Hosting Starts with Welcome

Benvenuto,  Bienvenida, Bienvenue, Fòonying, Herzlich Willkommen, Hoan-gêng Kong-lîm, Hoo-ahn Ying, Huānyíng, Hwan-yeong, Salve, Selamat Datang, Welkom, Yindii t̂xnrạb, Yōkoso – Welcome.

Host Family Pumpkin ImageMy first introduction to hosting an international student took place in 2005. Due to unforeseen circumstances, a family was not able to carry out their commitment to host one of the Australian exchange students scheduled to attend Dana Hall in the fall. My daughter Kelsey was a junior at the time, and the school reached out to the greater community to see if anyone would be interested in hosting. It sounded like a wonderful opportunity, as we were interested in sharing our culture, participating in mutual activities, and expanding our knowledge of another country. Little did we know that we would gain a new family member, and a friendship that would last forever.

Sally and Kelsey hit it off instantly. Trepidations quickly disappeared as they excitedly learned about each other and shared experiences. Sally was a spunky energetic girl with a smile that would light up the room. She was often seen doing artistic gymnastic moves, whether indoors or outdoors, and her moves were amazing to watch. Sally quickly became another daughter to us, and a sister to Kelsey. Although the girls are from two different cultures and live across the globe, and it’s been years since they’ve seen each other, when the girls are in touch it’s like they’ve never been apart.

As a host family, you welcome a new member into your home, share your everyday lives, and grow as you get to know one another. You’ll be surprised at how much you learn about yourself, your family and the community by hosting a student from another culture. It’s a life-changing experience. Subsequently, I believe this experience had an influence on what I currently do at Dana Hall.

host family at graduationIn my role as International Student Advisor I am continually pushed to think outside the box when it comes to supporting students in their transition to a new environment, culture, and to Dana Hall. We are fortunate to have a large international population that greatly enhances the community and the boarding program. The Global Connections Program (formerly known as the Host Family Program) was developed to help foster more meaningful relationships between international students and domestic students and their families. The connections with Dana families help international students adjust to their new environment and feel welcomed throughout the year. Participants experience the benefits of learning a new culture while sharing and representing their own, and guiding a new friend as they are introduced to American values and viewpoints. The girls experience many of the wonderful “firsts” in a new way: first baseball game, first snowfall, first s’more, first Halloween, and all of the other American traditions that we love to share. The girls get to hang out with a friend, have a meal together after an exhausting day, share jokes and TV watching, and everything in between – in glaring contrast to today’s texting and IM’ing among friends whose experiences can often remain superficial. Hosting a student who is not a sister, or child, can teach one about respect, tolerance and acceptance for differences, as we become better communicators and more patient, compassionate, flexible, kind, thankful, and forgiving people and adults!

As one student put it, “my host family provides me a really warm and supportive environment, that makes me feel included and remembered. They invite me to stay overnight, join their family dinners, bake cookies, and provide me with lots of care and love. They make me feel remembered during the important days — they send me cards and blessings at Christmas, Lunar New Year, and my birthday — they never miss an important day of mine. It is such an amazing experience and I treasure all the good times I spend with my host family. They are my second home and I really appreciate Dana for this amazing opportunity.”

Friendship Piggy BackParticipating in the Global Connections Program means making a difference in the life of an international student, as well as, in the life of your family. Each host family experience will bring different lessons, gifts, and memories, especially in these highly connected, globally-changing times. No matter where their lives take them, these are experiences where the learning and care goes both ways and will affect each other’s lives forever. When asked why students participate in the program, one participant answered, “opening yourself to other people promotes understanding, which fosters respect and love.” The world can certainly use more of this.

Thank you to all who have participated in the past, and who are currently participating in the Global Connections Program. Because you have volunteered to be a host family, we know that you, and your family, are interested in getting to know the girls better. This is a wonderful testimony to all of you; the program is only as strong as its participants and its success is in part because of you. A BIG THANK YOU for all your support!

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About Donna Corrigan

Donna Corrigan is the Dean of Residential Life/International Student Advisor at Dana Hall. She joined the School in 1994.

3 Replies to “Hosting Starts with Welcome”

  1. Donna,
    The concept of “welcoming” is core to what we do at Dana Hall, most especially for our students who come from around the world to join the Dana Hall family. Thank you for the work that you do to support all of our students, and for sharing your valuable perspective!

  2. Donna, you do such important work with our girls – especially supporting our international students. This is a wonderful reflection about where it all began! You and your family have been such an essential, welcoming component of the Dana Hall community. Every day I’m grateful for the work you do!

  3. Donna, thank you for sharing this wonderful way to connnect with students and build relationships that will last far beyond graduation!

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