I recently sent my foreign exchange student back home after being with me and my daughter for a full school year. The experience was something I’ve wanted to do since I was in high school day dreaming about jetting off around the world on adventures. So this past year I decided to take advantage of my daughter’s final year of high school and make this happen.
Our student was a lovely girl from Norway. From the very beginning she seemed to fit our family well – she liked similar shows and activities as my daughter. She wanted to dabble in American sports and she signed up for several sports throughout the year. She worked hard in the beginning to get a handle on the US school system, and a Catholic private school at that (nope, she wasn’t Catholic, and she wasn’t religious in any form). Things got off to a great start.
We hit some snags but that’s to be expected along the way. I’m not sure if it was cultural or just the personality of our student but she didn’t bond with us in the tight way I had heard other students do with their families. At times I felt like she was simply on a 10 month vacation and sometimes I felt we were in her way because of our conservative beliefs and behaviors. We’re not monks of course but we certainly couldn’t compete with the California lifestyle I later found out she wished to have on her exchange.
At the end of the day I have no regrets. I’m glad to have done it. I’m glad to have provided this experience for my daughter and for our exchange student. But I’m also left wondering. I ponder whether the lack of bonding meant little to no influence in the life of this girl. She was polite and genial (well, for the most part). But I can’t put a finger on whether or not my dream to have her here had much impact on her at all. I wonder if our faith and what she learned about our culture has changed her heart or her behaviors in any way. I wonder whether she went home wiping her brow, glad to have gotten through it. I wonder if I will ever see her again. 10 months is a long time to give emotionally, financially, and spiritually. I feel a connection to her as a mom in a way that I’m pretty sure she doesn’t reciprocate. So I wonder and ponder and muse at the level of influence we had on her. I wish for her all the dreams of her young life. I hope that she remembers us and her time here fondly. I hope that a glimpse into our life plants a seed of faith for another day. I wish her love and happiness. And I miss her.