Why You (Yes, You!) Should Consider Becoming a Host Family!

Given its firm emphasis on global citizenship, The New Century School is working harder than ever to expand cultural programming for 2016. In addition to the ongoing guest interns from around the world who act as assistant teachers and immerse TNCS students in their native languages in the classroom, a big part of this year’s push will include hosting separate groups of teachers and students (and chaperones) both during the rest of the school year and during the summer months.

International Campers

Camp Instructor Craig Lapreziosa and our Chinese and American friends say cheese!

A trial of such programming happened in the summer of 2013, when a group of three Chinese girls age 9 years and the mothers of two of the girls attended a 2-week International Camp at TNCS. On the heels of that initial success, TNCS Co-Founders Roberta Faux and Jennifer Lawner are finding ways to make international exchanges a regular happening.

Later this month, for example, a group of 15 Chinese kindergarten and preschool educators will be visiting Baltimore, hosted by TNCS, for a week-long conference on various aspects of education. Their conference will include lectures on such topics as Montessori education, multilingual education, classroom management, and more as well as school tours of John Hopkins University, Loyola University, The Key School, the Baltimore School for the Arts and—of course—TNCS. Immersed looks forward to covering this visit and conference, so please stay tuned!

In the meantime, there are other possible programs in the works that are more student oriented. Groups of both Chinese and Spanish elementary-age children have been invited to join TNCS this summer—opportunities so rich in possibility for both host and visitor that this topic bears exploring even before program details are finalized.*

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Hosting Expert Dominique Sanchies!

Depending on the group and its country of origin, the programs will likely vary in certain details, but they will all include the chance for the TNCS community to act as host family to one or more visiting children (and, possibly, chaperones). Admissions Director and Assistant Head of School Dominique Sanchies, in fact, is a huge fan of hosting and says, “I can’t say enough about hosting. I’m very passionate about it.” You may recall from a post back in the fall that Mrs. Sanchies put herself through college working as a group representative for EF Foundation for Foreign Study, a foreign exchange student company headquartered in Switzerland.

What was not reported in that bio, however, was that her family also hosted while she was in high school. Mrs. Sanchies says that the French girl, Gabine, they hosted remains her best friend to this day. The idea was that would improve her English during her stay with the U.S. family of French Canadian origins, but Mrs. Sanchies says that her own French also improved immeasurably at the same time. “She came into our home and was like an adopted child—my sister—for the entire summer. I was driving, so we went everywhere together. It was this great opportunity for me to learn all about Parisian culture, to live with somebody from that culture . . .to have her cook for us one night, to see how she dressed . . .it was just lovely. It was the best experience.”

Drawing on the memory of this wonderful time, it was a natural choice for her to join the EF Foundation. She worked with groups of Spanish 30 students ranging in age from 14 to 18 years to make hosting and being hosted an experience available to others. Her primary task was to place students with host families from the community, which came easily to Mrs. Sanchies because her first-hand experience and obvious passion quickly won over prospective hosts. Another part of Mrs. Sanchies’ position included hosting the Spanish teacher who accompanied the students. This friendship has also held fast through the years.

“Growing up in Portland, Maine, I was starved for culture,” said Mrs. Sanchies. “But the world opened up when my family hosted an exchange student, and the same will be true of TNCS families who host. Your kids are studying Chinese and Spanish languages, but imagine what could happen if a Chinese or Spanish student stayed in your home and accompanied your child throughout the day. The language fluency, the relationships, the cultural understanding . . . it just makes the world more accessible.”

Mrs. Sanchies and her husband have also hosted Chinese and Japanese students themselves in the past and may do so again, circumstances permitting. “I would love to host a child from another country—any country,” she said. “It’s just so enriching.” As for what is required of the host family, besides providing appropriate accommodations and meals, “it’s basically just keeping [the visiting child] safe and sound. Just like you’d do for your own children,” said Mrs. Sanchies. “It’s not much work. But the benefits could potentially explode.

