July 5, 2013- Friday
My sister calls me to tell me that she was applying to get a Chinese exchange student for the school year. I have always thought this would be an awesome opportunity especially since I had several friends in high school who were exchange students. I have never actually researched the possibility though and start asking my sister questions about it. Later, I mention it to my husband Shane. He said right away that he thought it was a bad idea.
July 7, 2013- Sunday
During Sunday School, a friend requested prayer for the German exchange student her family was expecting to have for the year. After church, asked her questions and got the contact information to the SHARE office. Later, I again bring up the idea to Shane. I mentioned that he would be deployed for the beginning of the school year and that it would be a positive distraction for the girls if someone was staying with us. A friend was over during that afternoon and he said he thought it was a good idea. His mother had hosted a couple of students at one point and it was a good experience for them. Shane still did not like the idea but he said that I could research and get the information about it.
July 8, 2013- Monday
I called the SHARE office to ask many questions about the whole process of having a student for the year. I mentioned Shane’s concerns about what it would cost financially for us. We would be responsible to have the student integrate into our home and family, provide a bed and a place to study, provide meals, and any transportation (either by us or other arrangements that we approve of). The student would have access to a personal allowance of around $300.00 or more per month to pay for any of the student’s personal items and clothing, activities, school fees, etc. The lady that I talked to asked which gender and which country we would prefer. I would want a female because we have two girls. My first country of choice would be Japan because we lived in Okinawa for four years and both of our girls were born there. I felt that it would be good for the student and for our family if we already have a cultural connection. The lady looked up student profiles and said that there was only one girl from Japan who had not yet been placed. She emailed me several student profiles based on my preferences.
After I got off the phone, I read all of the profiles. I found that the girl from Japan was from Okinawa! I printed the top four student profiles that I thought would fit best with our family. I also sent Shane a text message letting him know that I wanted to have a serious discussion about bringing the Okinawa girl into our home. When he came home, I started talking to him about the student profiles and the information I had received over the phone. He was still concerned about a few things and although he liked the idea of having a Japanese girl, he was not sold on the whole idea. About 10 minutes after we started talking, I received a phone call from my friend from church who was hosting a student. She said that the Area Coordinator for the program was in town doing her home inspection and wanted to meet us while she was here (she lives 2 hours away from us). We invited her and her husband to come over after they had dinner. That gave me about an hour to quickly straighten and make our house somewhat presentable.
The coordinator came and talked with us, answered our questions, and did a full interview and house inspection. After they left, I told Shane that unless he was fully on board, we would not continue with the process but he felt that his concerns were answered and was ok with it.
July 9, 2013- Tuesday
I spent the day filling out the several pages of online application forms. I took several photos of our home and uploaded them to the forms along with family photos. I described our family, our pets, our home, our religious beliefs, our schedules, our rules, our expectations, etc. and submitted the form by the end of the day. Pending our application, background check, and school approval, we were committing to have a Japanese girl in our home for a whole school year.
Over the course of five days, we quickly transitioned into the thought of bringing a stranger into our home for an extended period of time. This a great opportunity on many levels. The student gets to travel to a new country to experience a different culture, family, and school environment. She will expand her knowledge of the world while becoming more fluent in English. Our family will have the opportunity to minister and love a stranger who over the course of the year will become family. Shane and I will become her parents away from home and the girls will have an older sister for 10 months. The girls will be exposed to the Japanese culture they were born in and be able to hear and learn the Japanese language that they heard when they were very young.
We have been communicating with our student, Noriko, by e-mail since last week. We do not know her exact arrival date yet, but it will be sometime in August. I have been spending my free time organizing our office which will become her room. We are very excited to meet her in person! My prayer is that God will use our family to bless Noriko as she joins our household!
Have you hosted an exchange student?
Share your experiences in the comments!