Ho'okele Staff | Jun 30, 2012
Military families are reaching out to enhance global awareness right in their own homes by hosting exchange students from all over the world for a variety of lengths of stay.
Some families select to host a student for the school year, just one semester, a month, a week, or even just a weekend stay. Students from around the globe come to study English and the American culture through sponsored organizations, while others are granted special scholarships by the United States government to study here in the United States.
Jennifer Langevin, a Navy spouse, mother of two children and former Peace Corps volunteer, said hosting a student has brought positive changes to her family.
“Introducing our children to new cultures and ideas is an important part of their development, and they have definitely benefited from our experience as a host family,” Langevin said.
Langevin’s 12-year-oldson, Thomas, was impressed as he learned more about a different religion from his exchange-student-sister Zata from Indonesia.
Langevin said that she and her husband, Lt. Cmdr. Paul Langevin, a naval physician attached to the 3rd Marines, decided to become a host family because of their love of travel and learning about places, people and customs.
They said that by hosting, they are able to bring different parts of the world home to their children to learn acceptance, tolerance and to increase cultural awareness.
Langevin said exchange student Zata became just like a daughter, received lectures from mom, and, just like a sister, she had arguments with her brother and sister. “Her presence has enriched our lives in many ways, and we feel fortunate to have been able to share holidays, birthdays and every days with Zata,” Langevin said.
Carol Rowles, a Navy spouse and mother of two daughters, is a seasoned host and has invited numerous students into her home.
“Our experiences as a host family have been really great. We get to know new people and learn about different cultures. But ultimately it is more about the giving than the receiving. It’s like being an ambassador of sorts,” she said.
“Our family has been blessed with more than we need, and we feel honored to be able to share some of that with others. With only a small effort, we have been able to give a young person from a foreign country the opportunity of a lifetime and that is a wonderful feeling,” Rowles added.
“We grew so close with our exchange student that she returned just six months later to spend Christmas with us. She will always leave a hole when she is gone, but that hole is full of love and fond memories,” said Lori Vincent, a mother of nine children of her own and host mother to Tami Dressler from Germany.
Lt. Cmdr. Brian Tague said his family is eager to host again.
“Both girls we have hosted have been very well screened and custom fit to our family. It has been a culturally eye-opening and very rewarding adventure for all of us. Regardless of the age of your kids, interests of your family, or area of town you live in, this experience should not be missed,” Tague said.
“It is a very well-structured program with intense curriculum but still allowing bonding time for you and the student. Not only did we open our house up to these very intelligent and outgoing students, we have made lifelong friends with the students and the network of other host families along the way. Our family is very excited for more hosting opportunities in the future,” Tague added.
The children of the host families say they have benefited from the home-stay with siblings from around the world.
Eight-year-old Harlow Thomas has been a host sister to more than 10 exchange sisters and brothers throughout the years from New Zealand to Germany to Thailand and Mexico. “I get to learn more about their language and how to grow up in their country. One taught me to surf and another read to me every day. Everyone should be a host family. It is awesome,” she said.
Rachel May and her husband, retired U.S. Navy Sailor Bill May, have hosted many times.
Their own two daughters are grown, and they are filling their empty nest next year with two Department of State grantees from Russia and Thailand.
Wiebke Geldmacher, a student from Germany who spent a year with the couple, said, “My year abroad has significantly changed my life. I arrived in Hawaii as a young girl and re-turned (as my mom said) as a young woman. Not only did I improve my English, I also got to know many interesting people that still play a very important role in my life. My stay in Hawaii has also influenced me in choosing a career in an international environment.”
These families and hundreds of others have worked closely with International Hospitality Center (IHC) a local, non-profit company, which places the international students with volunteer host families. IHC is currently seeking families to host students and volunteers.
For more information, contact the IHC office and Barbara Bancel, executive director, at 521-3554 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.