The following article was contributed by Terri, a Local Coordinator from New York reflecting with great pride on the accomplishments of a beloved host daughter — and her family’s joy in sharing life’s ‘little moments’ through AYA exchange.
Sometimes, the best moments with an exchange family member are not at the historical monuments, amusement parks or within a bustling city.
Our fourth exchange student was a girl from Russia. Anyone who knows my family, knows how much we love “our Guzel.”
Guzel was one of the hardest working students I have ever known. She stayed up to the wee hours in the morning to finish her assignments, translating English to Russian, figuring it out, and translating it back to English. There was no telling Guzel that she needed to give herself a break. She was really determined. Her excellent grades were a testament to that.
She also has a heart of gold, looking out for the other exchange students and caring for her family abroad and her new family here in the States. I watched her and my daughter grow closer and closer. I think of silly moments when the two of them were lying side by side on a twin bed watching Supernatural on the iPad, ready with blankets for censoring the scary parts, or when she would spend hours in the kitchen preparing a special dish, only to declare it wasn’t perfect. (We thought it was delicious!) My favorite expression was when Guzel couldn’t quite find the right word, and she would sigh and say, “ugh, my English is suck!” I still can’t keep a straight face when I think of that.
Ed and I were lucky enough to visit Guzel in Moscow this past November. It was like she never left us, and we picked up right where we left off. Our visas allow us to return within three years, so I am determined to do that. My daughter, Tonery, has put her foot down: we won’t be returning to Russia without her.
When you think of hosting, you may think it is about the big things. It’s not. It’s the little moments that seem to build the strongest bonds. This year we are welcoming two boys from Serbia and Indonesia. And I smile, feeling positive that there will be lots of little things we will share together.
To learn more about how you, like Terri, might welcome an international student into your family to share the ‘little things’ that make cultural exchange so meaningful, please visit Academic Year in America.