We hear it time and again: “Hosting has given our family so much!” This Christmas season we’re celebrating the lifelong journey enjoyed by BOTH exchange students and host families alike! Enjoy these heart-warming stories as they once again show that we are far more alike than we could ever be different.

The Fisher Family

Host mom Jill Fisher comes from a legacy of exchange experiences.

When Jill was in high school, her family hosted a student from Belgium. After high school graduation, Jill participated in a “gap year” exchange program to Denmark before beginning college.

“I always knew I would ‘pay it forward’ one day when the timing was right,” remembers Jill. Now, she and her husband Benjamin and their three children are enjoying their new role as hosts.

“You get to know people, and it gives you a more longterm relationship.  I’ve kept in touch with my Danish host families. A year and a half ago we were able to take the kids to Denmark and visit them. And I know that for the rest of our lives we’ll be in touch with Stina.”


The Fisher family with German student Stina

[perfectpullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“Exchange shows you that the world is still big, but it’s not THAT big.”

– Jill Fisher [/perfectpullquote]

The Parry Family

When the Parry family responded to an ad seeking host families in 2009, they had no clue how much it would impact their lives!

The enthusiastic family quickly decided to host Henrik from Germany. Although it’s been 4 years since he left their home, host mom Sharon reports that they are still in constant communication with both Henrik and his parents. In addition to frequent communication by Skype and email, the families have visited one another and vacationed together multiple times, both in Europe and in the US.

“We have so much fun remembering all the silly things we did together,” remembers Sharon, “like teaching him that shouting ‘SHOTGUN’ meant you wanted to ride in the front seat of the car.  (When the kids first did this in front of him, he couldn’t figure out what we were doing. Were we going to shoot guns or what?!)”


Henrik with host brother Mitch during the holidays with a big box of German chocolate!

[perfectpullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“It’s like our family expanded when we hosted Henrik,” remembers Sharon. “I can now say I have 3 children……two in the US and one in Germany.”

– Sharon Parry [/perfectpullquote]

IE-USA Staff as Former Exchange Students!

Jan and Nives were exchange students in the US over 30 years ago.  They still visit their host moms, who are now 80+ years old!

Jan Kremer was in high school when he left the Netherlands to join the Jeseritz family in Cottonwood, MN in 1970. Nives Bakic from Montenegro stayed with the Gatens family of Indianapolis as a high school exchange student in 1980. Now married and on staff with iE-USA, this dynamic couple still has an active relationship with their host moms. (Both host dads have since passed away.) Both Jan and Nives enjoy ongoing relationships with their host families, including spending some holidays together as well as a recent trip to visit both host moms in the fall of 2014. They also maintain frequent contact with Jan’s host sister Laurie, who lives just an hour away. Left: Jan with host mom Elaine, now 80.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”My host mom Rita first visited me in Montenegro in 1983,” remembers Nives. “When Serbia and Montenegro were bombed in 1999 she kept writing to me, but her letters kept returning to her. So one day after the bombing I got an envelope from Rita with all the letters she had written to me. She asked me what she could do for me, and I replied: ‘Send me an invitation letter so that my son and I can come to the States and relax after the bombing.’ My son Tomo and I visited her in California in 2000.”

– Nives Bakic, former exchange student[/perfectpullquote]