Hosting an exchange student can open many doors to new cultures and friendships that will leave a lasting impact on both the host and student for a lifetime; it depletes cultural ignorance and spreads awareness of worldly customs and ways of life. The friendship blossoms into more of one between siblings, since you live together for weeks, months, or even years depending on the exchange program.
Experience a different culture
The United States is influenced by a plethora of cultural customs and backgrounds, but having an exchange student could help the host and exchange student experience the differences in lifestyles around the world.
Senior Mitchell Boring’s family hosted a German student, Noah Sonnenschein, from Cologne, Germany through Buena High School’s exchange program. He said that despite going to different schools they were “very, very good friends” and called each other “Brudur,” which translates from German to “brother.”
“Noah and I bonded over rap music and hip hop; listening to it together and sharing music. He is also quite talented in beatboxing, so we had our own little rap/beatbox group which we called ‘X-Change.’ Noah knew all American pop-culture references and pretty much fit right in,” Boring said.
Although we’re all humans living on the same earth who function the same way, our perspectives are greatly affected by the contrasting views between countries, let alone continents.
“[Having an exchange student] definitely impacted my perspective on American culture. Noah always had insight on current events, and was very passionate about it as well. Now whenever something happens in the news I wonder ‘What would Noah think of this?’” Boring said.
Students also have stories of their own, and have often experienced more customs and traditions in Europe, since travel is popular among the closely placed countries.
“He has traveled all over Europe, so hearing him compare and contrast the cultures was very interesting; always reminds me about how a great big world it is that we live on,” said Boring.
Form new friendships
After living with her older sister’s German exchange student, senior Bryce Kulzer went on to host two of her own through Ventura High School’s German American Partnership Program.
The students spent a mere three weeks in America, but it was plenty of time to grow close to one another.
“She kind of became another sister in my family,” Kulzer said.
Rather than just developing a friendship with her student, Lisa Gerke of Winsen, Germany, Kulzer also grew close to almost all of the students on the exchange.
“[They] made me realize that although they live far away, we’re still all people and we can make friends with whoever we want,” Kulzer said.
English was spoken quite well, and a language barrier was little to nonexistent and didn’t limit conversation. For Boring, there may have been somewhat of a language barrier. He told a story about when Sonnenschein thought wheat bread was “weed bread” and questioned Boring’s mother as to why she was eating marijuana for breakfast.
Kulzer had the opportunity to visit Gerke in her hometown, where she had the opportunity to experience German culture and thought of it to be “different yet the same” in relation to American culture.
“After she stayed with us and saw how we lived, it was so cool to see how she lived with her family,” Kulzer said.
Kulzer also gained a sense of security, knowing she’s always welcome with Gerke’s family in Germany.
Some of the best bonds and experiences Kulzer has ever had are due to the exchange program.
“I would’ve never formed a friendship with someone halfway across the world,” she said. The exchange also gives “you new ideas about how different cultures work.”
Practice hospitality while touring your own city
Senior Chloey Settles has hosted an exchange student from Hangzhou, China who has gone by the American name of Venny Cai for the past school year. He attends Saint Bonaventure High School, with the rest of his peers on the exchange.
Settles’ mother, Corinna Taylor, considers opening her home to Cai a great way to practice hospitality.
“Hosting has definitely kept us engaged in hospitality, especially in the beginning. We are now in our 8th month with Venny in our home and he has really became part of the family now,” Taylor said.
It’s not only important to make the student feel welcomed in your home, but feeling comfortable in your hometown as well. Kulzer believes it also “gave [her] a chance to see our city as well.”
Seeing the Pacific Ocean was also a highlight of Gerke’s stay in California, and Kulzer enjoyed seeing her reaction to something she had only seen pictures of.
Kulzer believes another aspect of being a good host and practicing hospitality is fulfilling the exchange students’ wishes while they’re here. Her student lives on the complete opposite side of the world, and made sure not to pass up the opportunity of spending valuable time with her before she returned home.
“It was hard to let her go,” Kulzer said, but knows she “always has a place to travel to” when she wishes to visit Gerke again in Germany.
Background Photo Credit: Bryce Kulzer (used with permission).