Hosts with the Most, Part 2: Interns!

As promised, this week Immersed brings you what the hosting experience is like from a slightly different host family experience: hosting The New Century School interns!

Meet the Interns

First up, let’s meet the interns! “Rocky” and “Carlson” (nicknames) are both from Beijing, China and attend (Rocky) or attended (Carson) Beijing Normal University, although they did not know each other back home. They served as TNCS in-class assistants from January 17th through February 15th. Both had wonderful experiences and were thrilled to have been at TNCS. They loved every minute of it! As you will very quickly see, TNCS was incredibly fortunate to have welcomed them. They are two very special people and were universally loved by staff and students alike during their stay.

img_0710Rocky, age 23, was in Kiley Stasch’s kindergarten and 1st-grade classroom and also helped Wei Li (“Li Laoshi”). A graduate law student in his first semester, he naturally organizes his thoughts and draws logical connections. Thus, he describes the three aspects of his visit to the United States that made it so meaningful to him:

The first is travel. I used my free time to visit places around the United States, like New York City, Philadelphia, and New Haven to visit Yale University law school. I also went to a lot of museums. The second is the time I spent with my host family. They are so nice and so good. They provided a lot of resources for us and a lot of help. [Ed. note: Awwwwwwwww!] The third part is the volunteer experience. I’m enjoying this time with the children very much. It’s hard to express how much knowledge I learned from this experience, but I can say that it was a very valuable time for me and for my life. I will never forget it. It’s going to be a very beautiful memory.

You might be wondering how and why a future criminal lawyer ended up volunteering in childhood education. Rocky explains, “The answer is very easy. As an undergraduate, I majored in physical education.” Not surprisingly, then, one of his favorite teaching moments at TNCS was when he got to teach t’ai chi to the elementary and middle school students. “I’m so happy they liked it!” he said. As it turns out, Rocky is a national champion (and now the origin of his nickname starts to become clear) of t’ai chi in China.

Regarding the students, he found them “open” and “full of energy,” qualities that he found both endearing as well as helpful. Communicating and interacting with them was very easy, he says, whereas Chinese kids of the same age are generally pretty shy. “They don’t want to talk. They’ll just work by themselves. I was glad to find that Ms. Stasch’s students had no trouble asking for my help or to play games.”

After departing Baltimore, the two interns were headed to Chicago. From there, Carlson headed home and Rocky made one final trip to Los Angeles to visit some Chinese friends studying at UCLA before returning to China by February 25th to resume graduate school studies.

img_0714Carson, age 25 and a postgraduate in child development psychology, interned in Mr. McGonigal’s 2nd- and 3rd-grade homeroom. Although not his first time to North America (he was once an exchange student in Canada), this was his first visit to the United States. He describes his experience this way:

During this month, the experience has been very special and a chance to compare the characteristics of Chinese and American educational systems. I think they are very different. American students are very active, especially in the class. In the classroom I volunteered in, the students are so open. The answers they gave to questions from the teacher impressed me. They are very clever and very cute.

Carson found that the lack of reserve he saw in TNCS students led them to make intellectual discoveries and be receptive and curious. This was a very positive aspect of American education in his estimation. On why he wanted this volunteer experience, he says, “I wanted to learn more about the characteristics of children and the differences in the psychology between American and Chinese students. It’s interesting and useful research for me in my future career.”

He also enjoyed traveling to various cities around the country, with the museums in Washington, D.C. being a highlight for him. “It was amazing for me to learn more about American culture,” he said.

Carson says he will miss a lot about his experience once he has returned home, but one thing he will remember fondly was celebrating Chinese New Year abroad for the first time. “It was a very special experience for me,” he smiled. Top of the list, though, is his host family [Ed note: Awwwwwww!].

Meet the Host Family

As described, a huge part of the richness of both interns’ exchange experience was their host family, the Browning/Desais. After reading TNCS Admissions Director Dominique Sanchies’ email describing the need for wintertime host families, they thought hosting would be a lot of fun for their three children. “The process through the agency was very easy,” said Ms. Browning, “we just filled out a 1-page form and were sent a 25-page handbook. The agency checked in with us after the first day and went over everyone’s roles and responsibilities.”

We wanted two interns,” she explained, “and that worked out really well. They did their homework [assigned by their agency and related to their volunteer program] together, hung around together, compared notes, etc.”

