We have a daughter in China and she came home on Monday. She was gone for two months. We missed her.
Elena has been with our family for three years. She is an international student, living and studying in the United States for high school with the hopes of attending a reputable and rigorous American university before returning to Beijing and starting her career. Her real parents live in Beijing with her maternal grandmother. She is an only child, most of the time. But ten months out of the year, she is the oldest of four and she is very much a part of our family.
Our family has benefited immensely through the experience of hosting an international student. One of the greatest benefits of spending time, especially living with, a person from another country, is being exposed to different cultures and customs of the world. We have learned how to make and appreciate traditional Chinese food, which is very different than what we are used to. Our three children have been introduced to an entirely different level of studying and to the discipline required to achieve an academic goal. And we have been completely humbled as we try to learn the Mandarin language, with all its tonal fluctuations. We are so bad at it, Elena usually ends up rolling on the floor, seriously falling down from laughing so hard. I'm not sure the vulgarity we are muttering but we keep trying. We love to see her laugh.
Additionally, and equally beneficial, is the opportunity to provide American experiences and insight to our culture and way of life, while supporting a young person's journey to better herself or himself. It's outreach in the most fundamental form and in the comfort of your own home. Elena has learned how to make and appreciate traditional American food. She has been exposed to the concept of balance and finding the value of "experiential" education as we drag her away from the books for trips to the beach or neighborhood parties or campouts. While studying new-to-her subjects like U.S. and World History and English Literature, she has refined her English language skills, recognizing and now even using, slang and puns and American conventions.
Lastly, hosting an international student, whether for a semester, a year, or longer, will change lives. It's opening your home and your heart to a new member of the family, one whose differences are gifts, whose experiences are lessons and whose thumbprint will be permanent. We stumbled upon the opportunity to "adopt" Elena via a family friend and we are so happy we had an open mind and got matched with an AMAZING young lady. (Not everyone's stories are the same.) The ultimate reward, the forging of a lifelong and meaningful relationship, has been invaluable.
We love you, Elena. Welcome home!