We’re never around. Our house isn’t big enough. I don’t have time.
How many times are we unsure about something – trying a new activity, making a new friend, changing a routine – and we decide against it (for any number of reasons) before really thinking it all the way through?
In most cases we respond that way because it’s easier...the ease of inaction is greater than the energy it takes to explore something new. Or maybe it's a fear of the unknown and its ability to outweigh our desire for change.
Have you ever thought about what would happen if you took the time to explore the benefits of whatever you’ve been mulling over? It’s possible that that “fear” you’re feeling about moving forward isn’t actually a stumbling block, but a stepping stone. Maybe, just maybe you’d uncover a completely new and undiscovered world if you answered, "Sure, why not?" instead of, "Maybe another time".
In the popular book, The Year of Yes, author Shonda Rhimes writes, “Saying yes is courage. Saying yes is the sun. Saying yes is life.” In this book, Rhimes takes on the challenge of saying yes to everything for a year --- including being imperfect, accepting help and trying hard things she didn’t think she could do. She is rewarded with a year of surprises and a change in attitude that made a lasting impact.
Host mom Janell from Washington recounts her initial fear when deciding to host an international exchange.
“I’ll be honest: People thought we were crazy to start hosting teenagers from across the world. And there was part of me that thought we might be crazy too.”
“We had four kids of our own and our youngest had just turned one when we welcomed our first student, Lieke from the Netherlands. I tend to be a pretty dramatic person, so I thought up worst case scenarios and I was almost overcome with what-ifs, but I kept coming back to something that deep down I know: love drives out fear. And so, we took a step of faith.”
Janell and her family have continued to find joy in the world of intercultural exchange ever since that initial step into the unknown and have welcomed not one, not two, but five exchange students into their home (and are expecting another in the fall).
You might be thinking: but what really makes the exchange experience so special?
Host mom Colleen from Missouri shares how instantly her family grew when they decided to host their first student, Jason, and how it’s reshaped their family in the years since.
“My husband was a little hesitant [at first] and my daughter was so excited because her brother was going to be leaving for basic training that summer. After some time, we eventually decided to host Jason from Germany.”
“He walked into our lives and it felt just like he was our son. He instantly felt like part of our family.”
“Jason was able to meet our son three times while he was with us and they have formed a bond over their love for Monopoly! It's a fun camaraderie between the two of them. He has been back to visit us, and my daughter surprised him in Germany on his 18th birthday.”
Colleen and her family didn’t stop there. “We are now hosting our 3rd exchange student!”
With each student they host, they find a new adventure to tackle. “One of my favorite parts of hosting is finding something special that we do together during the year. With Jason, we were on the search for the perfect bacon cheeseburger and tried them at different burger joints all over Kansas City. Our last student Emily and I tried to visit as many local coffee shops as we could in the Kansas City area. Our current student Philip and I love to cook together and try new dishes.”
It’s easy to see that for Janell and Colleen the hosting experience has been quite a success from the get-go – that initial step - and their stories are continuing to unfold with every exchange student they welcome into their lives. Janell shares, “while hosting the past few years has been a journey with ups and downs, I can say with total confidence that there has been more love than fear.”
“We didn't just open our homes to these students, we invited them into our hearts and to be a part of our lives forever. We will never forget the amazing experiences with each of them and would encourage everyone to open their hearts to an exchange student. It really will change your life forever!” - Colleen
Consider this: what might YOU be missing out on by saying “no” instead of “yes”?
We’re here to tell you that if you’ve had even the slightest thought of hosting an international exchange student, this is your year to make it happen. Say 'YES' - see what opportunities open up and watch as your lives expand.
Click here to learn about becoming a host family! You never know, we could be writing a blog about you next.
Do you know of anyone who would make a great host family for an exchange student? Click here to refer them to our program.
Happy year of “yes-ing”!