I have been hosting for many years with Cambridge Network and enjoy it tremendously. But this year, everything is uncertain. I am not sure if there will be a student available for me to host or when that student even arrives.
Concerned Host Family
I am a relatively new host parent, and hosting an international student this year is quite different from any other year. What are some pieces of advice you can give new hosts during this difficult time?
A New Host
GRACE IS THE WORD
The beginning of the school year usually is a time of great excitement for high school kids – shopping for new school clothes, ordering uniforms, posing for senior portraits, buying school supplies, picking classes, enrolling in fall sports, reuniting with their friends… Unfortunately, it seems like nothing has been expected for our students (or us) this past year. As the coronavirus threw a monkey wrench into everybody’s plans this year, we want to take a few moments to acknowledge some of the disappointments.
We have families who have been wanting to host for years and were so excited to complete the (virtual!) application process only to learn that the wonderful student they were matched with is not coming after all. There are also families whose college-aged kids came home, only to find that there was no bed for them, as their host brother or sister occupied it. Other families graciously agreed to accommodate their international student for the summer, even though that meant a radical change in family plans. And families who kindly agreed to keep their student’s belongings as they hustled onto a charter flight to return home at the start of the pandemic.
We understand and share all of your frustration. We miss the international students. We miss being on campus. We miss sharing their challenges and successes on social media. We empathize with the seniors who missed out on a great senior year and who will likely start their highly anticipated start of college alone in a room in front of a computer screen.
As an SDM, what I miss most is the connection with all the students and the hosts. My favorite day of the week was the day I got to spend on campus with the students, feeding them their favorite snacks, and listening to their stories. Faculty members would pop in and out, some sitting down for a cup of tea. I love the relationships I have with my host families and would enjoy chatting with them while watching a soccer game at school or over a cup of coffee at Starbucks. We recently started a “host family support group” in the area, and it was amazing to see this wonderful hosting community connect. I didn’t realize how much of my social life was dovetailed with opportunities created through work. I miss it. I really do.
So how do we handle the back to school season during this time of great uncertainty?
First of all, we hope that you are able to afford yourself grace and perspective. This is truly a historic year, one which will be discussed 50 years from now in the same way we talk about the Great Depression or WWll today. When I feel myself becoming frustrated, I remind myself of the 7 billion other people out there dealing with the consequences of COVID-19, ranging from loneliness and Zoom overload to life-changing costs such as job loss or death of a loved one. As we wait for things to go back to normal, we hope you can find peace in our collective recovery and cheer your student on from a distance until they return to your home, support them as they start school virtually, or help keep them safe as they return to campus. Many international students are doing the same thing we all are, which is waiting for more information. The good news is that many of the students who did not arrive for the Fall semester, have committed to coming later or in the Spring. So, we anticipate more students coming throughout the year and host opportunities to open up.
For those hosts who are already hosting an international student, please encourage your student (whether here or at home) to show up and be present during classes in whatever form they take. Advise them to do everything they do with excellence, that this is a test, graded by how they respond to adversity. Continue to believe the best in people as they too struggle during this time. And reach out to somebody with words of encouragement. For more information, check out our International Student Homestay Guide for Host Families During COVID-19.
This, too, shall pass. Until then, grace is the word.
Check out our homestay blog for more information on Cambridge Network as a residential provider, tips for hosting, and our host testimonials. If you’re interested in hosting an international student, please fill out an inquiry form!