Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Need your opinion; exchange student?

Thanks to all my loyal reader(s). For anyone new, I have had a terrible semester working full time and taking care of my 2 under 2 in the evenings. See here, here and here. Someone approached me recently with a proposition; they are looking for a home for an exchange student, and we live very close to where this student would be employed as a language assistant.

This student showed a definite interest in working with pre-school children. The program they are on encourages them to look for side jobs, such as babysitting. The families receive a $250 stipend. When I was growing up, my family hosted 6 exchange students, basically through all of my teenage years. I love showing hospitality, and it is deeply ingrained in MY family (Hub not so much, but he is not opposed to the idea).

Here's my very first thought, Oh, Lord! I can't take on a single new commitment. But then I started realizing that this might be a grand opportunity to improve things.

Advantages to hosting this student;

1. Extra help around the house in the evenings. If we could pay her back part of the stipend she came with at a very decent rate ($10/hour) we could potentially have some great help. She could be someone to stay home with the sleeping kids when I wanted to go to the gym, or watch the other when one was in music lessons, or even cook a meal or do the dishes. Some of this would be expected as a part of the family, of course, but other times we could compensate her at no cost to us to do the thing we normally hassle about finding babysitters for.

2. Companionship! As I look back on my few posts when I was feeling bad, part of what I was feeling terrible about was lonesome-ness (see lonely vs lonesome). Simply having another semi-adult around would probably be very nice for me, and would keep me from several bad habits I engage in when alone.

3. Someone to speak a foreign language around my kids. I'd love to have another language spoken in my home, especially from a native speaker.

4. Expanding myself by meeting someone from a different culture as mine. I have lived overseas in different countries for several years so I understand both the host family role and the guest role. I love to learn new things and expand my world. It's never too early for your kids to get a bigger picture of the world, too. Right? Hub would really benefit, too, IMO.

5. The ability to extend hospitality. I am fulfilled by this.

6. Expansion of my social circles. I'm certain through her I will get to know acquaintances better, and learn new acquaintances.

7. The stipend. A very minor part of the decision, but will allow my to hire her or someone else to help us more. Or include her in travel plans, etc.


1. ANY extra burden she brings that is not offset by otherwise lightened burdened is beyond my capacity. Even if she were very easy to host, but we were expected to, say, go to meetings, or drive her a lot of places, it would be very very hard on me. We do have good community here that could potentially help her in transportation, social events, etc.. But I just can't can't can't take on anything else.

2. She may not be interested in being our semi-nanny. Her application makes it clear she loves and wants to work with pre-schoolers. But that's no guarantee that she will want to provide the kind of "coverage" I'm hoping for. I do expect that she will carry her load around the house, as that is just part of being in a family. She may, for instance, find a very rich social life and a tight community and not want to hang around here too much. Blessings to her for that, but it doesn't accomplish what I was hoping for in above ads #1 and 2.

When my family were hosting exchange students back in the day, one came to us because his host father considered him to be imported labor. Now, I certainly would have no intention of abusing our guest as a helper, but I have to be honest and say that she is being considered due to her potential helpful contribution.

3. She may not be easy to get along with. She may need a lot of support. Some drama and excitement and normal back and forth of "being family" is expected. But if she has a heavy personality, it could weigh on us in a negative way. By saying no, then I have my own drama to deal with and no more. She has done several other international exchanges (one to a country that I speak the language). This argues against potential serious cross-cultural difficulties. But her English is not rated very high.

4. We will have to rearrange everyone's rooms to host her. This could be two weekends of pretty serious work, not including the painting and curtain/bedding/sweet details- shopping that I really dream of doing. Our home is not as luxurious as all of our friends', and upon first hearing the proposition, I thought, not OUR house. But I got over that. Our house is just fine by EVERYONE ELSE IN THE WORLD's standards except Americans'. It will still require some organizing, and that work is in desperate need of an external deadline, but best not done during tenure dossier/ manuscript / course prep / poster for meeting summer.

5. Small car. Funny but true. We have a Golf and a Camry, and with two adults and two carseats, fitting her in our car would be difficult. It would make it difficult to go to things as a family in the same car. No, we wouldn't buy a bigger car for this.

So it feels like a lottery right now. Chances are good that this will lighten burdens and enrich our family's lives. But there's a chance that this could also add burden to our family, and for me, create an impossible situation.

What thinks ye/y'all/yinz/you guys?


  1. If it is good, it will be good. If it is bad, it will be really, really bad. So, my vote is "nah".

  2. Has she been in this country before and can you talk to her about it first? Like, show her this very post? It seems as though a straight-up au pair would be good for you.

  3. I'd say "no" now, but think about it when life is calmer.

  4. I don't think you have to worry about the cars. Everywhere else in the world people drive smaller cars. (I'm German, pregnant with my second kid and during the several years I stayed in the US I was always surprised at how much space everyone thought was necessary in a car.) I actually went with three adults and two car seats with a toddler each in a small car with two doors (don't remember the model, but definitely smaller than a Golf) recently and everyone considered it to be perfectly fine.

  5. i would hate it - being pretty introverted, but it may be a good solution to your ';single' mom challenges

  6. No, it truly is a lottery. We get to read her application, but can't interview her before committing. However, I hear that this program does a good job of screening.
    I also heard from the grapevine that her visa has not been approved yet, and that could be a bad sign. If we say yes, it may a very small equivalent if Abraham and Isaac (here if unfamiliar)

  7. No. If you want help, just hire someone, by the hour, for whatever number of hours you can afford.