I was a couch surfing host before I worked with exchange students.
I get asked sometimes how I came to be involved with the exchange student program. In a roundabout sort of way, Couch Surfing led me here.
When I was a young adult I really wanted to travel the world. I actually applied and was accepted to the Peace Corps. Shortly after being accepted to the Peace Corps I became pregnant with my oldest child (and creative advisor of lifeinexchange.com) David. So, in short, I didn’t travel at that time. Instead, we moved to Columbia, SC where I would attend graduate school with a baby in tow.
Almost four years later, we were still living in South Carolina. My daughter Max was nearly two years old when we started hosting. At the time, I felt socially isolated in South Carolina. This may not be fair. I’ve got friends who are AMAZING from the humid, fire-ant infested, Palmetto-bug (FYI: that’s a giant cockroach) tolerant “Famously hot, Surprisingly Cool” city of Columbia. I learned about roller derby and shrimp n’ grits there. So it’s not all bad. But it is Southern. Really Southern. For a minute (which, by the way is not even close to a minute when you’re talking to someone in Columbia), I was up to my eyeballs in the liberties taken in conversation by Southern Conservatives that assumed we were on the same page. We were not. I desperately needed some new perspectives and wanted to be exposed to other cultures. Enter Couch Surfing.
Couch Surfing helped me understand something I wasn’t sure (before CS) that I was supposed to understand. Do you know an enthusiastic fan-boy? Maybe you are an enthusiastic fan-boy (or girl). I wasn’t. I wasn’t even sure what I really (I mean REALLY) liked. There are things I enjoy. Good music. Good food. Public parks and hiking trails. Art. Letting little kids bang on drums, topple bricks, and play with sand in play therapy (more about that later). But no thing that I’m nutso holy-moly “this is the bestthingevar” about. My aunt Moira loves the Beatles, U2, and the Washington Redskins. I had an ex-boyfriend that pawned my DVD collection to buy himself flowers. I’ve always sort of envied that degree of enthusiasm, but didn’t totally understand it. That is, I didn’t understand it until we started hosting.
I LOVE hosting. I can think of nothing I like better than to examine our culture with the help of someone who doesn’t share it, and to share the best parts, and to squirm around in the cultures of others. I will note that my Italian guests take pride in their food and have made me simple meals that have been over-the-moon amazing. Through Couch Surfing, I have hosted a pair of French girls as they did a back-packing tour of the U.S, a young woman from Turkey whom was training in equine therapy and hoped to bring equine therapy to Turkey, a young man from Iceland and his Canadian travelling partner whom spent Thanksgiving with us while I attempted my first turkey… and many many other wonderful folks. A few of whom I still consider good friends. In addition to my international guests, I have had the pleasure of hosting many American travelers as they took time to get better acquainted with our enormous and enormously diverse country.
I stopped hosting for a while when we moved back to Virginia as we were living with my parents and grandmother and brother. There were already a lot of people under that particular roof.
I often peruse the job-findy websites so I can forward listing that match the skill sets of my friends back in Carolina in hopes that I might convince someone to relocate to a slightly cooler temperature and more moderate political climate. If I convince someone to move, I’ll be really impressed at my fishing skills. Anyhow, while perusing the job-findy websites trying to bait my friend Rebecca into moving to “the happiest city in America” I came across a listing for a part-time administrative position to grow Cultural Homestay International’s Academic Year Program in the state of Virginia. The Academic Year Program connects volunteer host families with international high school exchange students. Did I mention that I think hosting is the coolest thing of all-time ever? I applied, interviewed, and a couple days later was offered the job.
I do think that hosting is the coolest thing ever and I’m glad that I can share this awesome experience with others.
When I sat down to write, I thought I was going to write about how awesome hosting has been for my kids. It has and I’m sure that I’ll write more on my thoughts about that later. But somehow, this is what came out. Couch Surfing is rad. I’m glad it helped me to plug into my passion and right now I hope I can help someone else find theirs.