Meet Christine, she is one of our Global Education Coordinators (GEC’s) who is currently supervising 24 students and is also hosting two male students this academic year. Christine is doing a phenomenal job making sure the students and families are all having an enjoyable year together. Read her story about her families hosting experience, the benefits she has seen so far, and the dynamics of the family and students!
Hosting an international student, or two, is an opportunity for a person or family to grow beyond their comfort zone by welcoming someone into their home who has a cultural mindset opposite from the hosts’ perspective.
Just as there is no “typical” host family, the same holds true for international students; some are quiet, others will enjoy talking for hours, some students will adapt to American cuisine immediately while some may need time to adjust their palettes to the taste of food they are not used to. This has been our experience with two young men we are hosting. One will eat anything we serve him, the other is a bit more discriminating and cooks his own Chinese food when he finds our meals “a little strange”, but he always tries one bite first.
Students also have varying levels of American conversation etiquette. One time, one of our boys watched me prepare sautéed rice. He asked what “saute” meant and I explained. He then told me I was cooking the rice “wrong” and I gently explained doing something different isn’t wrong, it is just different.
He then offered to cook with me so worked together side-by-side and compared dishes afterwards.
Recently, one of our boys offered to help me do dishes and clean up the kitchen. When I thanked him, he said, “it’s no problem, nutrition is absorbed better after eating if you do a mild activity.” We spent 3 hours together in the kitchen doing dishes and drinking tea at the table afterwards.
Our two students are polite and respectful and have bonded with our two teenagers who are ages 14 & 16. Interestingly, they have similar personalities to our teens, one is introverted like our son, the other a talkative extrovert like our daughter. The four of them often play cards for hours on weekends and the noise level of talking and laughing drowns out other conversations in the home but we love it!
They teach each other phrases in both languages, the camaraderie is wonderful to witness.
As a result, our son is socializing more than he used to. When one of our students goes shopping, he always comes home with treats for our children, such as a box of orange chicken from Panda Express and as he hands it to my daughter says, “Remember, this isn’t real Chinese food.” And they laugh.
The biggest challenges we have experienced have been normal routine expectations that any household must understand; leaving on time for school, cleaning up after one’s self, proper bedtimes and privacy expectations.
Hosting has given me on-the-job experience as a Global Education Coordinator (GEC) that no amount of handbook training could have done! By hosting, I am able to relate to a host family when they call and ask questions such as, “how can I encourage my student more effectively to clean their room”, or “how can I properly address their need to take a shower” or “I’d like it if they participated with our family more.” Not only am I able to share professional opinions and guidance but we can relate as fellow hosts who share the common joy of guiding a young person through their late adolescent years. As independent as they are, they still want relationships and mentorship from older adults. They might be shy at first and seem stand-offish, but most of them do warm up, let their guard down and integrate into the host family with time.
A group of us hosts are keeping boys that are friends so we had a big BBQ to get to know each other and share what we have learned so far. By hearing what works for others it allows each of us to fine tune the way we interact with our own students and learn there are other ways of parenting and hosting.
Attending high school in America for these students might seem like a small part of their lives right now. As a GEC, when I meet with each student, I ask them to please make the most of this opportunity- living with an American family while going to school. They will never get this chance again, make the most of it.
They are bright, intelligent young people with unique personalities.
I remind them, when necessary, to please share themselves with their hosts by means of communication and stories; who they are, where they are from and invest in getting to know the wonderful family that has taken them in to their home and family.