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3 American Families Share New Perspectives on Family Life After Hosting Exchange Students

Ebba and 4-year-old host sister, Ryan.

Francesca with host brother Xavier

Lyse (2nd from right) and host family

I've seen the world through the eyes of an exchange student. It taught me to appreciate the little things and to cherish each moment.”
— Host Mom, Chelsea Read

PORTLAND, OR, UNITED STATES, August 9, 2017 / -- Most of the time, we don’t get to choose our family. We don’t get to choose who tucks us in at night, or who helps us get ready for school or work in the morning. Very rarely, however, we are presented with the opportunity to choose an addition to the family – a sister or a brother perhaps, or a daughter or a son.

That’s exactly the type of opportunity Education, Travel & Culture (ETC), a non-profit student exchange organization, offered for the following three families. For Joseph and Sarah Candelaria of New Mexico, this sort of addition to the family was something they were quite familiar with as a repeat host family. Even so, these repeat experiences did not in any way diminish the excitement and novelty of welcoming someone new like Ebba, of Sweden, into their lives. Little Kohen (7) and Ryan (4) especially enjoyed welcoming someone new into the family. Kohen enjoys it “because it’s fun to have more people in our family, and I get to learn cool stuff from them like how to say ‘I love you mom’ in their language”. Ryan loves it because she gets “to have a big sister who likes to dance with me. Plus I love Ebba’s Father, Big Daddy Raja”.

Cassie Marez of North Carolina has similarly hosted many students – Lukas, Louisa, and this year, Francesca of Italy – adding more and more loving sons and daughters into what she affectionately dubs her international family. Cassie’s children treated Francesca like family, just as they had Lukas and Louisa before her. Xavier (13) misses Francesca dearly, saying that “Francesca is my big sister. She was so nice. She was good with all of us, not just my big sister, not just the little ones, but all of us. I miss her and still talk to her every day.” Isaac (11) misses her as well, reiterating that “Francesca always helped us like a big sister does. I love her and miss her.” Opening your heart and home to a high school exchange student is a rewarding experience for the whole family, which is why the Marez’s host year after year and share their opinion about hosting with friends and family, “Hosting has been a blessing to our family and an experience we can’t recommend highly enough. We have learned about Germany, Italy, and several other countries by being a part of the ETC family. But most importantly, we have learned about love.”

Justin and Chelsea Read of Arizona also had the opportunity to welcome Lyse, of France, into their family this past semester. Lyse was an amazing presence in their lives, brightening their days with new culinary experiences and joy. The Reads enjoyed her immensely. Harbor (9) talks about their shared love of bacon, saying “I love that Lyse was such a good cook, and taught us so many of her French recipes! She loved bacon as much as I do, and made bacon quiche with me every week!”. Hudson (12) thought “It was really cool having an exchange student! My best time with Lyse was going to Magic Mountain, while we were waiting in line for the rides she taught me how to count in French.” Swayzie (14) loved it as well, as she “really enjoyed having an older sister to hang out with and cheer me on at my soccer games. We both love movies, so she introduced me to her favorite French movies and I introduced her to Napoleon Dynamite.” Host mom Chelsea, sees the world a little differently now too, "I look at life, my family and what it's like to live in America in a whole new light now. I've seen the world through the eyes of an exchange student. It taught me to appreciate the little things and to cherish each moment.”

Each of these lives were touched and changed forever, just by sharing common living spaces with international students. Ebba, Francesca, Lyse – all three of these exchange students and others will no doubt continue to be fondly remembered by the Candelaria’s, the Marez’s and the Reads; as they are now the names of their new brothers, their new sisters, their new sons, and their new daughters.

- Jennifer Park, ETC Guest Writer

About Education, Travel & Culture:
Education, Travel & Culture is a non-profit [501 (c)(3)] educational exchange organization. Its purpose is to promote international understanding and goodwill by providing high quality educational and cultural exchange programs in the United States and abroad. ETC provides inbound program opportunities for high school students throughout the world to study in an American high school and live with an American family.

For more information, FAQs or to apply to become a host family, visit or email Field Director, Brenda Ferland at

Sarah Rohler
Education, Travel & Culture
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