Many people go on foreign exchange trips during college, and even in high school, but many don't ever consider hosting one. Last year my family hosted a foreign exchange student from Spain, and her name is Mariona. Throughout her ten months here I experienced a rollercoaster of emotions, for lack of a less cliche way to describe it.
1. Awkward Excitement
When Mariona arrived I was extremely excited, but there was the difficulty of having a language barrier. She knew English very well, but she had a hard time with slang and fast paced conversations (which is to be expected--English is hard!!). So we, mostly I, would do an awkward dance through my excited conversations for the first month.
This is not something I'm proud of, but in the early days of her being here, I would become easily annoyed when she took a little longer to order at Chipotle or didn't know where to take pictures at schedule pick up. This is because I expected everything to snap into place right away, but successfully hosting a foreign exchange student takes a lot of time and effort.
Similar to the previous feeling, this is one I'm not proud of. I often became jealous that everyone wanted to talk to Mariona and that, in my eyes, she had all the attention. In retrospect, I should have expected this because who wouldn't want to talk to someone from Spain and hear about life over there? And of course, the focus was on her because others were simply trying to get to know her.
As I moved through the ten months with Mariona I became proud to be able to call her my "sister". Whenever we would do something new, or she would be able to have a complex conversation (not meant to sound demeaning) easily in English, I couldn't help but feel proud at the quick progress made.
5. Pure Happiness
I think some of my fondest memories of my life so far were made on the various adventures I went on with Mariona. From traveling all over the US to attending school dances she never failed to make me, and everyone around her, laugh hysterically. And this applies to every exchange student I have met; they all bring a certain sense of humor that never fails.
For all the annoyance and jealousy I selfishly felt when Mariona first arrived I can confidently say that I wouldn't trade the experience for anything. I am incredibly thankful that we found her profile among the thousands in her program. For my parents for deciding to host an exchange student in the first place. And for the experience of having another "sister" for not only a year but for life.
As she experienced new things so did I. Even things I had already been through/to seemed new and exciting. When we visited the Grand Canyon it felt like a completely new adventure, and when we went to Chicago her sense of adventure made it seem different. Each exchange student has this spirit of excitement. This is proven simply because they are an exchange student, and they are living for ten months in a completely new country and one can't help but let some of that adventure rub off onto themselves.
Not directed towards the student, but towards the ignorant people who assume they aren't smart because they speak with an accent. In reality, they are actually much smarter. They all can speak at least two languages, and for many even more than that. Many people in America stopped taking a language after sophomore year in high school and only took it because it was a requirement. Exchange students deserve all the props because of the work they put in to speak English as well as they do.
After living with someone for an extended period of time you can't help but become attached and trust them with any and all of your issues. Whether it's with friend problems or frustration with other siblings exchange students definitely know how to keep your trust and secrets.
As their time with you dwindles down you will begin to dread their departure day. This will cause you to take as many pictures as possible and go as many "American" places as possible with them in order to fully remember and maximize their time here. (You will not regret this later)
11. Sad That It's Over, But Happy It Happened
The day Mariona left is easily one of the saddest days I have experienced. It felt as though I was losing a part of my family, but hosting her was one of the best things that happened to my family and I. And as they say "it's not goodbye, it's just see you later."