By Jinn Ni Kuck (YES 2018-2019, Malaysia, hosted by PAX in Hamilton, IN)
My journey began with my own aim of stepping out of my comfort zone and learning about America. It then turned into a journey of discovering myself and what means the most to me. During my time here in the USA, I spent some time promoting the YES program because I wanted to inspire and motivate other students back home.
It recently hit me that, the students who were inspired, and are going to register for the program in the following years, their dream wouldn't be fulfilled without host families. In fact, my dream wouldn't be a reality without my host family, or host families.
I experienced living with two different host families. Sometimes students change families, these things happen, but the possibility of things not going well shouldn't be a reason for students to not participate or for families to not host. My first host mom and I still had fun memories together, like building my first snowman! It's still exhilarating and interesting to see how every day unfolds and how the relationship builds.
I stayed with two entirely different families, with completely different lifestyles and ways of hosting. However, with all the differences, they both hosted because of the same reason, which was that they wanted to meet people like us (exchange students). The idea might sound vague or cheesy, but I guess we all have to find what that personally means to us. I'm sure there's an indescribable deeper meaning behind it that inspired my first host mom to host for the first time and my current host family to host 13 exchange students in total. Yes, I am number 13, their first Malaysian.
I didn’t expect my host family to have an expensive car, a beautiful house, and go on trips around the United States, I only wanted a home and a family, and I think I speak for most exchange students when I say this. The YES program gave me the chance to be here in the U.S., but it was my host family who gave me a place, on the other side of the earth, to call home. Their willingness to change, their openness to differences, and degree of acceptance, means the world to me, and I could never repay them.
I enjoy every day at home with my host family, even when we aren’t doing anything special most of the time. On normal weekdays, after school and extra-curricular activities, I help my family out with dinner, and we have pretty chill evenings before bed-time. On weekends, we usually would just bake cookies and watch TV, do some activities on occasions, like bowling or laser tag. My host parents often share their experiences about their previous exchange students. Like my host mom always says, "There is never a dull moment in our home.”
I am extremely grateful for my host family, and other host families around the world, who would spend their time and effort in loving and caring for a student from a foreign country like their own child. To any families out there who are considering hosting, do not be afraid of change, take the first step and start hosting. There will be difficulties along the way, but the good and amazing memories you have with your exchange student will shine brighter in your memory for a much longer time.
I guarantee you, your student will appreciate you a lot for giving him/her a place to call home. As an exchange student who will be ending her program soon, I really want students like me to have this experience, and I thank every host family for hosting, and every other potential host family.