What is Hosting? Being an Ambassador for Kindness

One of Greenheart’s Local Coordinators recently sent us photos of an awesome host dad, Dr. Mark Weatherly. Mark has hosted 42 students over 24 years! During the year, his foreign exchange students love it when past exchange students come to visit and they all get to meet!

Mark visited Sweden this summer and got to meet the high school exchange student he is about to host this coming school year — Axel.  In addition to spending some time with Axel and his family, Mark visited another Swedish student he previously hosted and his family!

But wait, there’s more!

This coming school year, Mark will be hosting Axel from Sweden AND the J1 student he hosted last year from the Czech Republic is returning as an F1 student!

Pretty amazing, right?  We asked Mark to tell us more about why he likes hosting international high school exchange students.  Here’s his reply:

Many people have asked me over the years, “Why do you host exchange students every year?”

Of course there is no one short answer to answer that question. But I am happy to share many experiences. I think the primary motivation for me has been to help contribute to some very gifted international students on their path to a successful life. I love sharing aspects of my life and parts of American culture. Often international exchange students come with an interest in America already and are interested in traveling and meeting new and different kinds of people. I share those interests and also benefit from meeting the students.

I also like to tell people it’s a lot of fun! I have so many stories of fun and funny interactions with students over the years. Anything from the student from Bulgaria explaining that they shake their head side to side when they mean “Yes” and up and down when they mean “No”, to students who describe a road as “trafficated.” They often use words to describe something that helps me see that in a fresh new way. Why do American high school students change classrooms all day when in many other countries, the teachers rotate classroom to classroom?

We spend a lot of time talking about How things can be not just better or worse, but just different from culture to culture. 

At a time when our media likes to portray America (and the world) as very divided, we find a lot of similarities. We talk about being open to new ideas and choosing the best from many options, and sharing those ideas with friends and families. We have a lot of jokes, and some serious discussions too. We make a point that our house is always a safe place to ask questions, share ideas, and laugh. 

The happiest times are when new students arrive, the saddest are when they return home.

But the joyful times are when they return to visit or I travel to see them and meet their families. I have students (and now some of those students have children!) all over the world. 

Contributing to a teenager’s life may not change the world, but helping a teenager see more of the world may change his life.

Different is not longer scary.

Once you enter the exchange student community, either as a host or a student, your view of the world and various cultures will never be the same. You become more accepting of differences, and more willing to learn something new. “Different” is no longer scary. 

I have a poster on my wall that says “In a world where you can be anything, be KIND.”
I like to think my students leave my home after a year with a broader understanding of the world and as ambassadors for kindness. 

Thank you Dr. Weatherly for all you do to be an amazing ambassador and host dad.  

If you’d like to learn more about hosting an international exchange student, visit HostwithGreenheart.org.