For Academic Year in America (AYA) exchange students Khaled from Saudi Arabia and Batoor from Pakistan, spending a year in New York with the Stankiewicz family was the best experience they could have asked for when they signed up for an exchange year.
This wonderful family volunteered to double-host these two YES program students, providing them both with a lively, exciting year that they’ll never forget. From sharing in their holiday traditions to exploring Myrtle Beach on a family vacation, the Stankiewicz family treated their exchange students as true members of their brood. Read on for a first-hand account of Khaled’s and Batoor’s experiences!
Khaled from Saudi Arabia shares his wonderful cultural exchange experience with the Stankiewicz family:
“[The Stankiewicz family is] the best host family an exchange student could ask for: I remember the last week before my departure to the US and becoming an exchange student, I was terrified and excited; it was this weird combination of happiness, excitement and fear. I was going away from my family to the first time ever for a long time to somewhere I’ve only seen in the movies and TV shows, but everything seemed and felt better when I got the first text from my host mom (whom I call now ‘mommy’) checking on me. She told me me what I need to bring from home and taught me about the place where I was going to live. We talked for hours and hours. I just couldn’t stop talking because she made me feel comfortable, and I started to become more and more excited to go and see my second family.
When I first arrived at Elmira, my second family met me with a huge group hug and a sign welcoming me. They even wrote ‘welcome home’ in Arabic! From that moment I just knew this year is going to be the best year of my whole life, and indeed it is. I could never thank my host mom and my host dad enough. They helped me all the time and they’ve been always there for me. Before I got here I told my host mom I’m terrified of dogs, but guess what? Now, I live with 3 amazing and lovely dogs and I cannot thank them enough for helping me get over my fear and discover how amazing dogs are! And for the first time ever in my life, I got to experience the joy and happiness of Christmas with my second family by decorating the whole house, then waking up to open the gifts and eat together and just spend a quality family time.
My amazing host brother is my ‘brother from another mother’. Since my first day here we just connected so fast and had lots of fun. He taught me everything about high schools in America and how to make friends. He taught me about basketball and baseball. Thank you, Elijah, for being the greatest host brother. [My host grandfather] Papa is one of the funniest and kindest people I’ve ever met. He always takes me to new places and takes me out for food whenever I’m in a bad mood. Papa reminds me a lot like my real grandpa, and I love him to death.
This is my second home and my second country. I’m thankful for every minute I got to spend with this phenomenal family, and I’ll never forget this year because of them. I’ll remember every time they came to my games just for me no matter what time was it was, gave me late night rides back from practice and games, took care of me and babied me. Thank you so much, Rich and Mallorey!”
Batoor from Pakistan also had an amazing year with the Stankiewicz family:
“Before I started my exchange year, I thought I would just live with a random ‘family,’ and after my exchange year they wouldn’t matter and I wouldn’t be attached to them, but now, nine months later I’m so attached to them it’s scary. My host family is the best host family in the whole program, and when I say this, I mean it. Ever since day one, I have never missed home. This might sound selfish, but it’s a fact because my host family has included me in so many activities and so much stuff that I never get time to miss home.
I have a little host sister who is five years old. I love her to the moon and back, and she’s like my real sister. She cuddles with me and we watch cartoon movies together. She also gave me an Elf DVD I can take with me so I can show my siblings back home. My host brother, who is a day older than me, is like a best friend I can trust with anything. I know I can always rely on him if I ever need a ride or want to go to McDonald’s for breakfast. We went to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, for spring break, and that’s when I realized, ‘I’m gonna miss this goofball when I go home.’ My host grandpa is so old, he’s almost 80! He’s always there to ask me if I ate something, or when I have a flight at 3 am in the morning, he’s the one who not only gets up super early, but also takes me to Dunkin’ Donuts to get a donut and coffee because he knows I love donuts. I love that man so much because in him, I see my own grandparents, who are deceased.
My host dad is a cool friend to me and is always there to make sure nobody is being mean to me or bothering me at school. He also loves spicy food, so I told him I’ll make him spicy chicken biriyani when he visits me in Pakistan. My host mom is as close to me as my real mother. She is my best friend. I tell her everything. She gets me chocolates and corn dogs because she knows they’re my favorite. She is the most caring person I know. They’re the most fun host family any exchange student could ever ask for.”
Clearly, the Stankiewicz family exemplifies the ideals of our cultural exchange program and made quite an impression on these two exchange students! We thank them for showing their exchange students true love, kindness, and generosity—with a heaping dose of fun as well.
Is your family interesting in providing a loving home to one or two international exchange students?