On Thanksgiving week, people across the USA travel near and far to reunite with loved ones. For Academic Year in America (AYA) host mom and Local Coordinator Melissa, though, a family reunion came a bit early this year. After hosting exchange student Sanna from Germany, Melissa shared a touching reflection on the relationship they created. Four months later, Sanna and her mom returned for a visit – and created memories with Melissa and her children as one international family. Melissa tells the story below:
Four months after we parted ways at the airport terminal, Sanna came back to visit… and her mom came with her!
We had decided to keep it a surprise from our children that Sanna was coming back to visit for a week. When the day had finally arrived, we pulled closer to our house and I saw Sanna and her mom, Uta, standing in our driveway. I could hear screams from the car as my children realized who had popped across the ocean to see them!
Having Sanna come back for a visit was affirmation that she was not just a visitor, it was not just a hosting experience, but she would always be part of our family.
From the moment Uta and I hugged, I knew it was going to be a great week full of many memories. The first night of their visit they hauled an enormous suitcase into our dining room filled with candy (and more candy), gifts for the kids from Germany, advent calendars for all SIX of us for the Christmas season, and did I mention German chocolate? We sat around and did our share of sampling and planning ahead as jet lag threatened to send Sanna and Uta to bed early.
We fit so many things into the week — from Halloween parties, trick or treating, eating dinners at restaurants, attempting a puzzle, sitting around talking late into the evening, and going for walks in our neighborhood. We did exactly what we had done for six months when Sanna lived with us – the difference was that her mom was able to experience it with her. One of my favorite memories of the busy week was when Uta cooked a full German dinner for us and invited my kids to help her in the kitchen.
As it was time for us to part ways again after a week gone by too fast, there were tears all over again. We were now family, even more than before. This time we didn’t just share the love of Sanna, but the love of her family.
Host families and Local Coordinators have told me before that the best part of hosting is the lifelong relationships built, and until you experience it you will not understand the truth of that statement. There have already been conversations about our visits to Germany and I have no doubt Sanna and Uta will be back to visit soon!