Many of us are planning immersion trips, fundraising for months, walking for 8 hours a day in the 120 degree Andalusian sun, zip-lining in Costa Rica even though we know we’ll poop our pantalones, convincing parents that it’s safer there than here, carb loading in Paris, and caring a lot about the global citizens we are creating in our towns. However, there is more than one way to connect our students to unique people, and we should be spending time facilitating global connections for the students who will not be able to travel with us.

How can we create international friendships and facilitate cultural acceptance for our students without traveling? Bring the target language cultures to your community, to your home, and to your students’ homes! If you’ve had an exchange student before, you already know how much you and your family can learn about their culture and your own. If you haven’t, please know that the experience is priceless. I hosted a wonderful 18 year old student named Tania last summer, and I was extremely impressed with how much we learned from her frequent cultural epiphanies, from her super complicated questions, and from our language sharing and reflecting. Therefore, teachers must make it extremely easy for their students to find international siblings!

There are many ways to do this, but I’m going to share my two favorite methods:

Summer Hosting: If you live in the midwest, please meet my longtime friend and colleague, Krissa Hinzman. After graduating college, she moved to Spain where she taught English for 12 years. For many years her students asked her to create a summer travel program for them in USA. With her passion for international family experiences, both as a student & as a host family, International Friendship was born. Last week I invited Krissa to share her students’ personal letters and the benefits of hosting them with our RAHS Spanish classes. She shared an inspirational message, she provided a lot of comprehensible input, and tens of students signed-up for more information. Every summer we place many of her Spanish students in our small town, and it has changed the lives of the Reedsburg families who open their doors.

School Year Hosting: If you’re interested in facilitating hosting opportunities that last longer than a summer, please contact your local Rotary. Long-term exchanges last a full academic year, and students attend your schools and live with multiple host families.

Hosting might not appear to be as cool or flashy as traveling abroad, but the experience will be just as rewarding for our students. Please create opportunities for your students to interact with and love the people who we are learning about every day in school. They aren’t just a lesson in a textbook.

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