We had just moved from Albuquerque, NM to Charlotte, NC in the summer of 2016. I had been a host mom in August 2015 after answering a plea from my friend on Facebook. We had signed up to host another year, a boy from South Korea for the fall of 2016 when we found out Jerome’s transfer to North Carolina went through. We had to bow out of our commitment as we were going to move in the middle of July, way past the deadline for placing exchange students, or so I thought. We couldn’t guarantee we could have an open school district in Charlotte – we didn’t even know where we were going to live until two weeks before we left. When we arrived to Charlotte, I made contact with the single person I knew in North Carolina, a local coordinator I met at ETC’s annual conference that previous February. I was hoping she would give me a job. She did. She let me know we had 4 days before Charlotte’s deadline for applying and there was a spot available at our school. I told her I would look at profiles of students. *Jerome was going to kill me.* I promised that we would take a semester off from hosting because we were so new to Charlotte. I’m a liar.
I got on our database of students and started looking. I found a girl named Louisa, the last semester student. Maybe I could convince Jerome that a semester student wouldn’t be such a big commitment and I could get him on board. He saw right through it, but agreed – after all, Isabel was going to be starting high school where she did not know a single person. Might as well as have an instant friend and someone to go through it with. Louisa, a semester program girl that we would never have chosen under normal circumstances. Seriously. She was into things that Isabel had zero interest in: fashion, make-up, Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars. Worse, she wasn’t into soccer, which was Isabel’s passion. Even worse, when she showed up at the Charlotte airport, she was *vegetarian*, borderline vegan. What?!?!
And “instant friend” does not describe Isabel and Louisa’s relationship. They were impatient with each other, sometimes outright rude. Jerome was going to kill me for sure. We had had it with Louisa, we called our local coordinator to intervene. ETC is exceptional in its training of its local coordinators in mediation and coaching. We reset some expectations; the girls fought, cried, and became sisters. Meanwhile, in the background Louisa started to become a real member of the family (the dog even preferred her over me). We had a million experiences that I don’t have time to write (and you don’t have the patience to read, if you’re even still reading). Louisa left our home after an amazing semester. She left on Isabel’s 15th birthday. It was awful. *It’s true, you can’t love someone more than you miss them.*
We were so lucky just short of two years later, we were able to take Isabel and Xavier with us to Germany and we were hosted by Louisa’s family. We had much better luck than the girls did and immediately clicked with her parents, becoming “instant friends.”
Another year went by and we were able to visit Louisa’s family again in Germany, this time with Isaac. We were hosted again and grew our relationship with Louisa and her family even stronger. We truly love them and I know if we lived closer, her mother and I would be as close as sisters too.
Isabel looks forward to spending part of her summer with Louisa and her family this summer after her high school graduation. It feels so appropriate that their relationship will come full circle, from the first day of high school to the last. I have no doubt that we will be in attendance at Louisa’s wedding, and her at Isabel’s. I hope that her family will come visit Charlotte so we can show them the same hospitality here in the States that they’ve shown us in Germany twice.
– Cassie M. (host mom and regional manager)
(503) 222-9803 in Portland
(877) 222-9803 Toll Free
Fax: (503) 227-7224
1029 SW Washington Street Portland, OR 97205