You may have heard of the foreign exchange program or even know someone that has participated in the program as a host family. Many people might look at this program as an amazing opportunity for others, but think it’s not the right fit for their family. For many years that’s what Argyle locals, Dawn and Jim Wilson, believed. That is until they took the leap and brought in Anna from Finland. Now their views have changed
for the better.
For the Wilson family, Anna’s foreign exchange program placement was very last minute. Foreign exchange student programs typically begin placing students with host families in May. This allows host families and exchange students to have all summer long to connect and get to know one another before the exchange term begins. Within seven to ten days of school starting is when the foreign exchange students that have been matched with a host family begin to arrive in the US.
Due to the pandemic, the program wasn’t active in the 2020-2021 school year so many students deferred their exchange year. So when it picked back up for the 2021-2022 school year, there was an overwhelming amount of students that needed host homes. Dawn and her family happened to hear about the opportunity through a neighbor. “I live in Canyon Falls and a couple of weeks after school started someone posted in one of our Canyon Falls online groups that there were foreign exchange students still needing host homes,” Dawn said. “I read a small write-up about Anna and I immediately fell in love with her and knew that she would be the perfect fit for our family.”
From there, Dawn reached out to the local coordinator to express her interest in Anna. Foreign exchange students need to be placed in host homes by September 1st. Dawn reached out about Anna on August 27th. The application, background checks, and home visit were expedited and Anna was officially placed on August 31st. She arrived at the Wilson home on September 4th. “For our family, this was a one-week process from start to finish,”
Since her arrival, Anna has thrived in her new environment. It didn’t take her long to adjust to her new home and her new school. She quickly made friends and got to work getting involved in school activities by participating in track and field as well as women’s choir.
Some of the things that drew Dawn and Jim to Anna was the fact that in just the little paragraph that they read, there was something that every member of their family could relate to about her. She was social, she enjoyed meeting new people, she was inclusive of people’s differences, she was student body president at her school, and she enjoyed being active and working out. “We have a child who is on the spectrum, so when we saw that she was inclusive of people’s differences, we knew that she would be a great fit for our family, whatever that might look like,” Dawn said.
Dawn had heard of the foreign exchange program and had even known families who had participated as hosts. “I always thought that it was a great opportunity, just not for our family,” Dawn said. “But when I read Anna’s profile, I thought, ‘I want to do this. I want to host this kid.’ I was sold on her before we even saw her photos or her video clip. Once we read her application and saw her video, we just knew she’d be perfect for our family.”
This has been an uplifting and positive experience for not only Anna but for the entire Wilson family. The Wilson children have accepted Anna into their family as another sibling. “It’s been a fun experience for my kids. It’s been great for them to have her at school and to have some of the same classes. They even have some of the same friends. They’ve built a true sibling relationship,”
The key to having a successful foreign exchange experience is finding the right fit for your family. “Anna has been such a positive role model and addition to our family. I encourage people to not be afraid to give the program a try, even if it’s just for a semester,” Dawn said. “We absolutely do not regret the decision to host Anna this year and we’re so glad that we invited her into our home. She will forever be a part of our family.”