August 3, 2013

The Best Stay-Cation Ever: Hosting an Exchange Student

Summer is a time when I slow down on my teaching/appearance schedule and focus on renewing my creative spirit by traveling and exploring the local area with my family. This summer has been abundantly fulfilling for a variety of reasons, but one particularly special aspect was our decision to welcome an exchange student from Spain into our home for the month of July. This is the second time we have hosted an exchange student, and both experiences have been amazing. I can’t tell you how much we have learned and grown as a family and how much I have learned and grown as a parent, educator and human being. 

I have decided that hosting an exchange student is the ultimate stay-cation. Prior to “Pablo’s” visit, the kids and I brainstormed different places we’d like to share with him. We kept adding to the list right up until his arrival, and continued adding more ideas after we got to know him and learned more about his interests. Happily, he was open to just about anything we suggested, and we were in “full steam ahead” mode to pack as much fun into the month as we could!  

We picked up Pablo from the airport on a Tuesday evening about 9PM, and drove straight to our favorite local vacation spot: Sunriver. We spent four days in Sunriver getting to know each other and exploring Central Oregon. We did a slow float down the Deschutes, we went to a Bend Elk’s baseball game, (we ate hot dogs, red vines, and popcorn, and watched the 4th of July fireworks show), we rode bikes, played basketball, volley ball, and board games, picnicked by the river, and spent a day at South Twin Lake.

When we returned to Portland, we invited family and friends over for visits, we had a late-night feast at Voo-Doo Doughnuts, we went to library summer reading events (where the kids all got Henna tattoos), and took daytrips to Mirror Lake on Mt. Hood and Tolovana Beach on the Oregon coast. We pitched a tent, fired up the fire pit and roasted marshmallows in the back yard, and we had movie nights and sleepovers in the basement. We went to Oaks Park and a local arcade, and we played ping pong, and kick ball and tennis. 

We saw Multnomah Falls, went berry picking at local u-pick farms and visited the Washington Park Rose Gardens. We hiked in Hoyt Arboretum, climbed trees, and went on a neighborhood bike ride organized by our local park system. We watched Glee, and played Skip Bo and listened to music (and would have done karaoke had I been able to get our machine working!). 
We went to favorite restaurants and food carts, shared family meals around our kitchen table and took walks to special spots for sweet treats. We learned words in Spanish (I can’t tell you all of them), we explained words in English, and we laughed. Oh my goodness, did we laugh.

The only downside to this experience is that eventually we had to return this kiddo (who quickly became a member of our family) to the airport and exchange tight hugs and fond farewells. Our house is quieter now. We are all catching up on some much needed rest. We are reminiscing about our fabulous month and grieving the absence of our brother and son from Spain. We are practicing Spanish and motivated to learn more. We are exchanging emails with Pablo and his mother and grandmother, and the kids are both talking about wanting to do their own international exchanges some day. Our family is already talking about plans for visiting our “familia en España,” and we are hopeful Pablo (and his family) will visit us again in Portland.

One of the reasons I write is because I want to express the experience of living, but I must live to have experiences worth sharing. I have been soaking up living this summer, in large part because of our exchange student’s visit. Stay tuned, friends. In future posts I’ll write about other aspects and observations related to this wonderful experience. 


  1. I want to be your exchange student! What a great summer. Kudos to you and your family.

  2. Thanks, Deb. : ) We had a great experience, and I think our student did, too!