Tuesday, August 10, 2010

What does it mean to be a host parent?

This photo is of my daughter Ilaria, son Noah and my Norwegian daughter Siril (CC).

I have been contemplating what it is that exchange students look for in a host parent. This is a big question really, and obviously the answer comes from the unique qualities and expectations of the student, but it can be a heavy question. Most students want to experience a new culture, new family and traditions and they don't want to travel across the globe to only find that their home is identical to their life back in their own country. The chances of things being identical are of course quite slim but it does remind us host parents to just be ourselves and not try to be like their parents back home. We are guardians and loved ones, but we are not their parent. I've never tried to be the "parent" and most of my students call me Nina, not mom, but a few have called me mom and although I don't require it, I don't mind it.

For me it's important to just be there for them, to show up and participate in their lives, to make sure they know that I will listen with unconditional love. What I want for my own children I share with my exchange students. I want them to do what they love, explore the things that they are passionate about, be safe and content, and to strive to be good global citizens. Hopefully this is what Gianluca will learn from me, that I am not trying to be his mother away from home, but that I am an advocate for his happiness and what he can bring to the world. I like to think of myself as someone who champions the youth of the world. They have so much potential to do good and what they need more than anything is to know that we believe in them.

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