Fun for the children happened in spades, but Ms. Browning was pleasantly surprised by how much she and her husband also enjoyed hanging out with Rocky and Carson after the kids went to bed. “They were super interesting to talk to,” she said, “and we all had a lot of fun together.”

It was clear to the Browning/Desais that the interns were reaping a lot from their exchange experience. “They were so nice and so grateful to be here. Everything was an honor for them, they said—even washing the dishes, which we did not expect them to do! That was an added perk!” she laughed. They lent their helping hands frequently—and, with two students to get to TNCS plus a baby (and a cello), Ms. Browning was appreciative of their innate desire to be of service in small ways such as holding doors open for her.

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Besides the fun it promised, the Browning/Desais had another impetus for becoming a host family. The saw it as a way to make a statement about welcoming people from other countries: “We want to show our kids who we are and what this kind of ‘mini-activism’ can do” she explained. Hosting also ties into TNCS’s ethos, and the Browning/Desais have been part of the TNCS community for years.

“We got to experience Chinese New Year (Rocky is a rooster in the Chinese zodiac and Carson a goat, by the way) with them, and that was great. We went to D.C. to see the celebration at the Sackler and Ripley Center at the Smithsonian, which was spectacular. Rocky and Carson then took the “wheel” and escorted them to Chinatown for a hotpot meal, a new experience for the Browning/Desais and featuring such exotic ingredients as cowtail.

As other host families have similarly described, time together was precious, and there never seems to be enough of it. “They traveled around some,” said Ms. Browning,” “but when they were in Baltimore, they were with us 100%.” Other outings they enjoyed together included TNCS’s night with the Baltimore Blast. Rocky and Carson had never seen a soccer match, let alone a live one, and they were amazed. They also got to watch their first Super Bowl, but Ms. Browning reports that despite the excitement of that game, they were much more impressed by Lady Gaga’s halftime show. (Of course, things would have been different had the Ravens been playing.)

“Other than that, we spent a lot of time just hanging out,” said Ms. Browning. Both interns liked to work out, and Rocky gave some more personalized t’ai chi lessons to the Desai children, which the kids not only loved but was also a great way for them to expend energy before bedtime!

The difference in personality between the two interns also played well with the Desai children. “Rocky was the energetic, playful one, and Carson was the love-bug,” said Ms. Browning. The two complemented each other perfectly, she said. Another unexpected benefit was hearing about their kids’ academic performance, especially regarding their Chinese language ability, from the interns’ unique vantage point as classroom volunteers and native Chinese speakers.

Once again, feeding their interns proved to be one of the biggest surprises the Browning/Desais met with, but not in the same way that some of TNCS’s other host families have described (see Hosts with the Most, Part 1). They happily ate whatever was served to them (spaghetti was not a breakfast requirement!), but, given his energy expenditure and to maintain his muscle volume, Rocky has to eat four times the amount of protein an average adult male consumes. Ms. Browning quickly adjusted and quadrupled every recipe she cooked, and she made sure she prepared a wide variety of foods so they could try lots of new things, such as tacos and lasagne. “It was a real ego-booster—they even took pictures of the meals.” Fortunately, the Browning/Desais got stipends for hosting each intern that covered the cost of room and board. Also, whereas the younger exchange students were not accustomed to eating cold meals, Rocky and Carson fell immediately in love with sandwiches. Chili was Rocky’s favorite, though, which they ate for the first time while watching the “Big Game,” and sweets also were a big deal, because at home he’s always training and has to avoid sugar altogether. They also enjoyed a visit to MOM’s organic market and were amazed by some of the unfamiliar vegetables, let alone the section of sustainable proteins (colloquially known as the “bar of dead bugs”).

The Browning/Desais also hosted a student age 7 during the Winter Exchange Program and so have a dual perspective on hosting. The student’s stay overlapped with Rocky’s and Carson’s, but she was shy and did not interact much with the interns. The Browning/Desais are emphatic that they would host again but feel that having interns rather than students was a better fit for their household, at least for the time being.

Carson sums up the experience he and Rocky shared with the Browning/Desais with these heartwarming words:

In my homestay, something very good happened. They are very nice and made me feel at home. I have many words to express, but it’s very difficult. In one word, I would say, “unforgettable.” If I have any opportunity to come again, I definitely want to. It was very special.

TNCS Hosts Winter Exchange Program for Visiting Chinese Students

For 10 days last month, The New Century School welcomed some very special visitors all the way from China—24 students ranging in age from 7 to 13 years old, and their 2 chaperones Bella (a teacher) and Mark (an education administrator). The group represents the first Winter Exchange Program TNCS has hosted (other similar programs have taken place during the summer).

