Find Yourself by Giving: Host an International Student Child this Summer

by Kate Schwartz

As a mother of five kids living on the North Shore, working part time is a challenge…to say the least! In a recent job interview, the ‘young’ woman opposite me asked if I knew how to “multi-task”. I think I raised one eyebrow before politely replying.

I applied for this particular part time job because it was with a non-profit. As a British born and bred transplant with a husband from Beverly, I thought I would be able to identify with the ‘customer’: teenage kids from abroad travelling to the USA. Well, I got the job! I am now multi-tasking with a bevy of Russian and Spanish teenagers as they spend three weeks during the summer in the greater Beverly area.

Growing up in Europe, it was a given that every summer for at least a couple  of weeks, some stranger’s child – someone who didn’t speak our language very well – would move into our house and stay. Sometimes it would be more than one. Every summer, it would be a mystery. Who would they would be? What would they look like? Would they “fit in”? As a result of hosting these mysteries, I have friends all over Europe and Australia. Now my kids are beginning to travel and spend time with their kids.

One time, we got a girl from Germany whose hair was bright pink. She had a tattoo – something that was very wrong back then. She is now married to one of my best friends, living in London! 2013-03-30_11-43-59Another boy came from Spain and loved to spend time with the pretty girls. He ate everything in sight. He is now a CEO of a very successful corporation in Madrid. I am hoping that my oldest daughter will be working in an internship over the summer. Another girl was from Sweden. Back then, she captivated my older brother. Now she is a well- known politician and women’s rights advocate.

Every experience was unique. We adapted to every personality, and every personality adapted to us. I wouldn’t change a single one – except, perhaps t boy who snored like a paratrooper!

So many American families find that hosting a child is an experience that really matters. Many have never hosted before. They’re sometimes nervous. Some worry that hosting a new child will rock their summer boats or their intricately planned 2013-03-30_11-50-03summers. They sometimes feel as if their own kids will not adjust, or that their Fourth of July parties might be “difficult” with a new teen involved. Empty nesters worry that their four bedroom house isn’t big enough. “Well, maybe next year.” “We don’t know any Russian!” “How do I talk to a ‘foreign’ kid?”

I’ve heard all the fears and worries. However, the worries fade quickly and the excitement of the give and take of hosting a teen from another culture takes over.

For example, Mary is 73 years old and lives alone in Marblehead. She is a cancer survivor. Last year, because of a conversation with someone at a Farmer’s Market, Mary made a big decision. She decided to host a Chinese girl for our three-week program. She has a modest two-bedroom house. In the middle of the first weekend, her Chinese student came home and politely asked if she could bring a friend for dinner. Delighted that the girl felt comfortable enough to ask, Mary quickly agreed. Mary could not have anticipated what would happen during the friend’s visit. During a cup of tea, the girl burst into tears. Her “host family” did not feed her. They sent her by herself to get a sandwich each night. She had to pay herself, despite the fact that the program pays the family to host.

Mary immediately took action. She called the supervisor who was in the midst of trying to place another girl who was allergic to dogs. Mary took a deep breath:“I will take them all”, she said. Mary ended up with three Chinese girls for three weeks. When Mary’s birthday came, the three girls cooked a traditional Chinese meal for her. Mary now has a standing invitation to visit three homes in China! Mary’s son does business in China and on his last trip he visited their families. This year, Mary signed on to host three more girls – this time from Russia and Spain. Mary tells me that she simply can’t wait. Although she was tired by the end of her three weeks, she nonetheless “had the time of her life”. She came to love her summer “grandchildren”.

I am looking forward to introducing a new crop of teens to the richness of American culture, to our endless North Shore history and to the warmth and generosity of American homes. They will love our beaches and bask in our sunshine. And they will give at least as much as they receive.

Our teens are from Russia and Spain, and are between 12-18 years old. The program lasts from June 23 through July 27, 2013. They will be busy every day (8am to 6pm) studying at Endicott College and going on excursions. We will bus the teens to and from Endicott each day. All we ask is that you bring them to our nearest bus stop. All families receive a stipend to cover costs. Families can host up to four students. We ask that you provide meals (breakfast, pack lunch and dinner). They bring their own spending money. You can earn a $250 gift certificate to any EF program. Your kids can earn community service hours”
“– and gain much more by participating in our programs.

To learn more, please contact Kate Schwartz, Education First Travel Program; or 978.500.9555.