When you host an exchange student, you are making such an incredible impact. Take Fatima, for example, who is a Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Program student from Philippines. She was placed by Academic Year in America (AYA) with her host family in Texas and felt right at home with them immediately.
Read on to learn more about why Fatima has loved her cultural exchange experience in the United States and why she is so glad her host family welcomed her into their heart and home:
“I am hosted in El Paso, Texas. My host mom, Julie, and my host dad, Victor, together with their four kids, welcomed me in their house and made me feel like a real part of their loving family.
It is very emotional for me to write about my host family knowing that I’m leaving them in two weeks. My heart fills with love and appreciation for them, and writing this won’t compensate even half of the love and care they showered me throughout my whole stay with them.
They decided to host me on the last week of October, because I was having a problem with my last host family. I remember the smile on my host mom’s face when she opened the door for me that night when I moved into their house. Right there, I knew that I’m gonna be in good hands. The warmth she had when she hugged me the first time made me feel like I found my mother here in the US. She was so excited to see me, and so I am. Then, I saw Carmelo, my five-year old host brother beside her. He was so shy, but he’s a very sweet kid. I saw Hannah, the oldest sibling, and Victor later that night. They were too excited to see me, too. All my anxieties flew away the moment I met them and had the chance to talk with them in the living room. Hannah and I talked about books and our favorite KPOP groups, while my host parents are in my room setting up the bed. During that week, on Halloween, my other two host sisters came (from their father’s house) around 5pm with their costumes, knocked on my door, and hugged me. They looked so cute, and my first impression to them was that they look like twins. We walked through the neighborhood with our costumes and that’s the first memory I had with them, as a member of their family. That night was the first and most memorable halloween experience for me.
The following two weeks was also when we had a very special family occasion, my host parents’ wedding. They just got married after 7 years of being together and I was so happy to be part of that special moment in my life. I remember smiling too wide when we took a family picture because I felt really blessed for being included in the picture. […]
My mom would call the kids out of their room so we could all gather in the living room and watch movies all night until our eyes get tired or we ran out of good movie ideas.
We would go to our favorite Mexican restaurant and eat my favorite beef tacos after school on Thursdays, because that’s the time when the girls are with their other dad.
On the week of my birthday, Dec 2021, we went to Disneyland Park and California adventure for two days. I never liked scary rides. But those todays are one of the best moments of my life. It wasn’t just the rides, but also the memories we made while we wait on the lines for minutes or even hours. We also went to one of my favorite groups’ concert, BTS. My host mom was supposed to go with the girls but she gave me her ticket for free, because she really wanted to make me happy, and I was the happiest birthday celebrant that could ever exist.
One of my favorite memories with them is when they took me to New Mexico to see the snow for the first time. Before our drive to NM, I was so excited to prepare. We bought my jacket, snow pants, and snow boots. When we got there, I was as happy as a child. I felt like I was the same age as Carmelo. My host parents took a lot of pictures of me too and I think that’s really wholesome. We also did snowboarding on a different weekend and I had the best moment of my life with s’mores.
My host family has always been supportive to me with tennis. They bought me new tennis shoes, bags, and shoes, which I believe exceeded the price of my incidental allowance. But they did not care, because they said all they want is the best for me and what makes me happy. Mom was there to watch my championship game in the tennis, and I won! I got the championship title for Canutillo and she said that she’s so proud of me for being her daughter. I was really happy to make her proud and happy that day, also because Hannah, my host sister, got accepted in National Honor Society.
My host parents provided me a lot of emotional support, from the moment I stepped inside their house up to now. My mom would always hug me before going to bed, and whenever she feels like I need it. My dad would always ask me how I’m doing and how I feel. I would always talk to them when I need to talk about my personal problems.
They are always there to listen and they never fail to say the words that I need to hear. They motivate and encourage me everyday to make good choices. They are the emotional backbone of my exchange year. And all of those little things, I hold them very dear to me […], and right here, with my host parents’ gestures, I feel like I’m much loved.
I also have the best host siblings in the world. Hannah, Lauren, Miranda, and Carmelo are great kids. They all became my best friends. I always wished for a sister, and AYA gave me three, plus an extra cute little brother. Everything that they do makes our home the way it is and I am glad that I got to be part of it.
‘You like living here, right, Jade?’ my host mom always asks me as a joke when everyone gets crazy loud in the house, in the car, or in a restaurant. I always laugh in response, but the truth is, yes, I do. I love living with them. If I’m gonna follow what my heart wants, I’ll live with them for the rest of my life, but I can’t do that to my real family. We all know that I have to come back to my home country and do my responsibilities as an eldest child and an alumni of the program. I can’t just choose where I’d be the happiest because that means I have to forgot about other things, so then I’ll just have to continue finding happiness wherever I go. […]
My exchange year is the best year in my whole existence and that’s because I lived with the Hernandez family.”
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