I had a personal web page more than a few years back, now long extinct, that contained a page devoted to our Slavic daughters. Since then, we have extended our world of daughters to include Pakistan and Yemen, so page titles have changed accordingly. During the summer of 2008, it was our first daughter, Olga, who encouraged me to revive the old web site. Fortunately for me, technology had forged ahead during the interim.
One of the first questions I always get about our exchange students is, “Why do you only host girls?” Initial reasons were straightforward…the bedroom was painted a cheery yellow and the comforter on the bed sported a flower pattern reminiscent of Monet. Then, after the first girl was success, it was easy to choose a second, and by the third it felt just too comfortable to have a daughter in the house and somewhat of a risk to change gender.
We have always hosted through Academic Year USA or AYUSA. All the girls have participated in one of the scholarship programs sponsored by the United States Department of State. The first four girls were part of the Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) Program , established after the fall of the Soviet Union, which offers scholarships to students from Russia and countries of the Newly Independent States (NIS). This program was such a success that the Youth Exchange and Study Program (YES) was established after 9-11 to offer scholarships to students from predominantly Muslim countries. Our last two girls have come from the YES Program. These programs, as well as student exchange in general, help serve the diplomatic needs of the United States government.
It will be obvious as you read the pages of this blog that I have thoroughly enjoyed being a host parent. My wife and I have delighted in being a host family and have been blessed with wonderful daughters. As they have grown older, not only are they my exchange daughters, but they are my dearest friends.