Roo and Carwyn live in Swansea and have been hosting exchange students for seventeen years. With their son Christopher they have a family that stretches across the world and many students who call their house, home. Roo has shared some of her experiences of hosting with us and highlights the value that an exchange can have for a young person and also the family who welcome them.
Why did you start hosting?
I started hosting international students as a way to meet people and find out about their culture and language. I was also afraid of flying and as Carwyn (my husband) pointed out I just invited the world to come and stay so I didn’t need to catch a plane anywhere else.
We started being international hosts some 17 years ago and I have hosted for MyEducation (UK) for two of those years. I love meeting all of the students that come through our door. We currently have a student from Japan and our American student returned home at the end of her programme a week ago. We have also had visitors from Bulgaria, Germany, France, Italy, Switzerland, Greenland, Denmark and Brazil. We have been lucky enough to form strong family bonds with many of the students and we have met with their families and even gone to visit their home nations on holiday which has been wonderful. A lot of the students also return to us independently for holidays and visits. Often bringing their aunts, brothers and parents to meet us too.
Why do you continue to host?
I continue to host as it gives me a great sense of satisfaction in helping these students to broaden their horizons and experience life in Wales. I always wanted a big family which didn’t happen naturally, so with the international students I now have a huge family spread across the globe.
For my family it has been a very positive experience out of the 32 students that have passed through our house there have only been two that didn’t seem to fit in with our family. One suffered extreme home sickness and returned without finishing the programme and one young man had problems getting to grips with the English language but luckily for him I could speak with him and his family in French to help sort out his difficulties.
What is the hardest part of hosting?
I think the hardest part of hosting is the ‘goodbyes’ I always tell the students it is not goodbye forever just the next step in their life adventure. Many keep in contact with us and with modern technology they are only a ‘click’ away if they need a chat or some advice on what to do next.