Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Life with a teenager

Johnny asked that I blog about my experience with our foreign exchange student. First, let me tell you how this all came about. About five years ago I had read, in my church bulletin, a blurb about Japanese exchange students needing a place to stay for a month. At the time (before my daughter was born) I thought that it might be an interesting experience. Joe and I contacted the organization and made the arrangements for her arrival.Then September 11th happened and the program was put on hold. End of story.

Fast forward to August 2006. I received a phone call from the same organization telling me that they had a high school student from Japan, already here in New Jersey, who's host family had to back out of their obligation to have her stay with them. When asked if we would be interested in hosting this girl, my initial thought was something along the lines of NO WAY MAN! I already have a four year old at home, why would I want a teenager too?

Then, my conscience started working on me. Here is this girl, who just traveled all the way from Tokyo, and she doesn't even have a place to live. My husband, who is a foreigner himself (having come from Hong Kong when he was a college student) was very interested in having her stay with us, but left the decision pretty much up to me. Five days later a cute, shy, little wisp of a girl stood on my doorstep and we invited her in.

It has been almost two months since she has joined our family. For the most part, it has been a very positive experience. She is a very sweet girl, has a good sense of humor, enjoys watching movies, eats everything I put in front of her, reads Leah stories and is an excellent student (all A's so far, with the exception of a B in History).

Of course, having a complete stranger living at your house takes some getting used to. I now have one more mouth to feed, more laundry to do and I am in the car a whole lot more often than I would like to be. Then there are times like Saturday, when we were able bring her to her first Broadway show. She was so thrilled and appreciative that it makes all the extra laundry worth while.

To be honest, I can't imagine not having her at home with us. She will be staying here until the end of the school year in May and I already I know how much she will be missed. Would it do this again? It is hard to say. I feel that we have been spoiled with having such a nice young girl staying with us and possibly would have the same expectation for the next student. Fair, no - True, maybe.

As a side note, I do have to point out something a little selfish on my part. When deciding to have her stay with us, a little part of my decision was the fact that having someone else at home would help me fill up my time while we endure the long adoption wait. Maybe not the most noble of reasons, but there it is.

8 comments:

Katie J said...

Stephanie, If you'd like to meet again someday with your exchange student I have a good friend from Japan who I'm sure would love to visit with her.

Joannah said...

My great-grandparents were educators and over the years they hosted an exchange teacher and an exchange student. The teacher, Elin, was from Norway, and the student, Pung, from Indonesia. They, and their families, became true members of our extended family, and many trips were made overseas as the Americans, Norwegians, and Indonesians visited one another. The whole experience really enriched so many of our lives.

Johnny said...

It's good that you're getting as much out of the visit as she is. I had considered hosting, but we've decided to wait a while until the kids are a bit older. Thanks for the info!

Robin said...

I'd like to make one comment about hosting.. do not get a student that is the same age or grade as any of your own children. While I loved having our student from Norway, I had LOTS of difficulties with competativeness. My daughter was 16 and a senior, she was 17 so we had her be a senior too. They both had graduation and both wanted to be the STAR on that day. It was horrible for me. My own daughter was upset about not being the "special person on her own graduation day". My exchange student was upset about the same thing. It's horrible to be in that situation as a parent and exchange parent!
Now, on a good note.. we still stay in contact with our student. She still calls us Mom and Dad. She is coming back next summer to stay with us so it is all turned out OK.

Doris & Dan Clark said...

My aunt and uncle have hosted many exchange students over the years. Still do even though all their kids are grown and gone. Actually built a specific bedroom just for their intl charges. It is decorated with memorabilia from all the different countries and they stay in touch with these new family members even today.

Keep smilin!

Carrie said...

You have definitely given me something to think about. It sounds like you are getting a lot out of your experience, and she as well. I will entertain the idea for sure.

Christina said...

It seems like she is fitting in well. Do you feel like a taxi yet? This is the only part I don't like about having teenagers, but at least you can use the crockpot on the nights you have to drive all over hell and creation.

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