Watch what our Cultural Exchange Programs have to offer...
May 1, 2013
My personal story about being a host family for FOA!
February 17, 2015
Don’s Family’s Homestay Experience with Rui and Yoshiki
July 22, 2014
I wanted to take this moment to share how much our family enjoyed hosting Daisuke & Yuto during the week of July 25-Aug 2, 2012. Being relatively new to the homestay programs and only hosting for FOA a 2nd time, we were still a little anxious when you first told us that another group was coming in July. In the back of our minds, we wondered...will they get along with us and enjoy their stay? Since everything worked out so well with hosting our last 2 FOA friends (Rui & Yoshiki), we felt certain that things would work out and they would have an enjoyable time. It was nice to see it happen again.
Similar to our first experience, it helps tremendously that FOA sends out newsletters with updates on the schedule (times, dates, activities and pick-up/drop-off locations) so we can coordinate our driving times since we have 2 children of our own and sometimes have to work around their activities too. There are 2 other key components that we appreciate about the FOA program. The first being the "ISA Homestay Application Form" that is sent through the Post Office before the group arrives. Our daughters love looking over the application and reading about their new friends through their profile and seeing their home pictures. It helps them to make an instant connection and know what their friends are interested in. For example, we read that Daisuke liked drawing and Disney Pixar characters. He had also drawn an airplane with his pictures. My daughters thought, since he likes drawing -- maybe they could give him an "Etch a Sketch" as a welcome gift. Daisuke really appreciated the gift, especially after we had him watch some Youtube videos of what other people have done with the "Etch a Sketch". The second important component is that you hand out the check, on the pick-up date, before the kids are taken home. We are involved with another homestay program and they have us wait 3-5 days while the check is sent through the mail. We understand why they might have to do that procedure but trust is such a large part of a homestay program and it makes us wonder how much they trust us if they have to delay payment? We are thankful that the FOA program hands out a check without any delays.
Getting back to talking about our time with Daisuke & Yuto. Once they arrived, we found out they spoke little to no English so we wondered how we were going to communicate with them since we didn't speak any Japanese? Because of our previous experience with another Japanese student that spoke very little English, we used http://www.translate.google.com/ to make sure that they understood the important things that we needed them to know by typing the words and/or sentences in English and letting the program translate it verbally in Japanese. It is a great program to help bridge the communication gap. Outside of the important stuff, we tried to speak English only and let them figure out what we were trying to say, so they could hear our words. More often than not, they were able to understand exactly what we were saying since we used body language as well. They liked the "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" approach best. We soon discovered that they both went to the same elementary school and before you knew it, they were the best of friends. After they bonded, it was easy for them to bond with us as they didn't feel that they were alone in this adventure. I think that is another important component that makes FOA special. Having the host family host 2 students, at a time, is a great idea. I think it makes a world of difference in how quickly they adapt to their environment. It had the similar effects for Rui and Yoshiki too, who didn't go to the same elementary school. For us, all the kids enjoyed playing Wii with our family and that brought us another step closer to them and allowing us to form a natural bond to do other activities together. I need to say that we always take them to the beach and parks first, before we let them play the games. Again, it was a great week and tons of great memories for them and for us. Our daughters have grown so much from this cultural exchange and meeting their new friends from Japan. Thank you and FOA for letting us be a part of such a fantastic organization. We look forward to hosting the next ISA homestay group.