Monday, January 26, 2009

Exchange Students

I've been thinking about exchange students lately. I am currently hosting a terrific young woman from Tokyo, Japan, who'll be with us for just six months.

I have lost count of the number of young women who have stayed with me, but I can clearly remember several of them -- and some of their quirks.

Eastern Europe
About seven years ago, I hosted two 16-year-old students from Eastern Europe -- one woman from Kazakhstan and one from Kyrgyzstan. I still IM with the student from Kyrg, and we reconnected on Facebook, too. She's now out of college, and I'd love to go see her again some day with my daughter. She and the other student complained that I said thank you too much and shouldn't buy cut flowers.

Most of the other students have come from Japan, Hong Kong, and South Korea. They all say thank you a lot, which makes me wonder if Eastern European students stay out of Asia (and visa versa) to prevent an accidental international incident. Students have stayed with me for anywhere from one week, to one month, to six months, to a year.

Where It Began
When I was in high school, my parents hosted a teen from Bolivia. She was so much fun, and such a part of the family that when it became possible for me to do, I jumped at the chance.

Why Host?
The young women I host are brave. I can't imagine what it took for them to pack up and move at least four thousand miles away. Yikes.

I always host women, btw, for their parents' sake. I'd feel weird about some young male exchange student telling his folks that he's staying with a single American woman. Who knows what movies/ads have given them their idea of American culture!

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