When Surya, an Academic Year in America (AYA) exchange student from Indonesia on the YES program, arrived in New Mexico for his exchange year, his host father took him under his wing, quickly bonding with him and treating him as a true son. His host father certainly has had the practice—Surya and his host brother, a fellow AYA student, were his host father’s 25th and 26th exchange students! With the support, guidance, and love of the Heisey family, Surya had a fantastic year learning about American culture and experiencing life in this country, from joining the church orchestra (along with his host dad!) to learning to cook and enjoy new foods to taking family vacations to the Grand Canyon and other American landmarks.
Exchange student Surya shares the positive impact his host father had on his exchange year in the United States:
“[My host father] really knows what to do with his exchange students to help them quickly adapt and learn about America culture. I remember the first week in America with him and my double-placement, he told us to get along together and not set boundaries between us because we are a family now even though we are from different countries. It made us be like brothers quickly in the beginning of year. Besides that, he really takes care of me. He checks our grades in school and really pushes us to get As. If we fail a class, he will help us with our difficulties on that lesson. He will go to school and have a talk with the teachers if his exchange students have problems.
My host dad also supports our activities. I joined orchestra class at my local school. If we have a concert, he will come to see me play. We also joined the orchestra at our church. He plays trumpet and I play violin. He never joined the orchestra before, but when I told him that I wanted to join the orchestra at church, he grabbed his trumpet and went with me.
Last but not the least, he is my American dad. He brought me many places in America. We went to the Grand Canyon, White Sands, and Carlsbad. He also brought me to Washington, DC, during Christmas to visit his son and daughters. He made me feel that I have some older siblings that already have families. He and his family brought me to some monuments in DC even though they have gone there before. It was just for me, my host dad told me.
In our daily routine, if I don’t have anything planned at night, we will cook dinner together. I never cooked before, so my host dad taught me. Also, I hated vegetables in the beginning of the year, and he made me eat them. Now, I like to eat vegetables every day. Kinda silly, but it is true. After dinner, we will watch some tv series or movie on TV. We like to joke around with each other—I like to make jokes about his experiences, his bald head, and his age. He likes to make jokes about me, too.
My host dad turned me into a better person who can eat veggies, cook, and think critically. He knows what to do if I have problems on my exchange year. He also treats me as a part of his family, which sometimes makes me forget that I am an exchange student who is only going to be in America for a year.”
We have a feeling that long after Surya’s exchange year, he and his host dad will still share the special bond that they created during this amazing cultural exchange experience. Thank you to Surya for sharing his experience!
Is your family interested in sharing your culture with an exchange student like Surya?