(Photo features Ashley and Stella, who live with the Wolfe family)
When you house an international student, you are not only providing brighter futures for students, but providing an irreplaceable opportunity for becoming integrated into a new culture, and educated on otherwise unattainable material. Imagine you are a high school student, leaving behind not only your family and home country, but everything that has been normal and comfortable your whole life. It isn’t easy for these students to assimilate to a foreign atmosphere and way of life, but Eastern Christian pledges to make the transition and stay of international students as smooth and welcoming as possible, through the homestay program.
If you’re unfamiliar with the EC homestay program, or unsure how to get involved, Mrs. Rhyu or Mrs. De Marco could help out any potentially interested families. Mrs. Rhyu explains, “In the 2010s, we started offering homestay arrangements to pair international students with American families. The families provide basic necessities and also provide emotional and social support that students need while they are here.” Mrs. De Marco continues, “The international community consists of the students and the team. Mr. Intelkofer, Mrs. Rhyu, Mrs. Adair and Mrs. De Marco are the team. We work closely with the students to ensure that they are well taken care of. We make sure they have the correct classes, that they understand the American culture in the classroom, and we help to make sure that they are happy in their homestay.” Mrs. Demarco runs the homestay program at EC, and has welcomed several students into her own home. She reports, “When I first took on the responsibility of Homestay Coordinator, I was very excited to be able to learn about them and their culture and to help them acclimate to their American homestay. We would like to add more talented, gracious and loving families to our host program.”
When asked why she feels so personally connected to this cause, Mrs. Rhyu said that her own experiences of coming to America means she could relate to the adjustment to culture. Mrs. Demarco reported similarly that she was personally grateful to be able to assist the students in their transition. She said, “You are giving these kids an opportunity to live in America. The appreciation they give you for what you do for them means a lot. It's nice when you can make them happy by driving them to their friend’s, or making a meal that you know they like, or taking them to the store so they can get the food they like from their home country.” She feels personally fulfilled when she is able to help out a student.
This program also brings benefits to the American families involved, since they are also getting a unique chance to discover different cultures. It's a great learning experience for anyone included in the organization, and the realm of benefit reaches far beyond the time students are living here. Mrs. De Marco said, “My homestays and I still text and email regularly. Actually, one came and stayed recently. He came to the alumni chapel over Thanksgiving. It was really nice to be able to catch up and hear what he has been doing in college. Quite a few of the parents in the program keep in touch with students, and in turn the students love to keep in touch too.” She emphasized that the time spent with her international students are memories that she cherishes, and she absolutely loves housing them. A special time with a foreign student that she remembers is watching them decorate the Christmas tree with her family. She also mentioned, “I loved seeing my husband teaching him how to snowblow the driveway during a snowstorm, and just watching him laughing with a smile on his face.”
When it comes to welcoming strangers into your home, there is definitely some getting used to being done for the generous EC families as well. Mrs. De Marco states that it requires “a lot of grace, patience and prayer. Five years later, my husband and I still pray for their families, even now. I love it and I know it's because I kept going to God for guidance.” Furthermore, she stressed the importance of communication and connection. “The host should be interested in learning about the student personally, about their home country, about their families, what they like or don't like. As in all new relationships, it takes time and if you put the time and effort into it, it will be rewarding.” She strongly recommends this program, considering she has seen it work, and has seen the immense greatness that can be brought to both the student and the family. She said, “you will truly be blessed by them living with you.”
If you have ever considered becoming a host parent to an international student, this is your chance! Mrs. De Marco urges, “Why not give hosting an international student a try? We are in need of hosts for the 2nd semester. It is the best time to start hosting a student because your commitment is 5 months not the full school year of 10 months. We have a couple hosts who were not sure about hosting, but gave it a try for the 2nd semester, and really liked it. Hosts are paid directly from the student's parents for hosting their child. If you are interested in learning more about the Host Family Program and would like to read the Host Family Job Description, please email Sandy De Marco at firstname.lastname@example.org.” Any member of the Eastern Christian community has the potential to broaden the horizons and prospects of an aspiring teen, by opening their hearts and their homes to supply an incredible opportunity, that truly is once in a lifetime.