Tag Archive: Parma

Brandy and I both share an interest in other countries and cultures. This being said, she was right about me being a bit more methodical in my decision-making process in opening our home to Willy. Even with my slower approach though, the thought of hosting an exchange student was pretty exciting.

While I don’t want to portray the United States in a negative light — because I really do think at the end of the day our country is pretty great — many of our citizens tend to have a fairly narrow world view and limited exposure to people from other countries. I like to think that in my adult life I’ve been pretty good about keeping my eyes, ears and mind open when hearing about other’s points of view, but beyond our honeymoon spent in Germany and the Netherlands, and a cruise to Mexico I personally haven’t ventured much outside of our comfortable borders. While this opportunity doesn’t do much to fix my traveling to a different destination, it will definitely be a big step towards providing a new perspective on things. Not only that, our friends, family and the students at his school will also benefit from this exposure, and hopefully Willy will to.

Heck, if Willy were a teenager from Parma, Ohio staying with us for a year it would probably alter my perspective on a lot of things. The fact that he is from Italy is almost icing on the cake.

Once details fell into place regarding our hosting I started to think about everything I know about Italy and Italian culture. Turns out, it really isn’t all that much! Sure, during my Fine Art studies in college we naturally spent a lot of time covering the art and architecture of Italy during Art History classes. And I watched the 2006 World Cup final between France and Italy (although I was routing for France… whoops!). Finally there is what Eddie Izzard has to say about Italians.

I’m of course exaggerating a little bit regarding the above paragraph but what I am ultimately trying to say is that I can’t wait to learn so much more about the culture, and do so in a manner that isn’t from a book, documentary, movie, stand-up comedian or Wikipedia entry. Maybe all of this unbridled optimism is just too optimistic, but I’m really looking forward to finding out.

Similar to what Brandy said, this ‘blogging’ thing will probably be a bit uneven, and a bit of a struggle at first. With a little luck though we’ll start to get the hang of it, and will be able to share our experience with everyone in a clear and articulate fashion.

Welcome Willy

There are many things at which I excel, writing is not one of those things. However, I will attempt, with Matt’s help, to write a little bit every few days or so about our life over the next 11 months.

You see, we will soon have a new family member. No, I’m not pregnant! We are hosting an exchange student from Italy. He is 16 and from Parma. For now, we’ll call him Willy as I’m not sure if his parents would want me to use his real name.

How it all started.

Darcy, my youngest sister, was an exchange student with AFS in 2007 to Panama. About two weeks ago she called me and said there was an exchange student from Italy that needed a host family and asked if we would host him. Of course, I was immediately excited and would have said yes right away (without thinking things through) but I’m married now and have a voice of reason: Matt. I tend to be more of a “figure it out later” kind of girl. Whereas Matt likes to have all the information before he makes a decision (obviously the wiser of the two). So, after much googling and discussing we decided to go for it!

We called the contact on August 14 and she was excited that we wanted to host. We just had to get permission from the school Willy will be attending. After many calls and emails from several AFS volunteers with no response, I went to the school in person and got the necessary permission. Then the online application was filled out, background check submitted, online orientation done! Now we just had a home interview with an AFS volunteer.

We had the interview yesterday and I think it went well. The volunteer brought up a lot of questions we hadn’t thought about. Some of which are:

  • What do we do if Willy breaks curfew?
  • What will we do if he comes home drunk?
  • What if? What if? What if?

I suppose we thought we’d just deal with things as they came up or that we wouldn’t have those issues with “our Willy”. How naive!

The volunteer is a mom to a teenager and an experienced host-mom. She has an exchange student from Germany this year too. It’s comforting to know that there is someone experienced nearby that can help with any questions we might have and that there is another exchange student nearby that Willy can talk to. She has given us a lot to think about before Willy gets here.

Two of the things I like most about AFS is that the student is meant to become part of your family, and the vast support system they have in place. The organization expects the student to follow the same rules as the other members of the household, be assigned chores, and do well in school. We keep in touch with their AFS liaison monthly and have numerous group meetings throughout the year and are available if any of us have questions or concerns.

We got the okay to contact Willy yesterday but he emailed me before I could email him. He seems to be excited to stay with us and says he “loves animals” and knows about our “petting zoo”. I am especially delighted to hear this because I was concerned that with 3 cats and 2 dogs he would run screaming!

We don’t know an exact date to expect him yet but think it will be sometime after August 30. I can’t wait for everyone to meet him and to show him around Austin and New Braunfels. I hope he loves Texas as much as I do!