Host Mom Shares How Hosting Changed Her Life

When you become a host family for an exchange student, you invite the world into your home and community. You also provide a life-changing experience not only for your student, but for you and your family as well. By helping a young cultural ambassador experience life in the USA, you get a front-row seat to watch them grow, and to learn about another country and culture. The Winkles family in Texas has made a tradition of hosting exchange students for years now, and each student they’ve hosted has become part of their family. Host mom Laura shares how they first got started, and things she’s taken from hosting year after year.

Laura Winkles IMG_7361-2

“Hosting was always an interest for both my husband and myself. I came from the travel/airline industry background and my husband was an educator for years. We felt these backgrounds gave us a basis to be involved with the exchange program. I have to say, STS Foundation made it so easy to be registered, qualified, and matched with those best for our lifestyle and environment. We were so excited to finally be on this path. I saw a posting needing families to give students a last-minute chance to make the cutoff for the school year 2016-2017. I knew that was our cue to jump in. Those first decisions have set us on a path that enriched and changed our lives from here on out. We have the most incredible boys that have shared their cultures, families, and ongoing achievements. They have all become family and we are bonded for life.

Once we were spoiled with our 1st young man, Matteo from Italy, we couldn’t wait to repeat it the next year and add a second for double hosting that year. During the first year, we also met and fell in love with Matteo’s soccer mate, Lucas from Spain. He spent many weekends with us and we were all a family on any outings or adventures. It really gave us the confirmation that hosting two students worked extremely well. It’s proven a very positive arrangement; both boys get to blend other cultures along with our American lifestyle. With my airline background, being involved with multiple cultures was quite comfortable for us. It felt normal. The conversations were always fun and informative. It was the best immersive learning experience for my husband, myself, and the boys.  Each of the sets of boys has remained strong friends when returning to their native homes. All the fun meals, holidays, traditions, and just daily family stories from the boys made each day one I looked forward to. Additionally watching them experience some American firsts was a hoot.  Their expressions and enthusiasm are some of our best memories.  

Here are some of the things that surprised them all when experiencing them for the first time:

      • Portion sizes and free refills when we go out to eat, and how quickly the food arrives
      • Drive-Thrus
      • Longer school days but easier schoolwork
      • Our Texas vernacular – “Y’all” and “Fixin to” are perfect examples of this
      • How warm and friendly everyone is, even when interacting with strangers

These boys return home with inspired ideas of potential new businesses and passions to start up. We show them living, entertainment, and business options they’ve never experienced and want to try their entrepreneurial passions back home. I have one student who had never run track before; yet a coach at the high school took an interest in him and got him started. He discovered it was a natural passion that he excelled at. Upon returning home to Spain, he continued competing until he gained the honor of #6 in all of Spain. All of these accomplishments he credits from his time here at our local high school and the renewed exchange student experience he had back in 2016. Believing in these young people and involving ourselves so personally has been the most rewarding feeling as we watch each of them continue and thrive with the independence they gained while here in the USA. It’s also a marvelous treat to be able to travel to any of their homes and feel like you’re a treasured family member. For that is exactly what we all become and will always be. There’s nothing better. I highly recommend other families to open their selves to this incredible, one-of-a-kind opportunity. You’ll never regret it.”

Laura Winkles IMG_1920

Join our amazing community of host families like the Winkles and rediscover your American community by exploring it through your exchange student’s eyes. You won’t regret the feeling that you’ve made a life-long difference in the life of your exchange student, your family, and your community. Learn more about becoming a host family today.

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Host Mom Shares How Hosting Changed Her Life

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