Jody, Heath and their teenage daughters, Tatum and Savarna, are true homestay heroes.
At the end of 2018 Savarna said her school was looking for host families and knowing it was something they’d all talked about before, she wondered they could host someone. They spoke to some friends who had done some short-term hosting to get their advice, and the family decided to put our names forward. Everyone was nervous. Who would they get? Would the student be nice? Would there be language barriers? What if it didn’t go well? What if the student didn’t like them? What if the kids didn’t get on? But they took a leap of faith and jumped on in! Heath says they all went in with an open mind and were prepared to host students from all cultures.
After some short-term student hosting, the family were asked to host Mili, a Chilean student for two terms. The family were worried it would be too long, but hosting Mili has been easy. As a national-level hockey player, Mili found that sport was a great way to meet new friends in New Zealand. She’s very social and spent weekends (when not playing or training) hanging out with friends. Jody also notes that 'Mili is happy to sit around the dinner table and tell us about her life in Chile, learn about New Zealand or make general chit chat. We have taught her a card game that we play as a family, and we’ll often play this when we all have some spare time.'
Savarna, Tatum and Mili get along well, and they all learnt a lot about how others live. They have learnt about different foods, education systems, laws, what a daily routine looks like for other cultures. They have formed relationships and bonds that will last a lifetime. Savarna says that she’s excited when she thinks about being able to visit her host 'sisters' around the world in years to come.
Mili had a twin sister also studying in New Plymouth. Jody and Heath have taken Mili, her sister, Tatum and Savarna, Mili’s brother who was studying in Tauranga, and another international student to Rotorua. And they took the twins to Wellington.
Jody says: “A huge part of hosting international students is to be able to show off our region and different parts of New Zealand. It is really important to us that our students have the best possible experience here in New Zealand. We want them to be able to go home with only good things to say.”
Jody’s advice for people thinking about hosting a student is:
- As host parents, you have an obligation to give these kids the best time they can have while they are in New Zealand. Show them around; if possible, get out of your hometown.
- Don’t do it for the money! If that’s your driver, then you’re possibly failing your student.Treat them like they are your own.
- Show an interest in them and their lives.
- Communicate with their parents. They are trusting you with the most precious thing they have, and a comforting message or email can go a long way in reassuring them that you care, and their child is safe in your hands.
- Keep an open mind. You get out of it what you put into it.
If you’re inspired and want your family to experience another culture, contact us or your local secondary school or WITT to find out more.