A Recipe for a Global Family: Host an Exchange Student

by Jillian Sims, Academic Year Program Assistant

Recipe for a Global Family:
In a loving home: add one host father, two host daughters, one awesome exchange student.
Blend until one great family unit.
Open heart and let set for 9-10 months.
Serves one whole family and lucky community. Enjoyed best when open to new worlds and cultures.

For one host family in Alabama, that was the simple recipe they followed when host dad, Brian, decided that it was time to add a missing ingredient to his family and to host an exchange student with CCI Greenheart. “My wife passed away in 2006 from complications with congestive heart failure.  Being a single parent with two teenage girls, I wanted to balance out the numbers of the house and experience having not only a son but another male in our house.”

It couldn’t have been a better decision for this family and even for the student. Life with their Italian student, Claudio, has been a joyous, eye-opening, and even slimming experience!  Claudio, has livened up the home, diving fully into decorating for the seasons, engaging his host family in his studies and observations, and last, but not least, has exposed his new family to a bit of a culinary revolution in their home.

Brian shares a rather hilarious incident from a family dinner:
“My youngest daughter was pouring some ranch dressing on the pasta that Claudio had made and Claudio simply lowered his head and said ‘I can’t believe!  It is impossible!  Why!’ He did not understand the love of ranch dressing with teenagers in America.”

Claudio didn’t stop at purely being flabbergasted with this American fascination with dressing, and perhaps not the healthiest of eating habits. He helped the family to develop a meal plan that is working quite well. “I have adapted to his cuisine and I have lost 26 pounds!!!” Brian exclaims.

Even a trip to the market is full of excitement and possibilities.  “I absolutely look forward to a weekly shopping trip to buy groceries.  It is amazing to watch Claudio as he goes through the store and to be able to explain to him what certain things might be or what we use them for.  It is even more exciting to learn different ways to use things we are accustomed to.”

Delicious homemade meals (like the student’s  yummy pasta al pomodoro) is not the only thing that Claudio has brought to the family, it’s much more than that. The family has had many wonderful experiences and moments and has learned to be more appreciative of the simple things.

“One of the most important things we have learned is that as American’s we are spoiled with way too many things or possessions as well as luxuries in our lives.  My impression of the Italian culture is that it is a simple culture.  Instead of using so many words to color our language or our conversations, it is more simple to just state what we have to say and back those statements up with the same actions.”

Brian has become a true believer in the hosting experience for many reasons. No doubt, one of them being those small and simple things, such as a moment like this:

“My favorite memory thus far has to be when Claudio said to me….’you are a young parent.  To me you are like a big brother.  If I had a big brother I would hope that he would be just like you….’  That alone left me speechless.  At times life can become a bit overwhelming leaving you feeling like a failure in certain aspects of your life.  But when a total stranger says those words to you it really makes you stop and appreciate life for what it is.”

Moments like this, are of course, the goal of a great exchange experience. When all of the ingredients come together perfectly to turn out something complex but simple and maybe even a little savory and sweet, but always memorable for a long time after. And of course, when it turns out right, you will have to have it over and over again!