Host Families Needed for Foreign Students

Host Families Needed for Foreign Students

Former Smithfield Town Councilwoman Suzy Alba and her family have been serving as a host family for a foreign exchange student.

Last summer, the family hosted Gabriel, a 14-year-old boy from Spain, for a month. He attended soccer camp at Rhode Island College.

“We helped to develop his English language skills,” Alba said. “(Gabriel) learned about American culture. “

The family showed Gabriel around the state, taking him to Block Island and Newport, as well as special events like WaterFire in Providence and the July 4th Parade in Bristol.

Alba found out about Nacel Open Door (NOD), a Minneapolis-based organization that arranges stays from exchange students with American families. Gabriel was part of NOD’s short-term program, which last four or five weeks.

The Albas are hosting Wen, a 17-year-old boy from China, as part of the Academic Year program. Wen arrived last August along with four other students, who are staying with other host families in Rhode Island. He is attending Mount St. Charles Academy in Woonsocket until his graduation in June.

“I’m so grateful to my host family for giving me a place to call home during my stay in the U.S.,” said Wen. “I feel like part of their family. What I have learned this year is developing my English skills and independence. I have grown to be very independent which will help me when I continue my education in college here in America.”

Wen has formed a close bond with the Albas.

“He calls us Mom and Dad,” said Alba’s husband Adam Stanley. “He considers our (8-year-old) son as his brother.”

Wen is returning to China but will return in the fall. He has already been accepted to colleges across the country. This is Wen’s first time in the United States.

“We’ve tried our best to show him all of New England,” Alba noted.

Wen misses his family very much. He has kept in contact with them through the WeChat app. The Stanley family treat him like their own son.

“It’s a huge sacrifice,” Alba continued. “We remind him of how brave he is.”

Any family that plans to host a student must provide them with their own bedroom. In addition, the student’s meals have to be provided. Host families do receive a stipend from NOD to provide for other expenses such as transportation.

Alba acknowledges how challenging it can be to try to navigate the cultural and language barriers faced by hosting a foreign student.

There are three or four young women from Spain who are planning to stay in the country for a month this summer. Alba encourages families to apply for a hosting opportunity through Nacel Open Door.

“If people are able to open their hearts and their homes, it’s a wonderful experience,” she added.

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