When my French teacher, a few months ago, announced to our class the opportunity to host a French student this summer, most kids just kind of ignored it and ran out when the bell rang, just like any other day. Meanwhile I was practically jumping out of my seat in excitement, anxious to find out if I could participate in the program and host a student from France.
And why did I jump at this opportunity you may ask? Because exchange programs are awesome.
Hosting a Spanish student back in Fall 2010, and also traveling to Spain last June to live with her family as part of the exchange, made me first realize this. Having my French student here in New Hampshire is only reminding me.
Participating in exchange programs, or just giving someone from another part of the world a place to stay, is like traveling without actually traveling. You learn so much about a different culture and language without leaving your doorstep, simply by opening up your doors and hospitality to a stranger.
But that’s not the only reason. Hosting a student also forces me to see my hometown and the surrounding area in a whole new light. Normally, I’m not too excited about this place where I live. After 18 years spent living here, I know that my heart is most definitely not with this place. Pretty much, I’m just sick of it and I find it boring. Having someone who is actually excited to come here and see this place changes my attitude. I can almost vicariously experience their excitement about coming to the area where I live, and it helps me to appreciate it, where normally I don’t. It’s easier for me to see the good and the beautiful in my hometown which I don’t normally see.
I’m also forced to get out of the house. In my efforts to make sure Julie, the French girl who is living with me for these three weeks of July, has a good time here and can experience as much as possible, I’m always bringing her places. Whether it be golfing at my work place, bowling, catching a movie, going out to dinner or to the beach, seeing the White Mountains, or just hanging out with my friends, I’m always trying to make sure that she’s enjoying herself here in the spectacularly boring state of New Hampshire. So I’m bringing her here and there, instead of sitting at home writing blog posts, reading books, and figuring out what to bring to college. Unfortunately, it also puts a dent in my wallet…but it’s worth it in the end.
And the best thing of all about exchange programs – you make friends. Whether it be friends for the few weeks that you are together or for a lifetime, it’s a rewarding experience. And even after they leave, I know I’ll have a new friend out there in the world, and when one day I can finally travel to wherever they may live, I know I will not be alone and I’ll be able to see my international friend once again.