by Jillian Sims, AYP Compliance and Operations Manager

The student shares a Hungarian tradition with her host family

The student shares a Hungarian tradition with her host family

Eric and Pamela of Troutdale, Oregon had seen others hosting in prior years and this year decided try it themselves, choosing Hannah from Hungary to share their home and join their family this year. “We decided to host because we had been exposed to exchange students in the past and just thought what a great experience for both to learn a new culture and teach ours.” Indeed, both student and host parents have been sharing many things like holiday traditions, cultural experiences like attending professional football games, and, of course, lots of laughs.

Trying to recall her funniest memory together, host mom Pamela says, “Oh my gosh to only pick one! She is always making us laugh. But I will pick when we took her and another exchange student to the haunted house. In the last house she grabbed onto a stranger and was screaming so loud he was holding his ears laughing at her. Then when we got out there was a haunted Santa and we wanted our picture with him. Eric (host father) had to push her close…it was so funny. She is very silly.”

Hanna and Host Family at local Fright Night

Hanna and Host Family at local Fright Night

As the holiday season approaches, the family and Hannah are busy continuing new and old traditions that bring Christmas around the world home to Oregon. Host mom and student ran a local annual marathon together during Thanksgiving. On December 5th, the family woke up to tennis shoes filled with chocolates and a note from their exchange student explaining the Hungarian tradition that day. Pamela plans for the family to bake cookies for a local children’s hospital at a nearby bakery, to pick out a Christmas tree together, and to bring their student caroling. Hannah looks forward to holiday plans, saying “America is so different so I know Christmas will different too. So I am just excited about how it will be to cook, decorate the tree, and help to make Christmas food cookies and the ginger bread house.”

And when they aren’t celebrating holiday traditions, Hannah is eager to share more of her culture, whether it be sharing recipes or teaching the family a bit of Hungarian. Yet, Hannah is embracing her new home with open arms, heart, and mind.

She says of her arrival to the US “Before I came here I couldn’t imagine how America looks. So I was surprised to see how different it is. It is not the same culture, food, and the school is completely different than in Hungary. I have an amazing host family and I never imagined I would have two homes and two families, but now I can say I have one in Troutdale and one in Budapest.”

But for all of the new and exciting experiences Hannah and the family have shared so far, none has been more exciting for Hannah as attending a Seahawks game together and getting her picture snapped for a local newspaper. Pam says “Our favorite memory for us and Hanna would be taking her to the Seattle Seahawk game. we all had a awesome time and now she loves football….” When the family found out about the photo, Pam laughs “Oh my gosh,  she now thinks she is famous because of that photo. She was jumping up and down so excited. She had an amazing time at the game. We were yelling ‘defense’ when the photo was taken. We had the best seats ever!”

Hannah is now an avid football fan (the American version , that is), saying “I am enjoying it here: I am happy and I have so much fun at school ,doing sports spending time with my host family. But my favorite moment was the Seahawks game. I’ve never had a better experience in America. It was so cool, I wish I could go again!”

It’s pretty clear that neither student or family regrets their decision to enter into such a new and exciting world of exchange. To anyone thinking about following in their footsteps, Pam offers this enthusiastic encouragement: “We would tell them it is a must! It is the best time.  You will forever have a family member in another country!!”

Here at CCI Greenheart, we couldn’t agree more.

To find out how you can become a host family and begin your year of cultural exchange, click here.

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