Student: Thanksgiving was great. Not only did I learn a lot about American culture, I got to spend time with a family who really makes me feel at home. I haven't been homesick with them around. I used to think there was so much racism (and in some ways there still is), but I feel that I have been accepted as part of the community and my Host has really made me feel included as part of her family.
Host: My Hostee spent Thanksgiving with my extended family. We all enjoyed sharing stories and customs of our families. She also brought me some wonderful spices and local foods from her home and I learned to cook dahl! This experience has helped my daughter realize how similar teenagers all over the world are.
Student: I loved getting sweets for Halloween and then for Easter from my Host. I was really surprised that people here [in the US] are so willing to learn more about other countries, even about small countries like mine [Bulgaria]. My overall impression of the people in the US and their attitude towards international Students is strongly positive.
Host: My entire family enjoyed sharing the Thanksgiving experience with Mercy. It was her first Thanksgiving and she didn't know what to expect except that it was going to be loud. She tried many new foods and we enjoyed sharing the experience with her. I also had the opportunity to attend "African Caribbean Night" and what a treat it was. The show was wonderful and the food was delicious. I felt like a proud parent watching Mercy and Pat on stage.
Student: I have learned a lot about U.S. history, the way people think and perceive things, how people eat, talk and dress. I had always thought that the American society was very individualistic in nature and people wouldn't really care too much about "outsiders", but my hosts completely altered my perception. They are the most loving and caring people and are very concerned about issues which face the world today. They take special care to make me feel involved and a part of their lives which just makes me feel so special. They are simply the best and I am so thankful for knowing them.
Host: It's been two years now and my family and I have grown very close to both both girls. I've had some memorable experiences: cooking and trying new foods made by the students, going to events both on and off campus in which the girls were involved, learning Bulgarian dances, eating steamed eggs with tofu and pork cooked in coca cola (excellent, I might add), riding bikes on the bike trail and experiencing the beauty of New England through someone else's eyes, learning about life in other parts of the world, meeting Gina's sister and watching them challenge my husband to a game of horse in the driveway, helping Gergana move to the 4th floor of her new dorm without an elevator (ugh), going to dance concerts with my daughter and/or Gergana to watch Gina perform (such a beautiful dancer), handing out hugs when they are feeling homesick, meeting their moms and dads on Skype, and touring the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst with Gergana (lived here all my life and didn't know it existed). This has been the most wonderful experience and I'm so glad I participated. The connection I have with these girls will last long after they graduate.
Student: Before I came here, I was told that people in the US will not be very friendly. However, now I think that it is not true. I have met some really friendly people here and I am optimistic about making more connections.
Host: Bringing one of my hostees with me on my family trip to spend Thanksgiving at my sister's. My family thoroughly enjoyed her, and we loved sharing our joy in being together with her. My Hostees' delight and wonder in the early days about how things work here. Corn left out for sale at unmanned stands was stunning to them, coming from a country where food is a scarce resource that requires careful guarding. That made me see my own surroundings with fresh eyes, and made me more appreciative of what I have. Their sweet solicitude for my daughter. Their eagerness and pride in coming to me with good news throughout the year -- of a first "A" earned, fall/jterm/summer jobs secured, a wonderful new faculty connection made, etc. They were bursting to share, and so happy to have me as another person to share it with. I had little specific knowledge of the country my Hostees call home. Now I feel I know much more, and care more personally about what is going on there. I'll carry with me forever, I think, that sense of having a personal connection to this place formerly just a shape on the map.
Student: I have many memorable experiences, but the most recent one was spending Easter at Chuck's mother's house with his family. Everyone was just so great and they really made me feel like I was part of the family and that it was the most natural thing for me to be there. They gave me an Easter basket and the kids were running around. We had a great dinner and then long conversations with different members of his family. It just really made me feel part of the family and the community in general. It gave me a glimpse of what "real" American life looked like. In other words, it's very different to consider the USA just in terms of your college experience because that gives you only a very limited view of what the USA affords as opportunities and lifestyles. Being around my Host family, I had the chance to see how people make a family, find time for friendships and keep in touch with others, and I appreciated the pace of life outside of school. My view of the USA has become more positive because the Host program let me see more opportunities to create a space for myself here.
