By Shahjan Munir (YES 2022-2023, Pakistan, placed by AYA/AIFS in Veneta, OR)
To my host family: “You changed my life without even trying, and I don’t think I could ever tell you how much you mean to me. I can’t imagine what things would be like if I hadn’t met you.”
My name is Shahjan Munir, and I am a YES student from Pakistan. I’m in high school, and I just came to the United States at the end of September. I lived with my first host family in Veneta, Oregon, who put everything aside to host me as their own for an exchange year. They deserve more than the experiences and rewards that we get every day. We would not be in our lives if they had not hosted me.
After those great days passed, then Allah the Almighty bestowed me with the blessing of meeting a new beloved family. I was excited and on the moon about my new house in the United States. Everything was new and strange to me at that time, so I talked with my host dad to understand more about the situations that I would have to deal with in the future. When we arrived, he took me upstairs to see my room and I began arranging my stuff.
My host family is a great part of my life. They taught me more about their culture and how they wholeheartedly celebrate special occasions. They teach their children how to survive and how to make relationships strong and take care of every individual in their surroundings, which I’ve learned as well. They have given me love and care, like my own family, and their love makes me feel like I am living with my family members.
Family is one of the most important parts of the new journey for exchange students. The host family does a lot to bring us to our dreams and make the year a memorable experience. Families are special, whether they’re the people related to you or the people you choose to be your family. Whether you live close by or are visiting from afar, there’s no denying that the time spent together is precious and that the memories made will be cherished for years to come. Taking time every day to appreciate your loved ones for all that they do helps us to reconnect as a family.
I appreciate my host family more because of the road I’ve traveled. My story brought me to them, and they got me to know more about my culture. I wouldn’t have made it if they had not chosen me as host son. It was their goodness that opened the door to an exchange student who never stepped outside of his home. The love that we have when we come together is the oil that eases friction, the cement that binds us closer together, and the music that brings harmony. I love and am pleased to call them my own family, and I never think that I am living with a host family.
I’m just a 16-year-old boy who is living away from my natural family for the first time, but my host family has reduced the pressure of living in a strange country and brought me many memorable experiences and memories. They are the best American family for me, and I will keep these feelings and memories for the rest of my life.
Shahjan’s story comes at the conclusion of Host Family Appreciation Month, during which YES alumni and students from all over the world created short videos to share memories about their host family, what made their time together special, or what their relationship looks like now. We encourage you to watch those videos on our Facebook and Instagram pages, and tell your own host family about how much they mean to you.
If you’re interested in hosting a student, visit our host page to learn more.