The program was designed to immerse Chinese students in a Western experience, so they attended school at TNCS and were hosted by a Baltimore family, who opened their homes to the young visitors and made them feel truly welcome. Host families were given helpful tips for how to ease their guests into their new environment, such as:

  • Identify a safe place for students to store passport and cash sums of money
  • Have a quick conversation about safety in the city (e.g., do not leave the house without asking, no playing in the street)
  • Let them know how you will wake them up in the morning, and at what time
  • Keep in mind they will be jet-lagged and may have trouble sleeping the first few nights
  • They are not accustomed to drinking cold water; room temperature or warm is preferred
  • They will prefer hot meals; please limit sandwich type meals
  • Cut fruit is a great snack, but cut vegetables will likely be unappetizing
  • They do not eat extremely spicy food

(Ever wondered about hosting an exchange student? Read Why You (Yes You!) Should Consider Becoming a Host Family.)

Itinerary

Each of the 10 days was action packed to make sure that the students were getting the fullest possible experience. Bella kept her own blog, which you can view here in English or Chinese. Kerrigan Dougherty acted as TNCS Program Coordinator and escorted the group on their various excursions. She describes the program in her own words:

This exchange was an opportunity for some friends from China to come over and spend some time in an American school, both to see what classes are like, what meals are like, as well as to see landmarks and classic monuments, as we’ll be spending part of our 10 days in Baltimore and a couple of days in Washington, D.C. The kids came from a variety of schools in China, but all are affiliated with the Rise Centers [see post], which are after-school and weekend programs that provide additional schooling. Although the first 48 hours were tricky due to the physical adjustments the kids’ bodies need to make to be on our time, once they did so, everything has gone very nicely. And they are really enjoying the program! They have been pretty easy to manage overall—just like any kid, they need to eat and to be warm, and they don’t like sitting still for too long. They all have different likes and dislikes, so we make sure there are quite a variety of activities. Sometimes they are in class with their American buddies; sometimes they go out on independent trips, such as for hot chocolate or visiting local shops. There’s a lot of joy and fun, and the level of engagement definitely increased steadily as the days went on. I’m so grateful that they made the trip here.

On Monday 1/16 (MLK, Jr. Day), they had an orientation session at TNCS, received special backpacks, and then jumped right in. They enjoyed a cooking class and spent lots of time in the gymnasium playing with the Imagination Playground and climbing on the Gerstung equipment, as you can see above.

The next day was an actual school day, so the Chinese students attended classes alongside TNCS elementary and middle school students and then enjoyed some extracurricular activities like LEGO camp and FutureMakers. It was gratifying to see how quickly they adapted to their new surroundings, and they did not suffer from shyness!

Wednesday was drumming day. Program coordinators had the brilliant idea of forming a “Bucket Band,” and Chinese and TNCS students alike absolutely loved this experience. From here on out, this became a frequent pursuit, with “Mr. Yoshi” leading the band.

Likewise, on all school days, the students were given lots of opportunity to brush up on and review their English-language speaking skills.

On Thursday, after some classroom time, the students got out to explore Fell’s Point as well as Fort McHenry to do some historical sightseeing.

Then, on Friday, 1/20, the group traveled to Washington, D.C. to attend the inauguration of the United States’ 45th president—what a treat! They got to see just about the most American thing possible!

The weekend that followed included trips to the National Aquarium in Baltimore and the Smithsonian Institute back in D.C.—oh, and lunch at the Hard Rock Café.

Once the school week started back up, the students hit some local spots like Pitango Bakery and Brick Oven Pizza (B.O.P.) where they even got to prepare food at both locations.

16179181_1774154272906283_2434889102240593646_o They closed out their last couple of days bonding with their new TNCS friends and playing games such as Ping Beep Beep, a math game.

On their penultimate day, they attended a graduation ceremony and after party at a neighbor’s house. TNCS bade them farewell on Wednesday, January 25th, and the parting was difficult, as it’s easy to imagine after such intense bonding had taken place.

TNCS’s graphic artist Yuyin created a slideshow to commemorate the occasion. View it here.

This 2017 Winter Exchange Program was a huge success. Bella and Mark attested that their students had the time of their lives and were very happy with the experience. Fortunately, this promises to be the first of many!

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!