What do host families & students say?
When Mark and I were approached about becoming a host family for an 18 year old Rotary Exchange student from Belgium, we were not sure. We were not sure that we would be suitable. I was in my 60’s, we had been living on our own since our daughter had left home over 20 years ago. Our life was quite busy with operating our business and we were very social, away from home in the evenings with theatre, concerts etc. Would she want to live with us for 3 months? We might be too set in our ways, she might be bored. What about the company of people her own age? But I am so pleased we said yes!
Oriane blended into our family so naturally and easily. Our daughter, our grandchildren and Mark and I were so lucky to spend the time with her. She certainly became a lot more than just a student we were hosting in our home. Our daughter developed a very close friendship with Oriane, akin to having a sister. We loved showing her our favourite spots around Auckland, weekends on the Coromandel were fantastic. As a host mother I had the opportunity to be involved with school activities, a couple of these were the very impressive Polyfest Festival and Dragon Boat racing competitions. It was wonderful sharing our different cultures in a lot of different ways. Eating Belgium waffles and chocolate! We did tramps together, we cooked together, we laughed together, and we certainly cried together when we said goodbye at Mangere Airport. But earlier this year we travelled to Europe and had the opportunity of seeing Oriane again. We stayed with her family for a couple of days and I was so happy that we could meet her parents and convey our thanks and appreciation to them for allowing their daughter to become part of our family.
She was not part of us for only 3 months, she will always be part of us and I know that we will meet again and again over the coming years. So I am very grateful to the Rotary Exchange Programme for giving our family the chance of being a host family.
It was rewarding, it was special, it was fun!
I’m Caroline (20) from Germany. I did my Rotary Exchange in 2008/09 and can’t believe that so much time has passed since I left NZ. The memories and friends I’ve made are still present in my everyday life and I really miss them.
It’s a big step into the unknown when you become an Exchange student but it’s a privilege and a huge gift to be a Rotary Exchange student. You are hosted by a Club who –just by attending the meetings and talking to all the different members - broadens your mind and your view on things. I met so many different people doing different jobs having different opinions on life and sharing them with me that I feel, I got to know a lot more about New Zealand and the Kiwis than I would have by just being an International student going to school and having one host-family.
I always felt welcome and adopted as a family member and not just as a guest School was probably one of the biggest challenges at the beginning and finding friends halfway through the school year when everyone is already in their little cliques can be a bit tricky. It’s good to have people to talk to and to have the support of a counselor who checks on you occasionally and makes sure everything is going well. I had four amazing host-families and settled in really well. Even though I always hated to move house, I am glad to have had the opportunity to get to know all of my host-families.
Some people think if they host exchange students, they have to be fun, exciting and young host-parents, not host-grandparents. My host-families were in all ages from young to not so young and in only one host-family I had a host-brother who was nearly my age. My other host-families had grown-up children and some had grandchildren. Age didn’t matter to me at all, though. It was still different to home and I was part of the family and didn’t want to be treated and spoilt like a guest all the time. It’s great when host-parents have time to show you around but it’s not what they have to do. I had a great time with all of my host-families because they were themselves and they were all different and fun.
Today I feel my Exchange has had a great impact on my personality and has given me more self-confidence as well as a more positive attitude. Everything is possible if you just work hard enough and trust in yourself. Back then I thought maybe Kiwis just have an easier life down there on a little island, but it’s rather the optimism and the less dogged attitude. My year abroad taught me that the world is so small and people all over the world are actually not very different from each other. It’s a gift to be able to say that you have friends all over the world. Thanks to Rotary.
Host-families: You don’t have to change your life because you’re hosting an exchange student and nobody is too old or to boring to host someone!!
Rotary-Clubs: It might be a lot of work and effort to take the responsibility for an exchange student for a year but it can also be very enriching to get to know more about people from different countries and also lowers the average age of the Club :)