Sharon Scherrer and her family, who live in Iowa, had never been abroad before last year, when they went to Ukraine to visit Oleskiy—the first FLEX student they hosted in 2009.
“It was an awesome experience,” says Scherrer. “It was great to stay with him and see his country and family after sharing ours with him.”
Scherrer’s close relationship with Oleskiy took time to develop, but that’s part of what she loves about being a host parent.
“At first, he was unbelievably homesick,” says Scherrer.
Through gentle encouragement, the family discovered that Oleskiy liked to play games and was particularly interested in learning American games like Dungeons and Dragons. By playing games together, the Scherrers helped Oleskiy become more comfortable and feel like a part of the family.
Scherrer has since hosted two other FLEX students from Ukraine and Moldova, and looks forward to meeting her fourth exchange student soon. Though each experience has been very different, Scherrer believes all have been rewarding.
“Being a host parent is difficult sometimes, but the benefits far outweigh the challenges,” Scherrer says. “You’re making a huge impact on someone’s life, and it doesn’t end when they leave to go back home.”
Scherrer keeps in touch with all of the students she has hosted, and enjoys hearing about what they are up to.
Her favorite aspects of host parenting have been watching her own daughters adapt to someone new in the family and knowing that they are learning about other cultures at a young age. She also loves how hosting an exchange student encourages her family to do new things together in their own country.
“We take trips and go to new places to show the students, but it’s also a lot of fun for us,” says Scherrer.
“I love forming these long-term bonds with new people. It makes life more exciting.”