Hosting Benefits

Never hosted or even considered hosting? Here are some of the tangible and intangible reasons why hosting is a transformative experience for both host and guest, most courtesy of ExchangeStudentWORLD.com and of Pitzer College. (You’ll surely add your own benefits to this list once you join the ranks of host families!)

  • Personal and familial development. Be it travel, school or work, foreign interaction with diverse cultures is a part of life. When individuals and families open their homes to students, personal development is inevitable. Familiarization with another culture and ethnicity expands the mind. It offers the entire family a study on how to be adaptive to intercultural interactions and demonstrates how different yet similar we all are.
  • The chance to help a student experience life in another country and culture. This is an amazing journey. They will have many questions about why you do things. They will want to try new activities and learn about your traditions. You will get to see your culture and your town through another’s eyes, which will likely be rejuvenating. This is also an excellent chance to learn about their country and culture as well.
  • The chance to gain a son/daughter. This experience will give you the chance to bond with a child in a way you never expected. Many will have so much gratitude for the opportunity you have given them. You will share many laughs along the way and make memories to last a lifetime. Often you will remain in contact long after they return home, and if you are really lucky you will get to see the child again!
  • You help your children to learn and grow. If you already have children this is a great way to help them learn about another country and culture—they will have a Host Sibling right there! Kids are great at asking questions and often you will learn through their questions. The bond children make no matter the age is wonderful to watch.
  • New language possibilities. Learning another language as a host family can be a lot of fun. Children in host families—even adult children—develop and expand analytical skills and even improve their English when they compare languages. As globalization redefines the world we live in, learning a new language is a rapidly growing asset in the business world. It can be beneficial for both a host and their family. When children are exposed to exchange students, they can learn the fun and simplicity of learning a new language.
  • Lifelong attachment. Although it might be hard to let go at the end, it is such a great feeling to know you have made this special bond with this student. You will make plans to email and call each other. Maybe he or she will want to come back for college, or to come back in a couple years to see you again. Maybe you will plan a trip to their country to see him or her. You have spent time getting to know this person, and the bond can be deep.
  • Have fun. Host families and students laugh. A lot. Whether giggling over the mispronunciation of words or sharing students’ excitement about newfound joys, host families have a tremendous amount of fun.
  • Change the world. Most important is the rewarding sense of fulfillment you will experience as a host family, knowing that you have played a key part in helping a young person achieve his or her dream.

But Mrs. Sanchies sums it up best: “You’ll fall in love, the kids will remain in touch, and who know what the future might bring.”

Additional Resources

Now that you’re convinced of the benefits of hosting and ready to host a student or students yourself, here are some other helpful resources for making the experience the best it can be:

From the Bureau of Cultural and Educational Affairs: Commonly Asked Questions

From Wandering Educators: 8 Tips for Hosting an Exchange Student

From One Life Log: Advice for the Host Family

*Although the enthusiasm for these programs is very much in place on all sides, the inevitable red tape surrounding foreign travel might take a little longer to work out in some cases. But it will happen!

Meet the Newest Addition to TNCS’s Administration!

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Welcome to TNCS, Ms. Sanchies!

This summer, The New Century School welcomes Dominique Sanchies to the vibrant and dedicated administrative team. Ms. Sanchies will adopt a somewhat new-for-2015 “combination role”—she will take over as Admissions Director (the position recently vacated by Robin Munro as she returns to the Biology classroom) as well as becoming Assistant Head of School to support current Head of School Alicia Danyali.

Ms. Sanchies and her husband moved to Baltimore in March from Portland, Maine, a move she expected to be a bit of an upheaval. Instead, she says, “We love it here. In fact, Fell’s Point is a lot like Portland, which in turn is a lot like Portsmouth, New Hampshire, which is Fell’s Point’s sister city.” Good to know! So far, they are glad to see the cobblestones, which remind them of home, but are still acclimating to the notorious Baltimore accent (“hon”). Also, hailing from the “Pine Tree State” as she does, she notes that we have a lot more deciduous trees, whereas Maine features largely coniferous varieties.

