We’re Just One Big Family

16 Aug

Greetings, dear readers! Another little hiatus from blogging, but it’s such an exciting & special time for my work/personal life right now!

As you may know, I work at an awesome company called EF: Education First in the High School Exchange Year program. To basically give you the quick run down: we work with students ages 15-18 from 13 different countries in Europe & Asia who are coming over to the U.S. to study for a year. We match these students with volunteer host families based on compatibility, hobbies & interests. And we do this all by a summer deadline. Cue me having zero beach days so far & having worked 13 days in a row at one point.

Oh yes, summer is a rough time in the office. But it all paid off. We actually matched all 2,600 students with host families THREE WEEKS before the deadline. This has NEVER been done before by any company! Aka: EF is kinda the biggest (& best) exchange program you could work with ūüėČ

Now that the students are matched the office can exhale for a bit. We met our goal & the excitement is over. But in my opinion, the best part is happening right now! The students are arriving! 

I¬†started working at EF November 2014, which was fun but I didn’t feel too connected to the students or host families. They had been matched for a while & most families were all settled in. But NOW things feel so much different!

After months & months of calling new host families, answering their nervous questions, building their excitement & actually¬†being the one to help them choose their student,¬†I feel so connected to my work. I’m very big on human interactions¬†& perspective & to think that I was the one who had a big hand in creating¬†a new family¬†is so so special!

(My Parisian host family who took a chance on hosting me, Spring 2012)

Because this hits so close to home for me. In college I studied abroad for a semester in Paris, lived with a French host family & had such a great time. My French improved so much & my host brother Simon & I have an incredible bond. (I am actually going to see him this fall when my mom & I head to Europe & she will meet him for the first time ever. So cute!)

Something else you should know about why I’m so happy right now is because my work life is fully intersecting with my personal life in the best way possible! A few months after I started my job, I was working to recruit¬†international exchange¬†coordinators, or IECs as well call them. These people are truly the backbone of our program since they are our field staff, working in their own communities to help us find wonderful host families for students.

I was telling my mom about the position & how great our IECs were & long story short, soon¬†she¬†decided to become one! I worked closely with her over the year hanging posters, setting up booths, & making phones calls. After about a million “no’s” she finally got her first interested host family. Then another, then another, then another! Now there are seven wonderful students who will be under my mom’s supervision for this upcoming school year! They will be living with host families that my mom found & the students are applicants I¬†personally hand-picked¬†after hearing the details of each family! Needless to say, we make a pretty good team!

(Airport arrivals are the absolute cutest thing ever!)

Now I cannot WAIT to meet Gary from Spain, Loredana from Italy, Tzu-Chi “Jessica” from Taiwan, David from Germany, Karlota from Spain, Philine from Germany & David from Spain!

I am so excited to mentor them over the year as if they were my own brothers & sisters. I look forward to seeing how much their English improves & how close they get with their host families. It will be amazing to watch how much their lives change this year. I also cannot wait to see how great this is for the communities since all these students are going to be in towns with very little diversity. They are going to meet people who only read about their countries in newspapers, so any new friendships truly are a form of international diplomacy.

I have said it a million times but¬†travel is the most important thing you could ever do.¬†You see things you never imagined, you try new things you otherwise never would have, & you meet people who¬†you will never forget.¬†Plus I can say from personal experience that travel takes you on a journey long after you’ve arrived back home. It’s a catalyst for more adventures & learning¬†so much about who you are.¬†

The same goes with study abroad. Sure, host families may feel weird having a ‘stranger’ come to their house at first & the students have all these new cultural differences to adjust to, but once that’s aside we see¬†just how much everyone has in common.¬†How these teenagers coming from strange & distant lands really are just like¬†the ones in your own town.

(Gary & my little brother, Sean, having bro time, bonding over food & sports)

Last night Gary from Spain was the first to arrive. Due to some bad weather, his flight was delayed for several hours. His dad, all the way in Madrid, called my home & spoke to my own dad who assured that Gary was in safe hands. Later when he finally arrived, my family welcomed him with open arms. Even though he is only staying for the weekend until his own host family comes back from vacation, my family just gained a brand new son, brother & friend. 

The other six students will be arriving in the upcoming weeks & I am so excited for them. They may be young but who knows where this experience will take them, what inspiration it will instill in them, or who they will be molded into in the future.

Maybe if they’re lucky they will grow up to work their absolute dream job of helping future nervous exchange students meet anxious host families, smiling fondly on their own time abroad ūüôā

JG ‚̧

p.s. watch this & get ready to cry https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1IW-haWMEe4

p.p.s. interested in hosting an exchange student of your own? click here! http://www.efexchangeyear.org/

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