BECOMING (HOST) PARENTS: PRE-EXCHANGE IMPRESSIONS

 

Hosting an exchange student was something that I have wanted to do forever. My grandparents hosted Japanese college students for years, and growing up, I was surrounded by aupairs, many of whom I still regularly communicate with, and think of as a sort of older sister figure.

So, when Chris and I got engaged, we discussed the idea of hosting an exchange student. And then obviously we started our journey with IVF, and the idea was put on the backburner. And then, as we started the process of renovating our house and our frozen embryo transfer failed, I wondered what we were waiting for. I mentioned considering it again to Chris, and surprisingly, he jumped right on board.

Luckily, I had a friend who already was hosting a student, and I was connected with her organization. We went through ETC Student Exchange, and have had a wonderful experience so far.

How it Worked:

We filled out a whole lot of applications, forms, background checks. They wanted to confirm that we made enough money to support our family comfortably, were going to treat our student with respect, love, and kindness, and also that we had a support system in place for welcoming a teenager into our home.

We also had a home interview where we answered some more questions in person.

Finally, after all that, we were given the profiles of students! Immediately, one particular girl jumped out. I had hoped to host a female student (okay, so I kind of wanted to decorate a room for a teenage girl, but also, I thought we would connect on a more meaningful level), and also for a student from Germany. After reading her profile and letter, we just knew she was right for us.

After some more approvals and back and forth, we were confirmed! Three days later, we sent our first email to Lili, and to her mother. I was so impatient waiting for that reply email! When we got it, it confirmed for us what we had previously known – Lili and her family were everything we could have wanted.

My Goals for Hosting:

Goal #1: Lifelong Relationships. In the 12-day wait after our second Frozen Embryo Transfer, Lili’s lovely emails and the growing relationship we had with her and her family got me through. The daily letters would brighten my day and give me something to look forward to. We have been communicating with them for just over two weeks, and already, they feel like we have known them forever. I would love for this relationship to continue to grow, and so we always have a family and friends in Germany.

Goal #2: Travel, explore, and adventure. We love an excuse to travel. We also love an excuse to go all out when it comes to holidays and experiences. I cannot wait to experience a Christmas morning with our “daughter”, a birthday, a Thanksgiving dinner. I cannot wait to make those memories.

Goal #3: Be a truly wonderful parent to a truly wonderful girl! With no babies of our own, an exchange student is a perfect excuse for me to spoil someone (just a little!) Decorating a teenagers bedroom, picking out furniture, and deciding what artwork goes where has already brought me so much joy.

Goal #4: Experience, create, and bring joy.

Parenthood so far has not worked out for us in the traditional route. The stress was tiring, overwhelming, and sometimes downright debilitating. At some point, IVF had become everything we focused on, and the only thing we did. When we decided to host, partially we decided that wasn’t going to be our lives anymore. Although we continue on our IVF journey, it is no longer our sole journey. And that in itself is comforting and wonderful.

Deciding to host an exchange student is obviously a big deal. After all, you are letting a teenager into your house for a whole year! But, we are more confident in this decision now than ever. I cannot wait for what this year brings. I can’t wait to be a “parent”, and experience something I’ve wanted to do almost all my life!

 

3 months later…

Lili has been with our family for 3 months and it has been so interesting to watch the world through fresh eyes. Having Lili here is like seeing everything for the first time again – the pumpkin patch, the hay ride, halloween decorations and Jack-O-Lanterns. She has taught me the art of appreciating things I had long found to be everyday. Although there are many parts of this experience that I love – I think I can definitely say that watching these moments will always be my favorite. It is the most simple kind of wonder. 

Article written by Inara (current ETC host mom and blogger)

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