Hosting Stories

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Hosting a Foreign Exchange Student just seems so Natural

Our family's first hosting experience began in January of 2015 with our Italian daughter Vittoria. We had so much fun with her that we could not wait to experience a new, different country, so we applied to host another World Heritage Exchange Student.

As soon as we saw Merna’s profile, we knew she was different, a YES Scholarship Student, and Egyptian. We began to fall in love with our Egyptian daughter right away. We Skyped, and emailed for five months before she arrived in the US. When she got off of that plane, it was almost as if we were finally whole again. 

My husband and I grew up finding other cultures very intriguing, and hosting a foreign Exchange Student just seems so natural for us. We felt it would be a rewarding experience for our children to grow up seeing other cultures and learning to love others as an equal. Our small children are enjoying the experience immensely, learning a new language little by little, and realizing how much the other side of the world is not all that different. 

Merna is funny, smart, loving, helpful, captivating, caring, and a real blessing to our lives. She has taught us all so much. We cannot imagine our lives without our Italian and Egyptian daughters. We do plan to travel to both countries, and we will be sending our children as exchange students to live with our new extended families. 

 I want to thank World Heritage for allowing our family to grow from four children to six children all in one year. We are all elated for this experience of a lifetime and will forever be grateful.

Natasha and Donnie Wofford,World Heritage Host Parents to Merna Garah (Egypt)

We have an Italian Daughter for Life

Being our first time to host, we had no idea what to expect. Although terribly excited about our new venture, we were a little nervous and unsure of how much initial awkwardness or time was needed for everyone to acclimate. From the moment we met Michela at the airport, she removed all hesitation and fears by immediately hugging us all. Having two boys and no daughters in the house was a new experience for us all, yet Michela made it so easy.

She made herself at home from day one, and thus our family transition took no time at all. 
There was not one moment of being uneasy, awkward or holding back.  She quickly joined the 
dance team at her high school and in fact soon became the leader of the team. She received 
“Student of the Month” from her Dance teacher and was a straight A student, she engaged 
many new friends and was very involved with our teenage boys. It was actually quite funny 
to watch two teenage boys, who are laid back, to suddenly have a sister impose her passion for life and everyday sisterly hugs. Michela did not give our boys an option; their new sister was here, and they were going to have to love it. To this day, Michela is still in touch with us and our boys, and we can’t wait for her to come visit again.

Our purpose for hosting was looking to give back and help someone; do something positive. Well we did that, but we as a family received so much more from Michela. We did not expect to learn from her, to become so attached to her, her personality, her upbeat attitude and everyday appreciation for being in the USA.

We had no idea how stagnant or routine, our daily life and household were. When Michela arrived our household became lively and active again. Our experience with Michela really was the best decision we made and we are forever grateful for what we gained.

We truly love her and have a daughter for life!  Thank you World Heritage for such a wonderful experience and for our new Italian family.

Yahnel & Rodney Bishop,World Heritage Host Parents to Michela Mocchi (Italy)

Hosting an Exchange Student is much too Rewarding an Experience to say no to

My husband and I started hosting exchange students in 1995.  We have four children of our own:  a son then almost 15 and three younger daughters.  Our first “daughter” was a darling 16 year old from France.  The kids were so excited for her arrival, painting a huge sign to hang on our garage welcoming Christine into our family. Although she only stayed for the summer, we had a wonderful experience with Christine.

We have since hosted a total of ten exchange students:  three from France, three from Italy, two from Germany, one from Japan, and one from Taiwan.  Almost all of them have returned for follow-up visits (most bringing siblings and parents with them), and several other kids from other host families have also come to stay with us for short visits.

My husband and I have traveled extensively through Italy and France to visit our exchange families and so have two of our daughters.  One family in particular has become our “second family” in Italy, and we have developed an extremely close relationship.  They flew all the way to Manhattan Beach just for the wedding of our daughter, as did one of our other students.

