The start of a new school year brings in a new group of exchange students

By Tonya Duncan, Mountain States Regional Director

The start of a new school year brings in a new group of exchange students. This year, at our welcome orientation in Utah, students, host families, and coordinators were all able to meet.

As I got up in front of the group to go over the orientation material, I looked around the room admiring what a diverse group it was. Not only did we have kids from Germany, Spain, Italy, Thailand, Vietnam, Romania, China, and Denmark, we also have such diverse host families. Our host families come from all walks of life - older couples with grown children, couples with young kids, couples with teens, single parents, wealthy, working class, and all kids of backgrounds and lives. But, there is one thing they all have in common....kind hearts. Kind hearts, willing to volunteer to house an international teen, and not just house them, but love them.

At orientation we discuss a lot of topics. Discussing everything from school registration, cell phone plans, insurance, homesickness, rules and expectations. Even though it is a lot of important information to go over, my favorite part of orientation is that I can see relationships starting to blossom.

You can see the students starting to turn to their host parents for guidance, because their parents are a world away. Watching the students turn to their host family for comfort and support, because they can go through some homesickness and culture shock. Seeing the seed being planted in what will blossom into a wonderful friendship, and even more!

Let the adventure begin...