we really have to say goodbye for awhile), we’re going to go to Denmark and stay with her family for awhile too! This is the trip of a lifetime, and it wouldn’t be happening if we hadn’t hosted exchange students. I love the experience of having them here, and adding to your family, but the reality–and the extra bonus–is that even though they leave, they don’t, not really.
Concord Academy Boyne