Friday, November 4, 2011

Our host family experience

I mentioned a few weeks ago that we are a host family for an international student attending our local college, and I was asked to share more details about that. If you were to look into a program like this at your local institution, it might look quite different, but here's what it entails for us.

The host family program at our college has been in existence for decades, but this is just our second year participating. Most families who sign up are assigned a student, but in our case, we made a direct request. We were particularly interested in hosting Cristina, because a close friend of ours helped make it possible for Cristina to attend college here. She is from the poorest European country, and it is through generosity and God's grace that she finds herself in small town Iowa!

In the program we are part of, international students live on campus and not with their host families. Our role is to offer friendship and support, as well as a place where she can hang out, do laundry, and eat meals now and then. Because Cristina wasn't bringing much with her due to luggage, we compiled a list of her needs which friends and people in our church graciously helped provide. Eric has assisted her with registering for classes, setting up a bank account, and purchasing textbooks. She has regularly used our computer since we have a webcam and she can Skype with her family. We have had her over for quite a few meals, and we have helped her with an assigned paper on American culture. (Very interesting--she asked lots of questions about our values and beliefs.) On average, I would say we see her 2-3 times a week.

Cristina hopes to be here for four years, so the plan is that we will remain her host family during that time. Our kids love her. She is excellent with children, and she often brings them a little treat, which is a fun surprise for them!

Being a host family for an international student is a unique opportunity. We consider this commitment a part of our desire to show hospitality. If you have additional questions, I would be happy to answer them. Have a good weekend!


Katie said...

What a wonderful program, Carrie. I'm sure your children will remember this sweet friend when they're older, and your act of hospitality will undoubtedly influence their own desire to reach out to others. Inspiring!

Have you made any ethnic meals from her home country for fun? I also am always intrigued to learn of how people from other countries view America. Has she expressed any views that surprised you?

Leah in Iowa said...

I'm sure it's a blessing to both of you!

angie said...

Thank you for going into more details about this program. I plan to find out if something similar exists at the college in our town.
When my children were younger, a young lady from South Korea attended this college and played cello at our church. She was also sometimes our mother's helper. We learned much from her, and I guess she probably learned from our family, too. She has now moved on to a university in TX.

Mom said...

This is a great opportunity for your family to live out your values and beliefs. We were pleased to meet Cristina when we were there. :) Love you, Mom

Kara K said...

Your family is such a blessing to this student, she's so lucky! I would agree to be an exchange student in your household any day! :)