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International students & their hosts find that learning goes both ways.


any international students visit central Pennsylvania to learn about America, whether they are a high

school exchange student, a college student taking classes, or a college student working an internship with a local business. And we learn from them, too.

One of the most valuable experiences I have had was serving as housing host to Polish graduate students. Over the past 10 years, I have opened my home to five young ladies who were between the ages of 21 and 23. Tese particular students have traveled extensively throughout Europe and could speak three different languages. It was my duty to make sure they had a ride to and from their jobs and to provide them with a nice home environment during their stay in central Pennsylvania. As the students practiced their English language skills, I shared my way of life with them while being exposed to their traditions.

screened to participate in such international programs,

Although the students have been you never

know what an individual will be like until they are actually living in your home. But that’s life…meeting new people and learning to appreciate different lifestyles. People often get stuck in their own circles of family and friends. In Europe, it’s very common to let a stranger stay in one’s home. Tis was a wonderful opportunity for me to expand my horizons, and I am glad that I embraced it. Te young women I hosted valued faith and family. Tey attended church every Sunday. Te students were kind and especially well-mannered. I was amused that, after I asked my first student to take off her shoes when coming into my home, she and her friends would leave all of their shoes at the bottom of the stairs every time they entered the home—I never had

to ask again. And every new student who stayed with me followed suit. Tey were happy to do so without any rumblings. I do not have any children of my own, but these students were a real treat to be a part of our temporary family. Foreign students are fascinated by

American history. Since my boyfriend is a history buff, we always had fun taking the students exploring noteworthy sights in Harrisburg and the surrounding areas. Places like the National Civil War Museum and Gettysburg broadened the students’ knowledge of the area. Te students also went on weekend trips to Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh, Baltimore and New York, often making the excursions on their own. On the flip side, they shared stories of their lives and travels. My most recent student and her family vacationed in Trou-aux-Biches, Mauritius, an island located in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Africa. It was exciting to hear about a beach—a place on the other side of the world that I never imagined visiting myself. Christmas is a major holiday in Poland. While in Harrisburg, students

the contributed their culinary

talents to celebrate the holiday by making pierogies from scratch, and bigos (hunters stew), made of sauerkraut and meat, that is a Polish national dish. Te meal was a delicious variation from American traditions. In addition, we exchanged gifts and attended Mass on Christmas Eve. Although they were thin, the students

were concerned about gaining weight while living in the United States. Tey were not accustomed to eating processed foods. Even the local bread was too sweet for their taste buds. Other observations from the kitchen: Te students preferred to drink water without ice, they liked dark beer, and frowned upon using plastic sandwich

International interns from Poland.

bags when packing their lunches, which were considered to be harmful to the environment. Ten years ago, a European student could only make an occasional phone call to hear the voices of family abroad. Now, Skype allows face-time with loved ones. It’s instant communication from anywhere. And, thanks to Skype, the Polish students would talk for hours, especially with their boyfriends. With every new student I hosted, I

learned something new. I take pride knowing that I enhanced the lives of these young ladies. I consider myself to be very fortunate to have made these friendships. When you open your heart and your home to someone different, you will be surprised by the rewards.

BECOME A HOST If you have an interest in sharing

your life with an international exchange student, here are several organizations to check out.

Nacel Open Door, Inc.

Pennsylvania Partnerships Abroad, Ltd.


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