Homeschool Chinese: Hosting Our First Exchange Student

While attending university, I had the opportunity to experience life as an exchange student.  I spent three months in San Miguel de Allende, Guanjuato, Mexico in the summer of 1993 and lived with a host family.  I really enjoyed the experience and learned a lot about myself.  Since then, I have always wanted to host a student, particularly now that my children are old enough to engage in conversation and learn from the experience themselves.  Over the years, I have looked into numerous programs but one thing or another has always pushed it aside.

Back in early Dec I had stumbled upon a post on a local high school's web page that they were seeking host families for a short time come spring. I emailed to inquire if it was required that my child(ren) attend the school. They replied immediately that it was entirely fine that my children did not also attend the school and asked if we were available for Feb 11-21st. I talked it over with the family and as it was for such a short time, my husband agreed to give it a go. I thereby asked the school to keep me informed of developments or further steps necessary.

Several weeks passed and I hadn't heard from them since that initial conversation and had therefore actually forgotten about the opportunity, believing that they had the host families they needed. Then in early February, I received an email stating we had been matched with a girl (age 16) from Beijing. She would be arriving on the 11th along with a small group of other Chinese students.  They were on holiday (Spring Festival or Chinese New Year) and were traveling together to get a taste of what school is like here. They hope to some day study here and thus toured college campuses in Los Angeles & San Francisco for a few days before coming to the North state in the evening of the eleventh.

I was very surprised - not only by the short notice but also by the lack of screening the school undertook prior to placing a student in my home.  Had I been the parents, I would have wanted to know something about the families with whom my child would be living.  As it was, upon her arrival, I knew nothing more than her name and age.  I wasn't given any indication of whether she had food allergies or her level of English proficiency.

Upon meeting her, we were delighted to discover that her English was very good.  We had no trouble communicating and the kiddos enjoyed showing off their Mandarin skills after their initial shyness wore off.  As she was staying with us for such a short time, we tried to squeeze in as many fun excursions and experiences as we could.

Day 1 ...

Such a fun day ... the post office, a comic book store, a little badminton, sharing a new craft (Lucet fork weaving), and cookie baking ... complete with many giggles and candid photo moments.

Day 2 ...

Another great day ... Safeway, the library (for SAT, AP, & TOEFL exam prep books), and home again to make jiaozi (饺子). It's so fun to see our country, our way of doing things, through her eyes. Jiejie said, "I didn't expect that having another big sister was going to be this much fun!"

Day 3 ...

Barnes & Noble, tennis, Los Gordos (her first time eating Mexican food), and a lodge meeting.

Day 4 ...

We had a short time before a group dinner, so we took her to see the Sun Dial Bridge. Upon returning home from dinner, we made jello (upon request) & watched 'Big Bang Theory' ... her favorite show.

Day 5 ...

Another full day of festivities ... chemistry lab (aka trying to bake a pie), agricultural science (picking up our milk at the farm), and winter ecology (an afternoon in the snow).

Day 6 ...

Scandinavian waffles for breakfast, made more jiaozi (饺子), natural history museum, saw Wreck It Ralph in the theater, Costco, and Barnes & Noble again (upon request).

Day 7 ...

Hike to the waterfalls at the lake .. dinner at In-N-Out.

Day 8 ...

Walked along the river, went shopping, and made homemade pizzas.

Day 9 ...

Bowling and gift exchange - we gave her a copy of the book, Oh, The Places You'll Go by Dr. Seuss in which we each wrote a personal message.  She was very touched.

She was a joy to have in our home and we've come to really miss her now that she is back home in China.  We keep in contact through email and look forward to seeing her again soon.  We plan to meet her family when we travel to Beijing this fall.


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