During the summer of 2016 CCI Greenheart welcomed 40 different groups of exchange students into the United States for short term group homestay programs. These groups provide opportunities for host families across the country to get a taste of what it’s like to host an exchange student. For many families this year was their first time hosting a student, and for others they’ve fallen in love with the experience and choose to host year after year. Let’s take a deeper look at what it was like for the Puthawala host family to embark on the adventure of hosting for their very first time!

The Puthwala family currently resides in Columbus, Ohio but the couple crossed paths much earlier in a place far from there. Kayo and Daniel first met at a University in Japan where Daniel was studying abroad. While Kayo is originally from Japan, she did not grow up there but rather moved around quite a bit (including Singapore, India, Switzerland, and the United States) prior to attending University in Japan.  Daniel grew up in a rural farming town in New York State, but his itch to travel to Japan began before he actually studied abroad there in college. He first visited the country at the end of his high school career as part of a program where he lived with a host family for 2 weeks.

Although the Puthawala family clearly has strong ties to the country of Japan, they would have been happy to host a student from anywhere. As staff at The Ohio State University, the Puthawala’s first learned about hosting an exchange student from their fellow staff member Stacy Johns, an all-star local coordinator (LC) in Columbus. Kayo met Stacy a week after Stacy’s group of Japanese students departed in 2015, so Kayo and Daniel had nearly a year to prepare for the hosting experience.

LC Stacy Johns matched the Puthawala family with their student Marino, who the couple said was extremely easy as a host daughter. Marino was happy to try everything and anything, even with her limited English. She loved rock climbing and she showed off her intelligence by beating Kayo and Daniel time and time again when playing board games.

When asked whether hosting Marino has changed their family, Daniel and Kayo spoke about how they do not have children at this time, and this experience allowed them to see each other in new roles – as a host mom and dad! Kayo enjoyed the experience of having someone rely on her. She mentioned how nice it was to be able to help and look out for someone, as she didnt have any younger siblings herself. While the host parents miss Marino tremendously, they knew from the start that their time with her would be short.

Overall, the Puthawala’s walked away from this hosting experience with a strong desire to host again in the future and support cultural exchange. Daniel expressed that cultural exchange is extremely important because it builds peace between countries. If you are ignorant about a person, place, or thing, it makes it much easier to fear that person, place, or thing. Therefore, to become more familiar with something is oftentimes all it takes to reduce the fear we hold. With less fear we can build warmer and more peaceful bonds between one another.

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