Jennifer Islas – Host Mom & Alumna – California

Hosted students from Switzerland and Estonia

Jennifer is a first-time host mom of two exchange students this year: Ago, from Estonia, and Céline, from Switzerland. She agreed to share some highlights of their family’s hosting experience.

How did you first hear about YFU and why did you decide to become a host family?

“I was a YFU exchange student to Japan when I was seventeen, and my daughter went on a program to Australia last year, so we are very familiar with international exchange. Our family experienced the rewards of being an exchange student and the importance of a host family as a part of it, so we decided to open our home and welcome two very different but perfectly fitting young people in to our family.”

What is the best part of hosting?

“I love everything about it. We have shared so many wonderful experiences together as a family. We laugh a lot and talk for hours and have fun! We don’t turn the TV on in the evenings anymore —we get so involved in conversations and games that we don’t notice the time fly by, and then it’s after 11 and time to go to bed. We talk about different cultures, funny stories, memories, history and politics. It is so fascinating to explore our differences and find surprising similarities.”

“It doesn’t cost a lot of money to host an exchange student and have a great time. They simply want to be a part of your family. We have the best times of our life playing Scrabble, card games and laughing at jokes. It is easy to come up with fun things to do— all you need is imagination. We often download silly laws in the United States and other countries— and we go over them laughing about how silly they are. We teach each other card games and play table games. It is really fun to play Scrabble with Céline and Ago, because they think of words in their own language (both of them speak 3 languages), so we tried playing it in different languages. We take road trips and go snow boarding; we also have been to San Francisco a couple of times. It is fun to get out and spend time together.”

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About Youth For Understanding USA

Youth For Understanding (YFU) advances intercultural understanding, mutual respect, and social responsibility through educational exchanges for youth, families and communities. The global YFU network, consisting of partners in more than 60 different countries, is united by the belief that full cultural immersion is the most effective means to gain the skills needed to thrive in an increasingly multicultural, interconnected and competitive global society. YFU has remained a trusted leader of intercultural exchange programs for more than 60 years because of its commitment to safety, reputation for quality, and exceptional support services. Backed by a global team of volunteers, YFU provides cultural education and guidance to all participants. Selected to administer more government and corporate scholarships than any other high school exchange program, YFU is the only organization awarded full-listing for J-1 inbound, outbound and short term exchange by the Council on Standards for International Educational Travel (CSIET). Through creating global learning opportunities, YFU has promoted international understanding and world peace to more than 250,000 students and their host families. Thousands of parents across the globe trust YFU with their teenagers every year, and thousands of students every year choose YFU to help them discover their inner selves.
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