Whoa, it’s been super-busy the last few weeks. So I’m playing catch-up.
Did you catch the last sentence of that recent Rotary post? We’re hosting a Rotary exchange student this fall! G is from Brazil.
J had such a fantastic time, and her families were so gracious and kind to her, that we felt like we had to repay some of that good karma by hosting a student here.
The process for getting started with hosting is pretty easy. You basically just show the slightest interest in possibly hosting sometime in the future, and next thing you know, you’ve got a student! Okay, I’m kidding. Mostly.
Ideally, it’s nice for host families to have kids in the household, so we’re not ideal, but I do think our neighborhood is great for hosting a student, since they can walk to school, friends, the drugstore, or a pizza place. Cute W and I figured that the best time to host is right away, while our kids are at least visiting sometimes and not too much older than the student.
And the process to get started is really easy: I uploaded various forms, gave a few personal references, and received a visit from a Rotary representative who went over procedures and checked out the room and bathroom that the student would be using. That’s basically it. For getting her into high school, the international student coordinator for the high school also came to make sure that G would have a decent bedroom and bathroom, and I found out about procedures and support from the high school.
There are also glitchy little tasks: getting an ID number to put her into the high school computer system, and, once she arrives, opening a US bank account without a social security number, getting a US SIM card and phone number.
I’ve been doing a lot of house prep. Our house is a 3-bedroom, which means we don’t just have a spare guest room waiting for her. Instead, I’ve been “neutralizing” M’s room. Let’s face it: M did not come home for the summer and has no plans to visit ’til Christmas. If all goes well for her, she’ll never really live-live at home again, she’ll just come back for visits. But without her around to help, this has been a major project for me. I took pictures off all the walls and then removed most of the decor, then I emptied her bureau drawers and most of the closet into big storage bins. A lot of bins. If she’d been home, it’s likely that she would have tossed a lot of stuff. But she wasn’t, and it was bad enough that I was clearing out her room: I wasn’t going to send a ga-jillion texts asking what I could donate. Okay, I sent a few texts about what I could donate, but mostly, everything went into bins for her to sort through later.
After emptying the room, I started preparing it for a host daughter. I was super-excited when a neighbor put a bunch of pretty framed flower photographs on the curb. There were so many and I loved them all, but I didn’t have wall space, so I grabbed a few and then hoped-hoped-hoped that I’d get a girl student so I could hang them in her room.
I curated books for the shelves: previous high school yearbooks, easy-to-read picture books, fun YAs, and American classics that someone might want to read to practice their English or learn about the US. I’d emptied much of the closet, but I left extra blankets, some extra warm clothes for a student who’s not used to such cold weather, a thick robe, and spare prom dresses just in case. You can see the curated book selection here, and the images over the radio were NYC pictures that J had planned to give to host families and never did, so we put them here. I did end up removing most of these plants — a lot of them were just staying here during the Purple Room Renovation, which of course was going on simultaneously.
As you can see, the wood floors are not great in this room, but J and I decided that M’s tween-style shaggy turquoise rug had to go. I replaced it with something a little more grown-up.
On J’s suggestion, I put together a little basket of snacks in the room, too. J says it’s intimidating at first to poke around a stranger’s kitchen, so it’s good to have the basic needs covered. And of course, some flowers are nice.
J also suggested that I make a little family tree cheat sheet with pictures, because when your host family brings you along to family gatherings, it’s tough to keep track of everyone. During a shopping trip at Target, I also picked up a little calendar, since we already had some travel plans and school holidays that I thought she should know about. Plus, I saw these cute little Post-It arrows and I could not resist them, so I printed out a map of our immediate neighborhood.
And then in a fit of zeal, I started putting the arrows on our USA map down in our playroom, pointing out various places where family lives.
I also wanted to encourage her to send little things to her parents, because we parents love to hear from our children, so I got her a few cards and postcards along with some postage and put them in her desk.
I put together a Welcome poster and brought it along with a couple of helium balloons to the airport. Her plane arrived a little early, so she was already chatting with a Rotary member when we showed up, sweaty and panting, after sprinting from the car:
G arrived at our house two weeks ago, and we’ve been busy getting her settled in and trying to show her a good time while getting prepared for the big college drop-off for J, which happened on Friday. So I’ll catch you up on these many adventures soon.