When will I ever learn! Adventures in hosting an exchange student

“Hey, Mom!  You should totally do this!” was the email I received from my daughter.  My response was a quick, “Okay, what is it?”

You would think that I would know better.  My daughter’s plan was for my husband and me to host an exchange student from China, who was going to the same school as our grandchildren.  Stratford Academy, an excellent school in Macon, Georgia, is really an amazing place.  Before I sent my email to the Admissions Director, I really should have stepped back and considered the fact that my youngest child is 27 and we are GRANDPARENTS!  This was a 15 year old girl!  How could I forget the hormones?

We’ve hosted exchange students, in the past.  Typically, these students have come with limited English language skills, despite years of studying English in their own country.  Did I forget the Japanese boy we hosted, who learned his English from Eddie Murphy movies?  Whose idea of an acceptable American greeting was an obscene gesture?  Who taught me all the Japanese words I know?  Words that should never be used in polite company?

So…what makes this experience so different?  First, we have no children at home.  We have various children who drop by on a regular basis (and we really love that!), and grandchildren who are also in and out on a fairly regular basis.  Our student has no one here her age.  Secondly, she is from a much more closed society than any of our previous students.  I asked her about Facebook, and she said it was forbidden.  I asked her about Google, and she said that was forbidden, also. Once I got on a rant about one of our “esteemed” politicians, and then I asked her if it was okay to criticize the government.  No!  Seriously?  I would implode!  It was bad enough when I gave up sarcasm for Lent!  What would I do while watching the Sunday news shows, if I couldn’t get worked up!

This promises to be an interesting year.  We’re making mistakes but we are learning tolerance.  We have a LOT of cultural barriers, and unlike the previous agencies I’ve worked with, this one did not offer any preparatory information.  Our student wasn’t really allowed to communicate via email, in advance, so we were basically all strangers when she arrived.

Thanks for reading and please come back!

Suzanne

 

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