Letter to the editor- Host a foreign student
To the editor:
When I read the article about Michael Lee, the young man selected as the Rotary Club’s next foreign exchange student, I knew that I had to write and echo his sentiments about hosting an exchange student. A “life altering experience,” were the words he used. I would like to add rewarding, enriching and loving to that phrase.
My daughter, Casey, is the current Rotary Exchange Student who is residing in Spain for the year. While it wasn’t a requirement of the program, my husband Marshall and I agreed to host an exchange student in return because we felt it was our way of giving back to this wonderful organization and the incredible experience they provided for our daughter. For those of you unfamiliar with the Rotary Club, it is an international organization that promotes world peace and tolerance through many programs, one being the exchange of foreign students both outbound and inbound.
For the past four months we have had the pleasure of hosting a delightful young lady from Brazil. I have been told by more than one person how terrific the Brazilian people are and I have learned that these are indeed true words. Sadly for us, Mariana, our newly adopted Brazilian daughter, will go to live with the second of her three American families next weekend. We discovered in these four months that we really are more alike than different. And my husband and I have managed to pick up some Portuguese words along the way. I will never forget the look of appreciation on Mariana’s face when she heard us utter some of these words to her parents on the phone.
Hosting an exchange student is a commitment, but it’s not as risky as you might think. The support we’ve received from the Rotary Club is strong and Rotary guidance counselor Guy Lease has always been very helpful and involved in all aspects of the exchange. In other words, you are not alone in this venture. The students selected for the program are the “Cream of the Crop.” They go through a series of interviews, orientations and paperwork before they arrive in their host country and Rotary has established rules and guidelines to which they must adhere.
Simply put, the exchange of students means the exchange of cultures, ideas, traditions, languages and more. Such exchanges breed tolerance and acceptance. In the aftermath of Sept. 11, I hope that my family’s participation in this endeavor has helped put to rest some of that “Ugly American” stigma that we Americans have justly or unjustly earned. Recently, I met the daughter of the family my daughter lives with in Spain. Her name is Maite and she is also an exchange student living in Quincy. When I sent a picture to her family of her, myself and Mariana, her mom wrote back, “It seems like we are all a big family now.” Lucky me. I now have families in Brazil and Spain.
I strongly encourage anyone interested to embark on this rewarding and enriching experience of hosting an exchange student.