The friendships we have developed would never have happened had it not been for hosting exchange students.  And thanks to the Internet (Facebook in particular), we are in touch with every single one of them on a regular basis; two of our students have made us host-grandparents!  We even have a wall in our home dedicated to our international children.

I can’t say enough good things about hosting.  If an issue arises, as is of course possible due to personality or cultural differences, the World Heritage Area Representative is there instantly to help solve whatever the situation is.  Fortunately for us, we have never really needed much help.  As to whether or not we plan on hosting again, we always think, “No, we’re getting too old and want to travel more.”  Then a knock comes on the door, a phone call comes through, or an email talking about some darling students pops up, and we re-visit the idea.  It is much too rewarding an experience to say no to.  We truly love each and every one of our past students.  When they write to us, Skype with us, or telephone us, they refer to us as “Mom and Dad,” and end each conversation with “I love you and I miss you so much!”

This is why we host exchange students. 

Jennifer and Jeff Wallin,World Heritage Host Family, Manhattan Beach CA

The Most Wonderful Year of My Life!

I am Nuriya Sherzodova, one of the fortunate students who was awarded the U.S. Department of State sponsored FLEX (Future Leaders Exchange) Scholarship and became an exchange student in United States. I have to say, that this is the most wonderful  year of my life! Being from Tajikistan, a Muslim country in Central Asia, I enjoy observing many differences and similarities between our two nations.

We do not celebrate Christmas, Thanksgiving or Halloween in my home country, so I was so excited to celebrate these holidays with my lovely American family Olga Saldarriaga and Jose Cuadra. I especially liked Christmas! We sang Christmas songs, decorated the tree, opened presents and then we had delicious dinner together.

I also really enjoy my school life. I like all my classes, especially drama, Spanish, and intro to guitar. There are a lot of things that I always wanted to do and that I did here for the first time. For example, I am taking journalism at school, and I wrote for the first issue of the BFA school newspaper. Another exciting moment for me was dance performance. I am taking dance classes, and recently we had our first performance. I was little nervous because it was my first time on the stage, but I discovered I like it so much!!

When it comes to community service, I try to be helpful. I am a volunteer at the local hospital. I also was so lucky to participate in operation “Happiness Breakfast”, which was a local charity event. That day I learned that helping and sharing is one of the most important parts of American culture. Now I am planning to become a volunteer at the recreation department and I will continue to volunteer in my home country.

I love to spend time with my family and friends. We visit interesting art galleries, museums and theaters. And of course I had my first McDonald’s experience!!! As a conclusion, I want to say, that I am so lucky to be here and to be surrounded by such a nice people! Thank you so much to my fantastic host family, my World Heritage Area Representative who is always there for me and to the World Heritage Program for making my year unforgettable.

Nuriya Sherzodova,World Heritage FLEX Exchange Student (Tajikistan)

Unexpected Joy

Late summer 2011 my husband and I decided to become a welcome host family to Louis Konstantyner, a 16 year old boy from Denmark who had applied to the World Heritage Student Exchange Programs. The day Louis arrived at Sacramento airport all three of our lives were about to be changed forever.

Within a week, my husband and Louis had bonded, and one night over dinner my husband announced that Louis was a perfect fit for our family and that we were keeping him! There was no way we would share him with another family.

I could write endless stories about the trips we’ve taken and the things we’ve done together.

I call Louis the Golden Boy because everything just seems to work out perfectly for him, but I think it is the ease at which he approaches life that makes his journey seem so smooth and effortless. When I get excited about things he will say “You need to pour cold water in your blood”. - A Danish saying that means “chill out”. We found that very amusing.

There are no words to describe the joy we have had by opening the doors to our home and hearts these past months and giving this wonderful young man an opportunity to live his dream.

If you are thinking about hosting an exchange student, follow your heart and do it.  Our time is now coming to an end and we have to soon say good-bye as Louis leaves our home. He will always live with us here in our hearts, and we are already planning, in the very near future, a trip to Denmark.

Candis Hutchison,World Heritage Host Mother to Louis Konstantryner (Denmark)