Leroy, a host father from South Carolina advises: If you want to liven up and enrich your home, host an exchange student. He and his family in South Carolina welcomed a student for the spring semester from Malaysia and then another from Indonesia in the fall. He shares their personal experience on how hosting an exchange student is a wonderful, life-changing experience.
My wife and I were nearing retirement and the last thing on our minds was having someone come live in our home. All of that changed with one phone call from a friend on a Sunday afternoon in January.
Our friend asked if we would be interested in hosting a foreign exchange student for the 2nd semester of the school year. My wife took the call and asked me what I thought about hosting a foreign exchange student. She looked at me and I looked at her and we said “yes” without so much as a thought of what we were committing to.
We had no idea how our home and lives would be changed and blessed by that decision. Not shortly afterwards, we welcomed a student from Malaysia, Ashvin (Ash) into our home for the academic year.
Ash was a very cheerful outgoing young man. He quickly became involved in school activities such as working in the Guidance Office and the Golf Team and offered hours of volunteer service with the American Red Cross. He also got involved with the Youth Group at our church. He was a take-charge type of guy and quickly won the hearts and respect of all who met him, exhibiting a maturity and wisdom beyond his 18 years.
June is the month when most students return home and it was also time for Ash to return to his home country. It was as if our son was leaving home. But a relationship to last a lifetime had been established and Ash still stays in touch with his American “Mama & Papa”.
Since returning home, Ash has been very active in his community. He has started University where he is involved with the Debate Team as well as being elected Vice President of the YES Alumni organization in Malaysia. We are so proud of our host son!
They thought their exchange student phase was over when Ash returned home. Little did they know, there was someone else on the horizon waiting to share their life and culture with them from Indonesia.
In August, we received a call from the community’s Local Coordinator asking if we could take a student for a couple of weeks, as a ‘Welcome Family’ until they arranged a Host Family for the year. We agreed since we had made it clear that we only wanted to welcome for a few weeks. We soon realized that after our few weeks with her we didn’t want to let her go.
We drove to our Local Coordinator’s home and met the most beautiful young lady, Yurike from Indonesia. This spiked our interest because we have a daughter who was involved in Missionary work in Surabaya, about 30 minutes-drive from Yurike’s home in Indonesia.
During the next 2 weeks, this young lady stole the hearts of me and my wife, as well as everyone who met her.
Yurike quickly became involved in school activities, working in the Guidance Office, joining the Chorus and the Leo Club, the community service oriented youth organization sponsored by the Lions International Club. She served many community service hours with the club as well as volunteering around our church, helping out in our nursery during services and serving on the Greeters Committee Her warm and cheerful smile melts the hearts of our people when she welcomes them to our services.
Yurike got an extra special treat by being invited by another student, whose host father works at the Canaveral Space Center, to tour the NASA base where our Space Shuttle launches take place. She will certainly have stories about that to carry back to her native country. I am so jealous because most Americans don’t even get to do that.
Ash and Yurike both experienced the joy of relaxing in front of a fire during a cool evening in our home, activities meeting new people in the community and opened up their culture to share with us.
We have been truly blessed to have the opportunity to host 2 of the most special students in our home. This has been a learning experience for them but it has been a much greater learning experience for my wife and me. We tell our friends, if they want to liven up and enrich their home, host an exchange student. We will never forget the joy they have brought to our home here in South Carolina.
Thanks Leroy for sharing such a heart warming experience you and your wife had hosting with not just one but two of our students! Interested in hosting this fall? Check out how to become an AYA host family, on our website. Or become a Welcome Family for 4-6 weeks. Contact us to learn more about welcoming a student. Leave your comments below about how hosting a student changed your life!