JENISON, Mich. — They open their homes to students from overseas who come to the United States for school and to learn more about American culture. They’re called host families. Thousands of exchange students come to the U.S. each year for a temporary stay. It’s their home away from home, made possible through volunteers.
Craig and Marie Westra are a host-family in Jenison. They say their host-student Anna has become part of the family.
They were empty nesters when they got the call to host a foreign exchange student. Something they’d always thought about doing.
Since January, Anna Martin has been there, attending Jenison High School. She fit right in.
“She’s in orchestra and our kids grew up in orchestra, and she was part of choir and our kids grew up in the choir, and she’s in theater, and our kids were part of theater,” said Craig Westra.
Marie Westra says, the hardest part is going to be saying goodbye because they’ve gotten so close.
For Anna, coming to America as an exchange student has been a dream since she was little.
“I wanted to get out of my comfort zone, and try new things, and also meet new people,” said Martin.
She quickly noticed the difference between here and her hometown of Barcelona, Spain. From the food, to spending time with friends and even getting hands-on experience for her future career.
“Hanging out here, for example, you go to the mall, or you go, like this other people’s house or you go somewhere,” said Martin. “In Spain, you just walk in the streets or something like that, like the way of doing everything, it’s really different.”
She was also taught how to use a soundboard at church and improved her English. She feels as though she has become more independent.
It’s an experience she says she doesn’t regret.
If you’re interested in becoming a host family, click here.
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