People are only strangers until you get to know them.

In Veronica Murphy’s Long Island home, friends quickly turn into family. If you ask Veronica what the exchange experience has meant to her and her family, she’ll have your ear for hours as she recounts years’ worth of heartwarming memories and funny anecdotes.

Veronica first found EF online, thirteen years ago. “I saw an ad on Facebook and thought that would be cool because my kids are half German and it would be great for them to know about Germany.” Like many EF host families, Veronica’s initial goal was simple - to give her twin boys the life changing gift of cultural exchange. They were 11 and agreed it would be fun, so she filled out the application started the process to host. Just a short time later, Felix joined their family.

 

That was only the beginning of their exchange journey; the Murphy’s added two more students from Germany to their global family over the years. Even while balancing her work as a high school art teacher and the kids’ fully packed calendar of extra curriculars, hosting remained a priority. There's never going to be the perfect time to host.

“The biggest impact for my family from hosting a foreign exchange student was realizing that there are so many different ways of life in the world and they aren't better or worse, they are just different. It has made us more open-minded and accepting.”

Creating global families makes everyone smile!

Veronica and a few of her rollercoaster enthusiasts!

Even as a single parent, Veronica had no hesitation adding another member to the family. “I think it's no different than having both parents, in the sense that you make a schedule and you make it work. The key is communication and courtesy.” Between school clubs, community service, and family trips, Veronica keeps everyone on their toes. “In our household, we have a very ‘get up and go’ attitude with less discussion and more adventure. The independence of being a single parent gives me the freedom to be as active as the student wants to be. If they wake up and want to drive to DC, that's what we do. If I say, ‘let's jump on a 5am train to NYC and go meet Michael Strahan’ we are off and running.”

“Life is messy, busy, crazy, fun, hard, exciting and tiring; but, I wouldn't change a minute of the memories I've made with my international family.”

Since beginning her journey with EF, Veronica moved from host mother to International Exchange Coordinator - working to create more global families, placing exchange students with host families in her community. “I wanted to be more involved in making sure the students enjoyed their exchange year. I also want to be the person they can go to when they need someone to talk to or a shoulder to cry on. I want them to know that there's someone in their corner when times get hard. Their exchange year isn't always going to be sunshine and roses, but they will learn and grow and be a better human being because of it. If I can be a part of something so amazing, I'm honored.”

Picture above is Alexa – Veronica’s third student from Germany and her first host daughter. “I wanted to host her because when I read her profile, I just knew she would be a perfect fit for my family. There were so many things that made her a ‘Murphy.’ She had a great sarcastic sense of humor, she loved playing with the dog. She had a heart of gold. She was also the only student who ever walked at graduation at the high school in our district. Her teachers loved her so much they petitioned the principal to let her be a part of graduation festivities.”

 

Alexa’s relationship with the Murphy family didn’t end when she returned home to Germany. “We keep in touch regularly on social media and in person, when possible. She met up with me on a school trip I was on with my high school kids in Munich 2 years ago. Then she was here in August 2019 for 3 weeks and she helped our new exchange students settle in.” The advice the students always pass along to each other? “If you want to connect with Veronica - sing in the car!”

An exciting trip to Washington DC!

A global family get-together

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© EF Education First 2011-2021. 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.