Sunday, March 27, 2011

JoAnn's full circle experience, generations of hosting.

My good friend JoAnn was one of the first people I knew who actually went out on foreign exchange and one of our first inspirations for our adventure. She was on a scholarship and talked a lot about her experience. When she told me that her host sister's daughter was going to live with them I was thrilled to see her experience come full circle. I know how much she loved her host families and seeing that a generation later they are still close is a powerful thing.

JoAnn's story follows...

As a Junior in High School, I had the amazing experience of being able to be a foreign exchange student. I lived in Brazil for 11 1/2 months. Although exchange students who come to the U.S. speak great English, when I arrived in Brazil, I spoke almost no Portuguese. I was blessed with 2 different host families who helped me learn the language, the culture and all about myself.

I lived with my first host family for 3 months. Our kitchen was like a mural of pictures cut out from magazines. Each picture had the word in English and in Portuguese. The sweet Kirsten family took me in to their family and into their hearts. They taught me important things like how many times to kiss a person on the cheek and how to address older people. My host brothers played the guitar while we sang together for hours at a time, and my host parents helped me through the transition of homesickness. I love this family and am still able to converse with many of them on Facebook. What a blessing they were and are to me.

The rest of my stay was with the Silva family. At this point, I was proficient in the language. I had so many deep conversations with each of my family members. My host sister, Luiza became my best friend. My host brothers helped me with everything from homework to teaching me how to dance the samba so I would be ready for Carnival. My dearest memories are of hour long conversations with my host mom. I admire her so very much. I love the Silva family. We were able to travel and see some of the sights as well. I loved this, but most of all I loved my family and dear friends.
I have not lost contact with my host families. After all these years, my dear host family is still truly my family. I was able to visit with most of the Kirsten family here in the U.S. Also, each of my brothers and my sister from the Silva family has come to visit me at least once.
Last winter, we had an amazing experience. My host sister, Luiza, her husband and her daughter came to visit. Luiza and I loved each other as teenage sisters and friends, but to know each other as adults has meant even more. Luiza was able to leave her daughter to stay with my family for a 3 month exchange. Her sweet daughter, Adelle, was 15. She was the exact age I was when I got to Brazil. We loved having Adelle as part of our family. What a blessing she was and always will be to us. We love her very much. Having Adelle live with my family brought my whole exchange student experience full circle.

Being an exchange student, or hosting an exchange student is a life changing experience. It is a lasting relationship. For me, this relationship in now in the second generation, and I know it will continue on.

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