Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Our exchange student

We’ve got a sweet 16 year old from Brazil living with us right now as a part of a foreign exchange program.  I will call her CC on the blog.

CC is our 5th exchange student to have stayed with us over the last 8 years.  The experiences have had their ups and downs.  Our first student was a sweet girl from Japan named Yui.  She was 16.  She was with us for about 6 weeks as a part of a summer language program.  I’m not sure if it was her personality or the Japanese culture, but she was as sweet as could be.  Her English was rough, but we communicated pretty well.  She kept in touch with us for many years, but sadly, we’ve been out of touch for about 4 years now.

Our next student was another 16 year old girl from Russia, Lena.  This girl was smart!  She also loved fashion.  When she joined our family, I was 7 months pregnant with our third baby.  I was hormonal!  Lena’s personality and mine didn’t mix well.  Her manner of dressing was inappropriate around our two very young sons, I felt.  It didn’t take long for me to realize that this wasn’t working out.  I feel bad now, when I look back.  I could have been much more patient and understanding, but blame it on my youth (I was 27 at the time) or blame it on pregnancy hormones, I couldn’t deal with Lena.  She was there for the school year, but she was with us for 3 months.  We were lucky to find a friend who worked at the high school Lena went to, and had lived in Russia for 17 months to take Lena in.

We didn’t plan on having another exchange student when we got our third one.  It was probably a around a year later.  It was the Japanese summer language group again. We got a call from the agency asking if we could take in one girl for a couple of days.  Her host family had an emergency come up and they wouldn’t be home until about 5 days after the students arrived.  So, we had Chie for one week.  She was a sweet girl too and we enjoyed our week with her.  She also kept in touch with us for several years afterwards.

Our fourth student was a one month Christmas holiday student.  She arrived, if I remember correctly, at the beginning of December and left soon after the new year.  She was Emma, an 18 year old from Australia.  She had just graduated from school in Australia.  Honestly, I’m not sure why she did the program.  Her family was quite well off and she had already visited America several times.  She was done with school in her home, so she didn’t come for school experience.  Emma sat on the sofa in the living room most days and just watched the little kids play.  She always helped me with the dishes after dinner and we did a lot of chatting.  We lived in Hawaii during these four students.

Now, six years later, we’ve decided to try it again and now we have CC from Brazil.  (I won’t use her real name while she is here with us.)  It’s still quite an adjustment for our family to take in an extra teen.  I think our 7 year old and I have the biggest adjustments to make.  CC shares a room with the 7 year old and I spend time with her as I take her to and from school and shopping as needed.  My maturity (now in my mid-thirties) has helped me more with this student.  And, CC is really a sweet girl.  She is quiet, like I am.  Our personalities are gelling pretty well.  She is homesick, poor girl.  This is quite the challenge for her.  At home, she is the youngest child and the only one still living at home.  Here in our family, she is the oldest and has to share a room.  It's a big adjustment.  When I first left home for an extended period of time, I was almost 19 and it was when I went away to college.  I was far from home and couldn’t go to visit family whenever I felt like it.  I loved college and was so excited to be there, but even so, I called home twice a week for two years.

I hope CC continues to adjust.  There are days I’m sure she emails her mom and says, “You wouldn’t believe this crazy American family I ended up with!”

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