Monday, May 25, 2015

Inspiration for the Week: Out-of-the-Box International Adventuring

For many families, international travel seems out of reach. Young kids, pregnancy, finances can all make that dream seem like "a world away. "

But in the spirit of thinking outside of the box when it comes to embracing adventurous learning, I wanted to share 2 ideas that may bring the international experience to your family a lot faster than you might have thought possible! AND you don't even need to leave the comfort of your own home!

If you love these ideas, or the idea of traveling to different countries to enhance the learning of your family, please stop by the Go! International page of (It is permanently linked to at the top of the Go! Vacations page.)
There you will find tips, destinations, and renewed encouragement to make the family voyage of your dreams a reality!

Bringing the International Experience into the Comfort of Your Own Home
by Steffanie Casperson

Ten years ago my oldest was two. And I was longing to get him out into the whole wide world to share with him all the loveliness to be found there. But we didn't have the money, time, or confidence for international travel with 2 year olds. 

As I hunted around for options that would work, I found Rebecca. She works for a company, OvECS, which places students with American families as they come to the USA to study.  Called "homestay," this experience helps the students learn English more rapidly, and (perhaps more importantly) helps them learn and navigate American culture.

From our perspective, hosting brought the world to us and our children. Over the next 3 years and the addition of another baby, we hosted a total of 23 international students in our home and LOVED the experience.  We hosted students from countries we already knew and loved from our missions in Taiwan and Korea. (We still cook the food I was taught by the Korean mother who lived with us.) And we hosted students from countries as foreign and new to us as Saudi Arabia.

Thinking that other Goschoolers might appreciate LOCAL international experience my family did, I recently contacted Rebecca again and asked for an interview. Enjoy!

How many students have you placed? Wow your first question is hard!! I've done this job since 1997 and I can't even imagine how many students I've placed. So I just counted from last June to this May (1 year) - I've placed 270 students. So maybe I've placed close to 5000 students!!

What are some of the countries they are from? By far the biggest group is Japanese but also Saudi Arabia, Korea, Taiwan, China, Mexico, Columbia, Thailand, Kuwait, Qatar, Peru, Brazil... 

What do families enjoy most about hosting? Learning about different ways of life, different cultures, different foods, and for some host families, they host for the company. I have quite a few single older women who like to have someone in the home.

What aspects of American culture seem to be most challenging for the students? The food is very different for some students. But I would say that our big family gatherings are hard for students. They aren't used to big families or having big gatherings weekly. The conversations are hard to follow when it's not one on one. 

In your experience, what makes for the richest cultural exchange? Just being yourself and involving your student in your everyday family life. 

What are some of the benefits to both students and host families when they host? The students are able to practice their conversational skills with native speakers. They also have the opportunity to experience American culture first hand - to be part of a family and do things with a family. This experience cannot be had in a classroom. Although the family conversations are hard to follow, over time it can really improve their speaking and listening skills. Also, many times the students get very close to their host families and remain in contact for years and even return to visit their host family. On the host family side I've had some families that have even gone to visit their student in their country! The families also make close bonds with the students and the students become part of the family. The families also gain understanding of another culture, and of course for some families the monetary compensation is helpful. 

What should families know if they are considering hosting for OvECS?  I have all different hosting opportunities available. I have short term groups (2 weeks, 3 weeks, 4 weeks, 8 weeks) and long term students that come from March-December. They are usually between 19-23 years old. Families can say if they want a male or female. Students must have their own room, a bed, a desk and wifi. Being near public transportation is also necessary. The compensation is $500 for four weeks and families provide breakfast and dinner. I have a group of 78 fourteen year old Japanese boys coming in September for 10 days and I need families!! It's two per family and the compensation is $425 for that group.

Why do families STOP hosting? What is the longest a family has hosted for? I have some families that have hosted for me for all 18 years! Some families only do one short term group each year. Families stop for a few reasons: (some have the nerve to move to Cache Valley!!) some stop because their kids have grown up and left home, some because they move to an area where there isn't public transportation, sometimes there are family members who move back in and the room isn't available. I had one family who hosted a Saudi national for 5 years!! He did his whole degree at the U and stayed with the family. The host mother said he was like a son to them. 

Where do families need to live to be considered to host with your program? And if they live there, how might they get in contact with you about hosting? (I'll let you answer specific questions with any who might contact you.) Host families need to be within the Salt Lake Valley and near public transportation. The website is, my email is and my phone number is 801-453-9847

"Eat Your Way Around the World"
Book Review by Amanda, Road Trip Guru

Wish you could travel the whole world with your kids? Want your children to get an international education? Are your kids curious about other cultures and peoples? 

Your answer (short of a money tree in your backyard) is here! When I asked my kids what they wanted to learn about my oldest son said he wanted to eat food from different countries. My oldest daughter’s response was that she wanted to learn about people from around the world. As I went to the almighty google to find a easy way to meet these requests, in the back of my mind I remembered someone mentioning “Eat Your Way Around the World” by Jamie Aramini. 

I quickly found the book, reviewed it and decided it looked perfect! The author gathered recipes that represent each of over 30 countries. The recipes were chosen for their representative value and the ease of finding ingredients. We started having a ‘country dinner’ once a week. We have ‘visited’ 6 countries in Africa followed by 5 Asian countries. Next week we will visit our first European country: France! 

The book includes quick facts about the country and culture. It describes how they dine, such as with their hands or chopsticks. One country was without plates! Another we ate with our hands! All of my kids have really enjoyed the experiences (and at least some of the foods). 

To complement our dining experiences I bought “Around the World’ coloring book by Winky Adam, which has some facts about the country, the map and flag to color. 

Before eating, I read all the facts to the kids, and they color the flag appropriately. I often look (online) for some traditional music from the country to listen to while we cook and eat. I show the kids where on the globe the country is, and then have each child find it (or look for it). 

Enjoy your "travels"!
Note: “Eat Your Way Around the World” and “Around the World” coloring books are not affiliated, and do not exactly correspond. However, most of the countries so far have been in the coloring book.

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