John and Ranelle Ladbury have hosted for 5 years, and they’ve already signed up to do it again next year! What brings them back year after year? With their own triplets grown and out of the house, this empty-nest couple found that their home (and their hearts) had room to spare. Because of this, the Ladburys often host two students at once!

We interviewed this remarkable couple, and it’s a joy to share their inspiring responses!

What made you decide to host?

ladbury crazy handThis is a long story that starts with hosting a sweet girl from Bavaria for a few weeks, then two great new students the next year, followed by a business trip where I met up with an old friend who just happened to have a sister that was looking for host families.

Our triplets had graduated high school, we had room, we loved and kept in touch with our three German students we had hosted previously as a short-term arrangement, and the next thing we know we had a girl flying in from Montenegro (which we had never heard of before) and another from Italy. 

How do you feel the act of SHARING your life with another has impacted YOU?

Our world is now much smaller. We have gone from people who knew a little about other countries to people who worry whenever there are earthquakes in Italy, flooding in Germany, droughts in South Africa, mass demonstrations in Turkey…all because we now KNOW people there.  

Would you say hosting a student is “work”? Is it “fun”?

Ladburys by a rock

Well, when your new daughter is having a tough day, and you go to give her a hug, and she cries and says “My dad’s never given me a hug before,” it’s not work, but it’s not fun either. It’s the creation of a lifelong bond, and a moment in my life and in my heart that I will never forget. She is now very much my little girl. 

Of course, there are times when it is fun… like driving down the highway with a car full of kids who, for some reason, start singing This Squirrel is on Fire.

Have there been surprises?

Of course. Like when we were having pizza and our girl from Montenegro starts putting ketchup on it, and our girl from Italy tells her “DO NOT DO THIS.” 🙂 

We often talk about how our host families are “volunteers.” Do you feel “volunteerism” is an appropriate title for hosting a student?

Ladbury party smallI guess I never really thought of it as volunteering. I pictured volunteering as doing something I really don’t want to do, like volunteering to clean up after the dog, or to pick up trash in the neighborhood. This is something I WANTED to do. Picking out students who love some of the same things I do. Waiting to hear from them. The first email. The first video call. Waiting for them to arrive. Meeting them for the first time at the airport.

But if someone asks if I want to do this again, I would definitely ‘volunteer.’

How has your DAILY LIFE changed since hosting?

While we host, there is a little more time spent driving, helping them to deal with problems. Once they go back home, you just notice the things that remind you of them. A special song comes on the radio, you see a unicorn or Snoopy or something sparkly, and you get transported back. We scheduled our weekends around video calls so we can keep in touch. And the kids keep us young. Withoutu them, I never would have heard of Bronies (look it up… it’s worth it), I would know nothing of European soccer (which I am told is the TRUE football), and we would never have known the pleasures of eating Raclette. 

How has hosting enriched your lives, as well as the life of your student?

Ranelle with girlsWe now have family all over the world, and we are much more aware of what is happening all over. We marvel at how similar our lives are compared to the lives of our families, but we are just as amazed by the differences. 

Every one of our students has grown from the experience (although one brother said the only change he noticed in his sister was that she had more kilos…sigh). We have had parents tell us how much more their children are willing to try… new foods, new experiences. They are more confident.

Another gift that exchange has given us is extended family. Several of our German families that we have visited, have said we are family and we’re not brothers and sisters. 

Through hosting, the Ladburys have altered the course of their lives, forever. They’ve added daughters and sons and family across the sea… they’ve changed their worldview and expanded their influence. In just a short time, they’ve created a new legacy while relishing the daily “ups and downs” of real relationships.

THIS is student exchange. Join the Journey at

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