We have hosted a total of 4 students from around the world (Josephine from Germany, Kenta from Japan, Tonery from the U.S., and currently Issei from Japan). Our host family experience varies with the different students because every single one of them comes from an extremely different background. We spend a lot of quality time with the students as we feel that we bear a great responsibility in ensuring the student’s experience here is worthwhile. We play badminton as a family, watch movies and go for trips in and out of the country with our exchange students. Although we spend a lot of time with our new family members, we also don’t restrict our students just to the confinements of our home because we believe that an exchange student’s experience won’t be complete without spending quality time with their new local friends and other exchange students that will be with them on their journey for the next year. Although there are certain house rules that the students must live by, we can safely say that all our students have had a wonderful time with us. Through hosting these students, we’ve not only learnt a lot about the students themselves but also their cultures (language and customs) and little things that usually go unnoticed. Our students have been wonderful and have shown us a world we never have thought we could see just by staying in Malaysia.
Our kids (Neville, Nixon and Nicole) have all been on exchange programs through AFS and we felt obliged to give back to the AFS community and signed up as a host family. Our first hosting experience was with Josephine, who was an amazing daughter and sister. We had such a wonderful time with her during her stay that we still keep in touch with her till this day and since then, we started hosting more students and realized that we enjoyed the experience. When we started hosting an international child back in 2013, we were a little reluctant at first because we haven’t grasped the idea of welcoming a stranger into our home and family. But throughout the years, our feelings towards hosting exchange students have drastically changed as the students that we have hosted have been so incredible that we’ve never regretted a single one of our hosting experiences and in fact, we’ve enjoyed having every single one of the students in our home. The cultural differences and challenges are mainly the difference between the Asian and Western mindsets and way of life and also some language barrier in the beginning but as time goes by, we have grown accustomed to the students as they are to us and it really doesn’t become an issue anymore. At the end of our students’ stay, the cultural differences were so minor that we barely noticed them. We would recommend Malaysian families to sign up as host families because, besides learning and teaching our culture and gaining a new family member, we as a family have grown a lot throughout the years of hosting and although we spend a lot of time with our exchange students, we also felt that our family has grown closer through hosting.
As we’ve said earlier, we feel that a great host family is crucial to ensuring a great exchange experience and we would advise future host families to spend more time listening to your exchange students and working out your differences. At the end of the day, you will realize that the cultural challenges are not problems at all and you will then able to see the beginning of a wonderful hosting journey. The experience has been great for our family thus far and Issei, our Japanese son is also having a lot of fun here in Malaysia. He’s been a great help to ensuring our hosting experience will be memorable. His English is fantastic and there are no severely apparent cultural differences that we can pinpoint, hence communicating with him is a lot easier. Although he tends to spend quite some time in his room, we’re sure he’s making good use of his time doing something productive. We have taken him on trips around Malaysia, attended concerts and even the recent Malaysian Open! We’re having a blast with him and he’s a really obedient son who helps around the house and gets along well with the kids.
This article was originally published in Budaya Beat E-magazine .