Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Decision to Host

So, we have a new family member coming in August. His name is Gianluca and he's from Italy. It's exciting but I have to be honest here, I hadn't really planned on hosting an AFS student this year. In August we're sending our son Noah to Norway with AFS to live with the family of our former exchange student. Also to be considered is the fact that I'm an unemployed full time student, and I am still reeling from the loss of my dad. However, when I went to Noah's orientation for his year abroad I had the opportunity to read the bios of incoming students that still needed host families in the Pacific Northwest. When I came across Gianluca's bio I was instantly drawn to a young man who seemed to be so content and happy with his life and was looking forward to a year abroad. It concerned me that he did not have a family yet, so I asked my youngest Mason if he would be okay sharing a room with a total stranger, and as is typical of Mason, he just kind of shrugged his shoulders and said "I'm okay with whatever"......well he said something like that. He's a pretty easy going guy but this year is going to be different without his big brother around. Maybe this coming year was going to be a year free of a big brothers influence. I did ask myself if inviting a new family member would get in the way of his unique experience this coming school year. However, Mason assured me that he is game for it, and he's looking forward to maybe teaching Gianluca how to ski. He's just open to it, which is cool. That's all I really require.

I've hosted before. The addition of CC (Siril) to our family back in 06-07 was a tremendous gift. She is a remarkable girl and she came to our family in October of her year abroad, having had a poor fit with her first host family. Ours was not a perfect household, but we had a room and a willingness to welcome her. Little did we know that she would so perfectly fit into our family, and more importantly, into our hearts. Not every student will have the same effect on you, but most will. There are struggles and adjustments but if you open your heart, and your mind, to the possibilities of welcoming someone new into your family, great things can and do happen. CC is very much my daughter and I love her like I love my own children. I've also hosted international college students from Japan, Korea, China and Vietnam. They are all daughters to me as well. We have a big and blessed family.

Am I worried about whether Gianluca will enjoy his time here? Of course I'm worried, just like I'm worried about Noah in Norway, Ilaria in Scotland, and Kali in Italy. You want for your kids to have a positive, eye opening experience. Traveling across the globe and inserting yourself into someone else's life is a brave thing to do, and it doesn't always work well. But when it does work well your family expands and your heart welcomes a new family member. I have faith that Gianluce will come with an open mind and willingness to flex with things that are different. We will of course do what we always do, listen. I think that communication is key. From the moment they walk into your life let them know that they can come to you with anything. Let them know that you will listen and be non-judgmental. Being a teenager is difficult! This doesn't mean that there are not rules, because there always are, but trust is key. I choose to trust my children to make wise choices and I give them a great deal of freedom as a result. They have not let me down. When I read that Gianluca's parents had this same philosophy, I was comforted. This next year will be an adventure for all us. We will remain positive and hope for the best, with a clear commitment to providing Gianluca the best experience possible.

Here's to a new adventure!



  1. Hi, Nina! I think you sound like a terrific hostmom. If I were Gianluca's parents, and I read your blog, I'd be delighted that I was sharing my son with you. If I were Gianluca, I couldn't wait to become part of your family. Best wishes for another great hosting year.

    We're looking forward to hosting Yuki, our 8th AFSer, a Japanese boy who seems to have a really nice personality. I can't wait!

    I'm an AFS volunteer, my own way of helping bring peace to the world. I wish we had host families lined up for all the kids who are waiting to come this summer, but we're still looking for more. Thanks for helping spread the word about what a great experience it is to host!

    Mary Ann

  2. Thank you for all of your kind words. I really love being a host mom. It sounds like you are a PRO at being a host mom! WOW. I know Yuki will have a good year. Where is he from in Japan? I've hosted Japanese students from Kobe, Aomori, and Wakayama. They are all very different places.

    I've just signed up to be a volunteer and have my training on July 24th. I love working with youth, they are my favorite people. I hope I can be helpful.

    Have a wonderful year with Yuki and good luck with placing students.


  3. Nina, thanks for reminding me to start a blog...our new student from Norway will be here in 22 days. We are so excited. It was very sad when our Danish "son" Jonathan returned home. We absolutely enjoyed him being a part of our family. Looking forward to our Norweigan. Hope we have another great experience. I love being a host mom!!!