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.
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.*
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.”
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.”
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!