Host: I learned a lot and certainly gained a greater appreciation for the history and trials of Afghanistan. Our Student's little brother was killed by a Russian bomb; the family fled to Pakistan for 10 years...I have even a greater admiration for my Student's ingenuity and her strength. I am confident that she will be a great ambassador for Islam.
Student: This experience dramatically changed my perception of the U.S. This is an excellent and important program for both international Students and Host families. It makes a strong difference during the short and middle term, but also in the long term.
Host: My memorable experiences are when my host students and I get together at my place, and cook and talk for hours. Also, as they become more comfortable with me, I became their "Mount Holyoke Mom."
Student: I've had a number of great times with my host family. I spent part of Thanksgiving at my host mom's place which was fun, and I got to eat a proper American Thanksgiving meal! In February, we drove down to Boston to attend my host brother's track meet. We have spent a few nights watching Bollywood films and now my host family is in love with Hindi movies! My host also took me to the St. Patrick's Day parade in Holyoke.
Host: Aude has become a lasting friend. In fact, her Mom and a friend are staying with us for the week. It is great to hear so much more about the countries my Students call home, and I've gained a deeper appreciation for these countries.
Student: It has been really good to have someone to talk to off campus and feel a connection to someone outside Mount Holyoke.
Host: I've gained a greater appreciation of the cultural diversity of Southeast Asia. I also learned that it doesn't snow in Nepal!
Host: Possibly the best experience we had this year was when Tasha and Vicky came to our house for Halloween. Everyone had a great time explaining the traditions and learning about anything similar in Great Britain and Senegal.
Student: My most memorable experience was when my Host and I hung out for 6 hours and really got to know each other! It was so much fun...and I learned how to knit! Dinner was fabulous as well!! She took me out to see the area and I learned so much!
Host: Perhaps the best fun was her surprise and delight in seeing an apple orchard! What is ordinary to me was exotic to her--and vice versa (she has bananas in her backyard at home!).
Student: I enjoyed dinner at my Host's house and talking to the family about my own culture and learning things about the culture in the U.S. I enjoyed spending time with the kids. Another memorable experience was cooking the traditional dinner of my country for my Host family and then dining together!
Host: We decided to have a Bulgarian Christmas Eve dinner for Stela because we don't have a traditional meal that we've settled on. We were delighted with the food. Stela was happy that we had "Merry Christmas" posted around the house in Bulgarian, and it was all very festive. Stela was willing to sit with the girls during our Christmas Eve service, too, though her tradition is Orthodox. This was memorable enough that we thought we would repeat this and start a Christmas Eve tradition of cooking for Bulgarian Students. We might branch out to other countries at times, but we want to get the food perfected for Bulgaria first.
Host: I learned a lot about American traditions and the way people here celebrate holidays. I am very glad I participated in this program because I could spend some time with my Host family at different times of the year. I also got to know and understand the American lifestyle and outlook better.
Host: Sandhya's amazing warmth and ability to share her experiences with us has truly made her a part of the family. I believe I need her more than she needs me. She keeps me in touch with aspects of Asian culture AND with the current culture at Mount Holyoke. I believe the "most amazing experience" is the fact that she becomes a part of our not daily, but weekly lives.
Student: Sandy's family has been the only American family with whom I had contact. At first I didn't know how people in the U.S. would react to me, especially since I wear traditional clothes from back home. But after meeting Sandy, my perception changed. I felt wanted and loved. Also, I feel MHC is where I belong. There are different types of people here, but yet we all have so many things in common.My perception about Americans has changed. I used to think that Americans lived in big cities and didn't have much time to communicate and care for others. Now I know that American life can be really intimate and wonderful, especially here at Mount Holyoke. I love the feeling of having a sense of kinship with my Host family, a sense of being cared for.
Host: I knew virtually nothing about Senegal before meeting Vicky and I have learned a great deal from talking with her. My kids have also come to appreciate how far she came to go to school and what life was like for her growing up.
Host: My Hostees and my family have talked about culture and stereotypes and I've learned a lot about China and Pakistan that goes beyond the general perception we have in this country. I had the opportunity to watch a DVD of a wedding in Pakistan and witness the culture and tradition of the event. In contrast I've gotten to know two confident young women who are embracing western culture.