My family has grown by two in the last month. My husband and I have four children and our nephew is living with us while he prepares for college — and then we decided to add two more children who are foreign exchange students.
The first exchange student to arrive was a 16-year-old boy from Italy, and the second was a 15-year-old girl from China. Both children moved in and made themselves right at home, but they are complete opposites.
The Italian immediately started bonding with my boys and provided tons of laughs as he was trying to figure out what my boys were saying, and then copying them.
He is very fancy, adorned with a Rolex and name-brand underwear, but he is down to earth and quite entertaining. We accepted him as another son right away.
You can always tell when Lamborghini (my nickname for him) is home because he constantly makes some kind of noise — not in a bad way, but it is noticeable.
Our Chinese exchange student is a little worker bee. As soon as she stepped foot in the house, she immediately began unpacking. Within her first hour of being here, she was unpacked and settled in.
Her English isn’t as strong and we have to utilize her translator on a regular basis to communicate.
Her first day she showed me a packet of something she brought with her from China and she was trying to tell me what it was. She told me it had to go in the garden, so I thought it was something that was going to grow.
After some back and forth on her translator, I finally understood that it was soil from China and is tradition to place it in the garden of the place she is visiting. It was weird but interesting.
Both kids do not use wash cloths to bathe and thought it was very odd that we do. They are both good students, but the Chinese student is much more committed to her studies. She has to learn the Bible (they go to a Christian school), English and whatever lessons she is learning in the class, whether it be math or chemistry, etc.
She will sit and study for hours until she understands what she is learning. Whereas, Lamborghini came from a Christian school, has some knowledge of the Bible, and is much stronger in English, so he doesn’t have to spend as much time on his studies.
The Chinese exchange student is very independent. She prefers that I show her how to do things and then she wants to do it herself and does not like for me to do things for her.
She is very helpful and is always willing to assist me with anything I need. Lamborghini ... not so much. He would prefer that I do everything for him and he doesn’t really like helping, however he will if I ask him to do something.
Ever since he was a small child, Lamborghini dreamed of growing up and playing American football. He is used to soccer and did not know anything about football. However, he has been watching and studying to learn the game.
I greatly admire both of these kids. I am not sure I would be brave enough to leave my family and live in a foreign country for a year, but they act like it is a great adventure and they are embracing every second of it.
Another amazing trait, in my opinion, is their ability to accept every challenge with gusto and determination.
I have already witnessed some positive influences they have had on my children and I know it will be very difficult on all of us when they return home at the end of the school year. In a very short time, these kids have already become part of our family.
Jennifer Watson is a Herald correspondent.