Making Memories in Maine: A First Time Host Family Shares Their Story
by Jillian Sims
AYP Compliance and Operations Manager
When Carl and Renee received an email from their daughter’s high school inquiring interest about becoming a host family, it seemed like a great idea. When they asked their daughter Amanda, they received the enthusiastic response “Yes! We have to do this.” With that, the choice was made and the journey began.
When Kittima arrived to their family from Thailand, the family quickly bonded, exploring Freeport on family trips, showing their student her first moose at a local museum, going apple picking, cooking together and many other things. Host mom Renee says “We have learned that it’s fun to see Maine through someone else’s eyes. Everything is a ‘first’ for her and that’s exciting for all of us.”
And while Kittima has given the family great joy in hosting, her host family has invested in her growth as well. Struggling with English and quite when she first arrived, the family devised a plan. Host mom explains:
Kittima is very shy and when she arrived in the US her English was very limited. We were concerned about whether or not she would enjoy school with such limited language skills. Our local coordinator worked with her family to get her some English tutoring and the school provides her with conversational English classes. At home we just talk to her a lot. I think it helps that she and Amanda are sharing a room and spend a lot of time together. If we can’t understand each other we have used technology to help us; Google and Google Translate have come in very handy.
We also labeled a lot of the items our home with pink sticky notes bearing their name. Then we point to the item and say the word so she can see what the word looks like and sounds like while identifying the item. We also gave her a children’s dictionary with pictures of some common items. Kittima is very smart and has worked very hard. Her English has improved dramatically in just 1.5 months. It’s unbelievable!
Like many families, the heart of the home seems to be the kitchen and dining table. For Kittima and her hosts, this has been a place of growing, learning, laughing, and sharing. “At dinner each night we go around the table and tell of at least one good thing that has happened to us that day. You can also tell of something not so good if you have anything. Kittima has become a very active participant in this discussion.”
And while Kittima was surprised to learn that it is host dad who does most of the cooking, it didn’t stop her and host mom from whipping up some Tom Yum soup mix one night. Host mom recalls the incident, “We had a great time cooking together and were very proud of our creation. However, when we sat down to eat we quickly discovered that we had used WAY too much of the mix and our soup was extremely spicy.
We were all gulping down water, and laughing hysterically, but we kept eating because it was also delicious. With Thai spices, we have learned ‘less is more’.”
For a first time host family, it certainly seems like this family unit is off to a great start for their exchange year. They are already imagining a trip to Thailand and meeting Kittima’s family. So what would they tell someone who hasn’t hosted before? Renee says, “We are so glad we decided to do this! We are having a great time getting to know Kittima and sharing our culture with her, and learning so much at the same time. This is a great experience for our entire family, and is definitely broadening our horizons. I would encourage anyone who has thought about doing this to speak to a coordinator for more information!”
Interested in hosting? Follow Renee’s advice and learn more here and get connected with a local coordinator in your area!