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How Hosting Exchange Students Altered My View on Family

Growing up, my dad’s family hosted exchange students every summer. From Finland to France, Japan to Mexico, my dad and his brother had the opportunity to meet students from different countries. Years later, I had the opportunity to meet some of them too.  

From 2015 to the summer before the pandemic, my family had the opportunity to host five different students from four different countries. The students stayed with us for ten days each, and aside from learning about their countries and an excuse to try new foods, I learned something from each of these ladies, whether they knew it or not. Here are the most important things I’ve learned:

Goodbyes are More of a “See You Soon”:

After living with these girls for ten days, it was obvious that we would become very close. They became my family, and having to say goodbye after the ten days were over was always the part I dreaded the most. During my first goodbye, my host sisters were adamant that this wasn’t the last I’d see of them, and they were right. My family and I went on to visit them in their home countries two years later. Although we don’t talk as much as we used to, I know that I’ll always have a place to stay, wherever I go.

Love Defies Language Barriers:

While visiting one of our host students in her home country, we stayed with her family for the week. During that time, her mother and father treated us like family– they would find foods we enjoyed and always made sure there was something for everyone during meals. They would push us out of our comfort zone to try new experiences. We found ways to communicate despite the language barrier, sometimes with my host sister or her brother acting as a translator, or other times using Google Translate to talk in the morning before everyone else was awake. Three years later, her parents still like my photos, and respond to my Instagram Stories. I still feel loved, even from 9000km away.

Sometimes, the Best Memories are Mundane:

An unexpected trend with my host sisters over the years was how excited they were to go grocery shopping. At twelve, I thought that it was sort of strange, but I’ll never forget the look in their eyes when they walked into Costco for the first time. Some of my favourite memories with our exchange students are small, like walking in the rain, learning how to make brigadeiro, or getting pulled over by the OPP while boating on Lake Erie.

The ladies I met over the course of those four years have helped define who I am and have changed the way I approach new situations. I learned more about family and friendship over 40 days than I have anywhere else. I know that whatever happens, and wherever I go, I’ll always have fractions of my family scattered around the globe, cheering me on. 

Jaime Nemett

UWindsor '24

Jaime is an undergrad student in Forensics Science with a concentration in Biology at UWindsor. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, music, drawing, and rewatching her favourite TV shows and movies.
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