Monday Musings: Emma from Sweden

So as you might have seen earlier this month, T and I decided to take this crazy leap of faith and host an exchange student for next school year. 

I feel like we're just trying this parenting thing out one step at a time... ;) First Zeke, now Emma. 

We both worked with this company, EF Tours, two years ago when we went to Costa Rica with middle schoolers from Timothy's school. EF is a GREAT company to not only do academic trips with, but to work with for study abroad opportunities as well. I don't exactly know why or how they started contacting us about hosting and exchange student, but several months ago I started to get emails of interest from our local exchange coordinator (that I conveniently ignored). 

My DREAM, really, has been to teach abroad at an International School. I really want to live abroad, but that's another story. So when that dream had to be put on hold with a new home, a dog, Timothy's tenured job in McMinnville, etc., my interest was piqued when another cultural exchange opportunity was presented to us, only reversed: WE would be hosting the exchange student, not living abroad ourselves. 

At first I ignored the emails because really, why would we host an exchange student. We're only 28, we don't have kids and we work with middle schoolers, not high schoolers. But then our coordinator started sending personalized notes to me asking if I had an questions about what it was like to host, and she told me that she had hosted herself over 13 times so she was quite experienced. So I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt and asked like fifteen questions in my first response to her. She wrote me back almost immediately and had really solid answers. So, I asked her more questions, and she gave me more answers. Our back and forth Q & A session lasted nearly two weeks, and then I told her I needed a few weeks to talk with Timothy and think and research and just consider what our lives would be like with a teenager in them. I mean, my brother Taylor is 16 and we've traveled extensively with him, but "parenting" a teenager is another story. 

So, the next thing I know, our coordinator starts sending over applications, just so we could see what some of the students were like. Just to humor her and ourselves, we started reading the applications out of curiosity's sake. We were SO impressed! The thorough details that EF goes through in their interview process, coupled with the maturity of the students applying, really took our thoughts from "maybe" to "let's do it." The applications were very detailed and contained pages and pages of information on goals, hobbies, grades, family life, etc. from the various students. Only 25% of students who apply to EF get the opportunity to interview with them, and then they have to go through six steps along the way before they are approved. 

Before we knew it, we had selected our "girl" and had the coordinator over to our house to interview us and tour our home. We grilled her for three hours, asking every single question we could think of from, "Is she allowed to date?" to "What if she gets sick," or "Under what circumstances could we send her back home if something goes wrong?" Fast forward two more weeks and everything finally came together to become approved host parents to Emma from Sweden. 

Emma won't be living with us until August, but she will be going to our high school and living out her year in the US as a senior. She'll get to go to prom, take senior-level classes, and even walk at graduation. 

I would be lying if I said that we weren't totally nervous about this whole thing-- especially being only 28 and without kids, hosting a 16 year old. However, there are two ways this could go and we won't know until we try it: Either incredibly well or really bad. We are the type of people that like to try new things and immerse ourselves in cultural experiences when we can. What led us to make this decision was, "Why not?" The opportunity presented itself to us; we didn't go looking for it. As the doors opened, we moved in them. 

So, you'll be learning more about our lives as exchange host parents coming later this summer, but in the meantime, keep us in your prayers as we prepare our home and our lives for having a third person (plus Zeke!) from another culture living with us for a year. I'll be able to affirmatively tell you after this experience is over whether or not hosting an exchange student was the right choice for us, but like I said, we won't know until we give it a try. :) 

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