She arrives at TNCS with quite a diverse background, experiences that will serve her well in her new multifaceted position. Her degree is in Communications, earned at the University of Southern Maine. After graduating from college, she first worked in the television industry as Affiliate Relations Manager for Resort Sports Network (RSN), an independent cable sports network now known as Outside Television. In addition to traveling all over the country and getting the chance to “ski in some really wonderful places” she negotiated contracts between RSN and their more than 30 affiliate networks in all of the key U.S. destination skiing and golf resorts.

After 6 years with RSN, she became an account executive for a local Portland network where she fortuitously encountered a former colleague who was starting up her own local production company. Ms. Sanchies was hired as Director of Sales for Bohler Productions, a lifestyle television network with multiple Emmy-award-winning shows to their credit. “We sold nontraditional television media to area businesses,” she said, for such shows as Maine Home and Design and The Best of Portland. “Instead of traditional commercials, we sold 90-second spots that told the story of the business.” What emerged was basically a showcase of the best area spots for dining, shopping, lodging, etc., which was a very effective approach to advertising, a testament to Ms. Sanchies’ ability to innovate.

“From there,” she says, “I went corporate!” She became a Senior Analyst with the Fortune 500 insurance company UNUM, adjudicating claims in the long-term disability department, which she says was a surprisingly nice experience. “I had been accustomed to working for small companies, so to go to a major organization where I was pretty much just a number taught me the value of accountability and giving really clear expectations to not only myself but also to the people I was mentoring and managing. So, it brought a lot of formality that was kind of new to me but that I grew to love.”

The experience showed her that the right systems can be actually liberating rather than confining. Here at TNCS, she hopes to help the team implement a similar structure with upcoming initiatives and future school planning, “so that we work smarter, not harder to realize our new goals” she said.

While certainly dynamic, Ms. Sanchies’ résumé is nevertheless unified by a common thread. “I’ve been a relationship manager the whole time. If I were to distill selling media, for example, or working as a long-term care analyst, it all still comes down to relating to people,” she said. It’s this capacity for civil collaboration that will make her the ideal fit for her new position at TNCS, in which she will interact with teachers, other staff members, families, and, of course, students from ages 2 to 12.

Oh, and by the way, she’s multilingual—yet another plus! She grew up in a bilingual French/English household with most of her relatives from Québec, Canada speaking only French. She also picked up some Spanish along the way as she put herself through college working as a group representative for EF Foundation for Foreign Study, a foreign exchange student company headquartered in Switzerland. Her role was initially to find host families and teachers for her group of 22 Spanish students, but she ultimately traveled to Madrid, Spain to teach English as a second language there.

As if this impressive portfolio wasn’t enough, she is also a musician and has spent time as a part-time preschool music instructor—yet another boon for music-loving TNCS students! She describes the music in her two albums as “Cheryl Crow meets Dave Matthews.”

So what are her initial impressions of TNCS? “It’s summertime, so I haven’t gotten to meet all of the teachers—let alone the students—but what I’ve seen during the summer session is a charming place with lovely little people and a really dedicated staff,” she said. “So far so good!” She thinks the multilingual approach is “brilliant” and speaks from firsthand experience. Scientific research (see Immersed‘s Resources and Links pages) demonstrates that TNCS students are at the perfect age to learn languages because their nimble young brains are so nimble. “It also wards off dementia in old age and is really good exercise for the brain,” she said. (This phenomenon is known as “cognitive reserve”; read Ellen Bialystok and team’s fascinating research here.)

Pine TreeIn closing, Ms. Sanchies says she is “looking forward to meeting all of the students and families and really getting into her new role. And from what I’ve seen so far, the staff is invested on such a deep level.” Of course, there’s aways a bit of trepidation associated with taking on an entirely new endeavor, so perhaps to make Ms. Sanchies feel more at home, TNCS could debut a “Pine Tree Classroom” for the 2015–2016 school year. That would make a lovely addition to TNCS’s growing arboretum of Lemon Tree, Apple Tree, Pear Tree, Gingko, Oak, etc. classrooms :)!