ETC Host Mom Shares Her Experience Hosting an International Student

It’s never perfect and I would never wish it to be. But it is real and life changing.

To anyone that wants to wait for the perfect moment to host, it will never come. -Michele (ETC host mom and Field Manager)

My story is not the usual one. We really didn’t choose to host. In fact, my husband was vehemently against the idea of having a stranger in our home.  Instead, Sarah (ETC Field Manager) told me that a student was going to need a last minute move only a month before she was supposed to go home. We decided we could manage for a month.That is where our adventure began.

My boys who were 5 and 7 at the time were totally willing and even helped me get our spare room emptied.  When we brought Pum home we were all a little apprehensive. My youngest decided it was the perfect time to get acquainted and began instantly to climb on her and show her how to wrestle. When day two rolled around we started to get into the swing of things and were already starting to function as a family. I’m not going to lie, there was definitely, a learning curve. She was so funny and sweet, and amazing with the kids. She was by no means perfect. She swore that eating a salad would actually kill her. But she was my new workout buddy , the kids swimming buddy and the girl who snuck Oreos. Around week two my husband discovered two things;  he loved hosting and he loved Thai kids.  Even though we only had her for a month she changed our lives forever.  We caught the bug, at this point we saw that for the forseeable future we would be welcoming a new kid into our family.  When she went back to Thailand we all cried but she would video chat with us pretty regularly.  So since it went so well we decided to welcome Erry.  

Host Family

Our first and only boy. He was a handful. We butted heads about curfew and desert rules. But he was also funny and kind.He helped us get outside and be more active. He helped my kids rediscover their love of sports. He taught me a lot about raising teenage boys and I thank him for that. One day he broke curfew, just by a bit. But I thought I had to be strict so I came down on him with the disappointed mom face. As I talked to him in the hallway I noticed that he had shut down. I was going to just send him to his room but instead I reached for him and hugged him. We hugged for a long time, neither of us ready to let go just yet. He wasn’t a hugger so it was big for him. I’m positive that he would say he learned a lot while here as well. With each additional kid our family grew and the dynamics changed.

Hannah, who we always referred to as Banana almost broke me. She was an only child who was used to living a certain way and the chaos of our small child , homeschool life almost drove her crazy. About month two she broke down and said sharing a life with 2 messy little boys might be too much. She cried and I sat in my closet and called Sarah. The boys asked me why Banana was crying and I told them. My oldest quickly got up and started cleaning the shared bathroom. She was touched that he did that for her and then realized that the actual problem was that she hadn’t felt like she was connecting. But his show of compassion for her feelings was a game changer. From that point on we were a new family. Both sides giving more. When Banana got on the plane to go home I cried for 2 days. I swore we would never host again. I got a facetime call when she arrived in Germany from her and her very distraught mother. When Hannah had arrived in Germany she had told her mom that she missed her family and wanted to go home to the U.S. We talked and she calmed down but this was just another example of how close the bonds really are.

I have so many stories and would love to share them but this has turned into a novel. We added 4 more kids after Hannah and have learned so much. With Palm, Alina, Peri and Ana came more life lessons. The biggest one being that hosting at any stage in life is amazing. It’s never perfect and I would never wish it to be. But it is real and life changing. To anyone that wants to wait for the perfect moment to host, it will never come. I have hosted while my kids were really little and every year after that as they grew. I am currently hosting 2 while pregnant and we will be welcoming another one shortly after I give birth. Is it crazy? YES!! But I wouldn’t change it for the world. As an update my totally against hosting husband, now asks me every year if we can pick next years kid yet. I am also lucky enough to work for ETC and essentially I get to bond with other kids that I don’t host as well. My job is incredible, hard, fulfilling and just plain amazing.

We have almost 200 students waiting for a family just like yours! Please consider hosting or sharing your story! *Want to join the ETC team as a Local Coordinator like I did? Just let me know!! PLEASE SHARE!!!



– Michele A. (host mom and field manager)

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