When you host an exchange student, your family will grow across the globe.
Robb, an Academic Year in America (AYA) host dad from Ohio, knows this firsthand. A host father of 8 (going on 9) students, Robb’s family has expanded immensely since he started hosting. A few years ago, Robb reversed the process by traveling to Europe and letting 2 of his German students host him for a week! Below is Robb’s story about his trip of a lifetime.
One of my favorite activities to do with my exchange students is travel. I am fortunate to have been able to take them on trips to Disney World, Las Vegas, Canada, and throughout Ohio (and neighboring states). One trip stands out above the rest, though. A few years ago, I took my Brazilian exchange student, Fernando, with me to visit my two previous exchange students, Fabio and Jonas, in Germany.
Our trip was over spring break, and we started it off by having Easter dinner with Fabio’s extended family. I have never received such a warm welcome. Despite the language barriers some of us faced, we had a wonderful time. Even Fernando and Fabio’s young cousins spent time together despite not knowing one word in each other’s language.
Fabio’s family also took us to visit some local places of interest, including a “Schloß” (castle) and a stage show in a former royal palace. We also enjoyed taking some time to go “Geocaching” – and were able to find and mark a few (despite how strange we must have looked and sounded to the locals)!
During the second half of our trip to Germany, we visited Jonas’ home. He took us shopping in the Netherlands and sightseeing in Dusseldorf and Cologne. In Cologne, we climbed hundreds of stairs to reach the top of the Cologne Cathedral. It was worth every step as we saw amazing views of the city. One of my favorite memories from our time in Cologne, though, was getting lunch with a former exchange student of some friends of mine, Lise, who was living there. It was actually Lise’s visit to my home in Ohio that prompted me to host an exchange student in the first place, so it was only fitting for her to meet Jonas and Fernando.
My entire trip to Germany was an amazing experience – seeing where two of my boys lived, meeting their friends and family, and becoming more familiar with their lives at home. Plus, taking Fernando along with me (his first trip to Europe) really added an extra special layer to the trip. As host parents, so much of our contact with our students comes from their years here. It’s nice to have more of a connection to their lives in their native country.
Since then, I have continued hosting. I will welcome my ninth student (another German) this coming Friday. Although I haven’t traveled abroad since that trip to Germany, I am looking forward to returning and visiting with my – now five – German boys. I’ll also need to add a trip to Brazil (where three live) and Spain (where one lives). Visiting the boys in their home countries brings the cycle of hosting full circle. They know and experience so much from living here in the USA; it’s great to reverse the process by traveling to visit them. I can’t wait to do it again!
Robb Townsend, AYA Host Father,
Mingo Junction, Ohio