Like some AYA exchange students, Karolina from Austria began her stay in the United States with a “welcome family” — or a family who hosts for about 4-6 weeks to provide a warm introduction to the community, before the student moves to his or her permanent home. As fate would have it, she met her permanent host family through her welcome family and had a life-changing exchange year because of it. Karolina loved them so much that she nominated them for our Host Family of the Year awards, and they were named a runner-up. Read on to learn more:
My host family is already Host Family of the Year in my heart because they are like no other host family I have met during my exchange year. And I got to meet a bunch.
Here is why: In late August 2019 I arrived in Sandpoint, Idaho not knowing what was really ahead of me. To be honest, I was kind of scared. I got put into a “Welcome Family” and soon they told me that they did not even plan on having an exchange student this year. That made me feel very insecure, but that did not last long. My welcome family always had a lot of family visiting in the summer… I was surrounded by a whole lot of new faces and people that I have never met before, but there was this one family. It was my host dad’s son’s family and I immediately felt a connection to them. We just got along very well and I loved playing with their kids.
I think it was one week after I arrived in Sandpoint when the kids ran over to me and asked me if I wanted to come live with them in their new house. At first, I thought it was a joke, something that kids would say to show how much they like you, but soon their mom asked me the same thing and then everything happened super fast. I did not even really have to think about the offer because I just knew it was the right thing to do! Not only I would live closer to my high school, but I would also have two younger siblings, which I never had before. Just a few days after that, I moved into a new house with a new family that finally seemed like the perfect fit.
From the beginning to the end I never took anything for granted. It does not happen every day that a family falls in love with a foreign exchange student and opens up their home and hearts for her within a few days after meeting her for the first time, but the Kee Family did and it was the best thing that has ever happened to me.
From the beginning on everything felt right, I felt like an actual family member and I felt loved by all of them. I got to be a big sister for the first time in my life and there is nothing that I loved more than that. I never had to be a role model for smaller siblings before but I think I did a good job and I grew into it 😉 This family is so special because we never argued or had fights, we just got along so good and always had fun. Sometimes, I got annoyed by my host siblings but that is what happens in every family. What matters the most is the times we sat together and just talked, had a family dinner, baked a cake, or just played games. We had the craziest ideas that not always turned out the best but we always had fun.
The thing that I value the most is that my host mom treated me like her own child, we had the best mother-daughter conversations you could imagine and we always had fun and laughed together. Sometimes we even cried. I could tell her everything and she was like a best friend. Our relationship was just real and honest… I am so thankful that I got to experience being part of a family that is not of my blood and forever going to be a part of them. It was an experience that I just can not put into words, and now, as I am writing this, I am in tears and so sad to be that far away from the people that I call my second family. I can not explain how grateful I am for all the adventures we had together, all the places we have traveled to and all the things we have done in the last year. It will always be the time of my life and the best year I have ever had.
The Kee family deserves to be Host Family of the Year because they are the most genuine, lovable, fun and crazy family that I have ever met and I love them just as my own family. They took me in and will keep me forever as a part of them which means so much. I love and miss them so much!