A few of my closest friends have hosted students through YFU, and while parenting any teenager has its ups and downs, I witnessed how much it positively impacted their lives and the numerous gifts it brought to them. A colleague of mine said, “Why don’t you at least explore whether this could work for you?” In full disclosure, I am a single man living in an urban area, and I’ve always had a dream of parenting one day.
YFU made the process relatively easy, and I soon was reading a profile of a young man from Finland who shared many of my interests and a few traits that I knew would stretch and teach me. The process took me from my exchange son as an idea to the person that would come be a part of my family for a year in the United States.
My student and I were paired early in the process, which gave us a few months to chat before he arrived. By the time he arrived at the airport, I felt less like a stranger was coming to live with me and more as if a long-distance relative was finally coming home. The first weeks are an adjustment as you get used to each other’s habits and routines, but I was amazed at how quickly it felt as if he had always been here as a part of my family.
I hope to open up the United States to him this year. We live in Washington, DC, so he has some built in sites to experience, but I also want to show him my other favorite parts of the country, especially New York (we both share a love of theater). He wants to see a National Park, which I’m excited to share as well.
But beyond the “headline” things we’ll do, I’ve already experienced that the greatest experiences are the everyday moments: sharing dinner and catching up on each other’s day; helping him navigate a very different school system and talking to him about having the courage to meet and make new friends. In those moments, we are becoming family, and those are the moments that I think count for anyone considering hosting.
It has been a much greater gift than I could have imagined.
– Michael, host dad to Alen