The Olson family

Meet the Olsons in South Dakota who hosted Anna from the Netherlands. They tell us about the importance of student placement and how they reconnected with their heritage.

“All four of my grandparents were from the Netherlands.”

What would you say to a family who’s thinking about hosting an exchange student?

Dad (Ryan): I think you really have to take an honest assessment of your family and what your interests are, how open-minded you are and really try and think about if you’re willing to be flexible and how this person's interests will fit with yours. If you find an exchange student who likes the same things, they’ll naturally become part of the family. Families should get to know their student before they arrive, that's what we did and it was very helpful. Thankfully FaceTime and Facebook have really been a good chance to prepare ahead of time. I think that’s important, especially when someone is gonna come and live with you for a number of months.

What’s it been like having Anna around the house and your kids?

Mom (Kim): Anna’s been wonderful to have here, she’s so outgoing and makes you feel comfortable at all times. Our kids love her. She naturally became a sister and they have goofy conversations, they have serious conversations, they play and it’s just been a whole new perspective in our house. At this point, it’s almost odd to say that we can’t imagine in the next months if she’s not here. We’re so used to having her around and really consider her a part of the family.

Meet Anna from the Netherlands

“She’s given us a lot more perspective on what it’s like to live in another country.”

How have you reconnected with your heritage?

Mom (Kim): Anna is from the Netherlands and all four of my grandparents were from there as well, so I had some exposure to the culture growing up. Anna’s experience is of course more modern so it’s been an interesting contrast. She’s given us a lot more perspective on what it’s like to live in the Netherlands at this point in time. The kids have enjoyed talking to her about how their schools are different, what they do with their families, how their vacations are different, those kinds of things. It’s been fun, we’ve learned a lot from her and I think she’s learned a lot from us as well.

How has hosting impacted your own daughter?

Mom (Kim): Our daughter just started middle school this year. She’s our only daughter and has three younger brothers, so to have another girl in the house that’s not her mom has been great. We still talk, but sometimes she wants a different perspective than her own mom. Since Anna's been here, I've walked past her room and they’ll be lying on the bed, giggling and telling stories. I think some of the experiences she’s having in middle school she can talk about freely with Anna in confidence. It’s just a relief for her to have someone else’s perspective that’s a family member, beyond just her mom's.

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© EF Education First 2011-2022. EF High School Exchange Year is operated by EF Educational Foundation for Foreign Study, a non-profit corporation designated by the U.S. Department of State to operate a J-1 student exchange program. Note: Featured photo/videos do not include prospective students, and are representative of program participants.