Twelve months ago the idea of hosting an exchange student was presented to me. I read about the program. I spend some time talking with the coordinator, asking questions like would we be too boring with no other kids and are we really qualified with no parenting experience. Jerry and I discussed it with each other and ultimately decided it would be a unique opportunity and nice thing to do. We advised the coordinator to let us know when we needed to fill out the application.
Then we waited. Over the winter months I had lots of time to thing about what we were really getting in to. Sure, it sounded great, but what would the reality be like with someone else living in our house? This wasn't just a weekend commitment-this was 10 months! I knew we could still back out if we wanted to, that we could just continue living like we always do, watching TV in our PJs, staying up till midnight and sharing a bottle of wine or making plans whenever we wanted on a moment's notice. But then I thought about the experiences we would miss out on, and those that our student would miss out on. We have our whole lives to do whatever we want and 10 months is not really that long, maybe it won't even be long enough.
So early this spring we filled out the application, we underwent the background checks, and the home visit. Then we waited for the student profiles to arrive. It felt strange, "picking out" a child, comparing grades, English skills, hobbies and personality, looking for the right one, trying to choose a family member based off two sheets of paper. But "Nadin from Egypt" seemed like a good fit and when the rest of her information was forwarded to us, we felt confident that this was the one. And so we were committed. It was an odd feeling, that somewhere halfway around the world, is a teenager we had never met that would become a part of our family.
And then we waited some more. It's protocol to wait until the home country notifies the student of their placement and allow them to contact you. In this case it took about four weeks before we got official word and were contacted by a very excited young lady seven time zones away. During that time we answered a lot of questions from friends and family members who probably thought we had gone crazy.
But we had no time to worry about everyone else as we were now in contact with our future child and had so much to discover! We have spent the last four months getting to know her via the internet and learning about Egyptian and Islamic culture, her favorite colors, foods, and interests, talking about our local area and the things we will get the chance to see and do during her stay. We have become a happy little virtual family.
But tomorrow, everything becomes real. Tomorrow a plane lands in Springfield that will bring us a 15 year old girl whom we will take home and raise as our own for 10 months. It's the beginning of an epic adventure for all of us and we can't wait to share our stories.
Small Talk and the American Mind
1 week ago