Oh, The Places You’ll Go…

by Josh and Marianne Paddock, Host Parents/Colorado Springs, CO

Let me begin my saying, it was meant to be. Although we did not intend to host an exchange student since we already have 4 kids (one daughter who is 22 & three sons ages 20,16, &13) and 4 fur babies; we just thought how could we fit in another child in our constantly chaotic home?! Well, we did and it all started when I was browsing on a networking page where I stumbled upon a post about a boy from Korea looking for a host family. I showed the post to my husband who happened to be a retired Korean linguist in the US Marine Corps. when he was young, he too was as an exchange student in beautiful Norway and he had an amazing time. We thought, how nice would it be to share that experience this wonderful child named Sae Young. Here’s the best part, he didn’t mind a hectic household with crazy Golden Retrievers and even had this crazy request that he wanted siblings considering he is an only child with a pet hedgehog.

Little did we know the experience will create a HUGE impact to all of us. Just a perfect peg in a round hole! He fit right in as if he was ours. He immediately warmed up to our lifestyle and even the way we communicate which is full of puns, sarcasm, and jokes. Sae and our younger boys have so much in common in their preferred sports, their food preferences (I am Filipino so yes, there is always cooked rice in my household ), the music they listen to, and much more. He witnessed the election and the Denver Broncos winning the Super Bowl. He even sang Karaoke with us! Sae learned American slangs and has become like his silly host brothers. He went from bowing and hands together to begging for hugs, from being quiet to throwing punch lines, and even giving gag gifts.

We created wonderful memories at home and traveled 15 states with Sae that we hope he will never ever forget. We developed a lasting friendship with Sae and his family that we continue to stay in touch to this day. One year seems a long time. I suggest not paying attention to it. Instead, live your lives as it is and have fun with the experience. I am teary-eyed just remembering the day he left to go back to Korea. It was harder than we thought it would be for us and Sae. We are thankful he chose us and we will hold on to those memories forever.

I will Remember You
By: Becky Ziegler, Host Mom, AZ
Have you ever had that feeling that something was missing from your life? Or, do you have a little extra time on your hands each day and you don’t know what to do with it?  Maybe you are like me and think if only my spare room had a purpose.  If any of these statements ring true for you then I think you need an exchange student, or two.????  I feel like a career host mom who can’t turn away a student in need of a home.  When I get that call asking to help bring a student to the US  I hear that Sarah McLachlan song in that commercial that pulls at your heart strings and I immediately say yes.  I am currently “helping” two students… Anri from Japan and Vivian from Germany. They couldn’t be more different from each other and from my own kids, but we live in perfect harmony.  And for that, I am thankful, especially for their parents.  Every day I think about calling Anri’s parents to thank them for raising someone so respectful, helpful and happy, but unfortunately, I don’t speak Japanese.  Vivian is independent and free, and fun.  Her mother has done an excellent job instilling confidence in her and teaching her the importance of building and maintaining good relationships.  But, what I’m really here to tell you is, they are “helping” me as much as I am “helping” them.  I’ve got a car full of kids singing, laughing, sleeping (Anri), snap chatting, and speaking with enthusiasm about their day.  I’ve got a house full of Athletes (which I love) who put in 100% effort at practices and games while managing homework and good grades.  My daughter has what she’s always wanted, a sister, make that a sorority! I get to be their forever host mom and hopefully leave them with a positive experience of what it’s like to be a mom in America who has a career, opens her home to others, and has fun. I have four kids!  I bought a bigger car, I spend more on groceries, and I go to a lot of games, but this is us!  My husband and my son were reluctant to take in two students, after all, living with four girls sounds a little frightening.  As predicted, we are now a happy family of 6.  My son always has someone to watch a movie with or play basketball with and my husband gets to hear all of the crazy teen stories when he picks up the girls from school.  I don’t know if it was fate, or if my coordinator is just good at finding me the best students, if it all happened to teach me a lesson about enjoying the little things and enjoying people, or if it was just crazy luck that I ended up here.  But, I definitely came out the winner.  Be like me and host an exchange student.  In return, you may find your peace, love, and joy.

 

Our Hosting Story
By: Cassie Marez, Host Family & Field Manager, NC
We are the Marez family, two parents, one dog, and 5 children!  We learned about hosting through a friend who posted about the need for host families on Facebook.  One of my close friends from my junior year in high school was a German foreign exchange student and I was immediately excited about the opportunity.  Although my husband thought I might be crazy, we love having a house full of kids, so we jumped in with 9 days left to find families for our school district.  We ended up choosing a German son named Lukas.  We couldn’t really tell it by his application, or he by ours, but he ended up being a perfect fit with our family.  His sense of humor fit right in with our family’s and he brought a new sense of adventure to our home.  We were stuck in the monotony of day to day life, soccer and water polo practice, scout meetings, PTA meetings, work etc.  Lukas coming into our home opened our eyes to appreciate little things we took for granted about being American and about living in what we thought was a boring city.  When he left back to home in June that following year, we definitely felt a piece missing from our family.  We thought we never could “replace” him and were hesitant to host again.  It would never be that good again, right? We felt like we were pressing our luck. We ended up relocating from Albuquerque, NM to Charlotte, NC that summer and was contacted about the need from ETC again.  Charlotte was one of the places that it was easy for semester students to attend school and there was a semester German girl who needed a host family.  We thought we would play it safe with a six-month commitment (we ended up wishing it was a full year) and decided to go forward with Louisa.  We took the plunge again and somehow hit the jackpot twice in a row.  Although she fit with our family perfectly, it was in a very different way than Lukas did.  And yet, her differences are what made it great. Louisa didn’t, in fact, replace Lukas, she just added on to our international family. After that we were hooked and have now hosted another girl, an Italian named Francesca.  Again, a perfect fit for our family, just in a different way. And just like our own children, whom we love equally but in very different ways, we have learned to love these children as our own. Hosting has been a blessing to our family and something I can’t recommend highly enough!  We have learned about Germany, Italy, and several other countries by being a part of this ETC community.  But most importantly, we have learned about love! #etchostfamily