Theresa (Terri) R. and her family are from Steuben County, New York and have been a part of our AYA family since 2011. Terri is also a Local Coordinator for AYA, placing and supervising students across the US. “I remember asking, does anyone want to host an exchange student? And surprisingly all my 5 kids said, that would be cool!” said Terri. Since, Terri has double hosted students from all over the world. “By the end of the first year, we were hooked” said host mom Terri. Fast forward six years later, Terri is hosting a girl from Germany and a boy from Tunisia.
Hosting can seem like a big decision, but for Terri it was quick and easy. “It has been a gift to my entire family, as each year we are renewed by the excitement of, “first times” that each student encounters” said Terri. She goes on to say, “Understanding cultural differences is like understanding human nature, with a lot of frosting on the top. We are more alike than different, but the differences are often sweet and delicious!”
Each year Terri takes her students “off the grid” to stay at a friend’s retreat in the Adirondack Mountains. This is an opportunity for her and her students to unplug and bond with each other. “The new students are often apprehensive about going off the grid, but soon realize that card games, family dinners, hours at the beach, kayaking on the lake and singing around the campfire are all a lot of fun!” This year was even more special for Terri and her exchange students as a former exchange student from Kuwait joined them. She herself experienced this many years ago as an AYA student and vowed to return each summer so she could par take in this trip. “It warms my heart to see former students posting pictures from their time on the lake house with such happy memories” shared Terri.
Terri does a fantastic job in taking her students to different places each year and exploring the US. She believes in staying with friends or family instead of hotels or condos to give the students a more “American” experience, exposing them to new traditions and cultures. “We spend a lot of the time in the car and have some of our greatest memories traveling to our next adventure”. Terri often incorporates American past times, playing games like “I’m going camping and I’m bringing …” that always gets a smile from the students.
AYA knows you will make the most of your time with your student this year, bringing them to new places, sharing a new culture and creating new memories together. “Being open to each new child is, in turn, a “first time” that we as a family enjoy”, said Terri. Enjoy your “first times” with your student and share your photos and stories with us on Facebook with #AYAclassof15!
Not hosting this year? AYA is now accepting applications for spring 2016! Make it a first time for you entire family and host 2016! Learn more, here.