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Being a Host Family: Learning about other cultures

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I love learning about other cultures and visiting the world but traveling can be so expensive! But what if visitors from other countries come to you? Ted, Jean, and Adam are a Johnson County 4-H family that opened up their home to host Yokky from Thailand this summer. They were looking for an experience that would expose them to other cultures and ideas. It is truly a “learn by doing” experience for both the host family and the exchange student. 

Kansas 4-H Exchange programs coordinates inbound and outbound exchanges to develop global citizenship in youth and host families. There are outbound opportunities for 4-H’ers ages 12 – 18 and alumni 19 – 25 to develop a deeper understanding of other cultures. Without further ado, let’s hear from Ted, Jean, and Adam about their experience!

Exchange student host family riding tram

A 4-H family's story
Jean shared, “We had a great experience with Yokky! We loved showing her part of our America, and learning all about Thailand — the foods they eat, where she lives and goes to school, what she is studying, and more. Having 3 weeks gave us time to get to know each other, and to ask questions about everyday life as we were doing things here. We learned that they don’t eat a lot of beef, but mostly pork or chicken. Travel can be by train or bus, or plane, and the roads are not as good in Thailand when traveling between cities. Yokky and Adam talked about how the schools are different there — even as early as elementary school they go to different classes and teachers for different subjects, and she had to wear a uniform, and Adam doesn’t. We really enjoyed having her cook with us, and she shared some simple recipes with us as well that were delicious. I am hoping we can volunteer and have a student from IFYE Association of the USA, Inc. again in the future.”

Mount Rainier National Park Wanting a youth perspective, Jean asked her son, Adam about his experience:

Visiting the WWI Memorial in KCJean: What did you like the most about having Yokky here with our family?

Adam: We did a lot of activities that we haven’t done for a really long time.  We went to the zoo.  I wanted to show her the penguins and the lorikeets.  It was also fun to see her reaction to the Stingray petting – I could tell she loved it.  Another thing we did was the World War I Memorial, and I got to show her the displays, including the live ammunition in one of the rooms.

Jean: What was the most challenging thing about having another person staying with us?

Adam:  It was different having someone stay with us – we didn’t always have the same routine and I had to do different things sometimes.  I also had to ask her what she liked and get to know her.  It was more difficult to communicate sometimes, because of the language differences.  It was fun to get to know Yokky and learn what she liked and didn’t like.

First time every seeing snowJean: What was most surprising to you about what Yokky shared about Thailand?

Adam:  That they have elephants in Thailand!  I didn’t know that elephants lived there.

Jean:  Did you try any Thai food while Yokky was visiting?  What did you think?

Adam:  We tried cooking Tom Yum soup while Yokky was here – it was good, but it was really spicy!

Making blackberry pieJean:  Would you like to do an exchange in the future?

Adam: I would like to go to England, or Australia.  I like those countries because they speak english and it would be neat to go and see those countries.  If I learn Spanish, I would also like to go to Mexico or Spain.  I want to try the food in those places to see how it compares with American food.

Yokky and Adam eatingYou can become a host family
Kansas 4-H International Exchange Program provides opportunities for youth to visit other countries and opportunities for families to host delegates from other countries. In 2019, there will be opportunities to host youth from Japan, Costa Rica, or Finland for 3 – 4 weeks in addition to exchanges from various countries as part of the summer program. You do not need to be involved with 4-H to host.

If you are interested, check out http://www.kansas4-h.org/events-activities/global-citizenship/kansas-4-h-international-exchanges/ and/or email Mary Kay Munson, 4-H International Exchange Coordinator at munson@ksbroadband.net.