When I was 14, I grabbed the tab of a poster hanging in our local library looking for host families and brought it home to my parents. That act was the first step in what has become a lifetime interest in and engagement with international exchange. Shortly after, my parents, brother and I started hosting exchange student, both short term and long term. Then I became an exchange student, first for a summer in Belgium, where my 16 year old vegetarian self had an amazing experience living with a family on a beef farm. Then in Argentina, a 10-month experience that changed me forever. As an adult, it felt important to me that my own children had these life-changing experiences. As a result, we started hosting when my boys were just 2 and 4 years old. They have grown up around exchange students and are the better for it. I hope they too will find the courage to be exchange students when they are old enough.
I genuinely believe that international exchange is crucial to our world and to our individual lives. It gives us perspective that not only helps us to understand our world and the needs and hopes of others, but to see ourselves differently. For over a decade I have been working with CHI to help both students and families make meaningful experiences through exchange. I feel so fortunate to have met and gotten to know so many amazing and generous families, many of whom I now count as friends. I keep in touch with students all over the world who carry a piece of New England in their hearts as a result of their semester or year here. I think of all of these amazing individuals as part of a growing world family. I believe that collectively we can impact the world in our tolerance and understanding of one another.