The Brown family from Michigan consists of single mom Katrina, her two teenage sons Brennan and Gibson, Goldendoodle Mazie, and, over the years, four international students from Germany and Spain. Katrina Brown has been hosting with International Experience since 2019, and views all of the students their family has hosted as “one of her own.”

Like many other host families, Katrina first decided to host an international exchange student because she wanted her children to get to see the world from a different perspective and gain a new sense of cultural awareness. As a family with two boys, she also wanted to give her sons the gift of getting to know life with an older sister. She hoped that the hosting experience would create a sibling bond that would last a lifetime. 

I wanted my children to learn to appreciate other cultures and to see that people that live in other places are just like them — even if they don’t speak the same languages.

She also loved the fact that she would be able to provide a student from across the world with an amazing experience filled with new cultures, ideas and memories!

After hosting once, they were hooked! 

All of Katrina’s wishes came true when they welcomed German exchange student Ronja into their home for the Fall Semester in 2019. The family quickly settled into their new routine and made countless memories — both big and small.

After Ronja left, Katrina knew right away that she wanted to host an exchange student again, and since then, The Brown Family has welcomed a new student with iE every year!

One of iE’s strengths, finding the right fit for each family’s dynamic, was also really important to the Brown’s.  

For the 2021-2022 school year, the Brown’s selected Ana from Spain into their family. After talking for only a short time with Ana about her life, interests, goals, and more, Katrina knew they had made the right decision — Ana was going to be a great addition to their household!


Meet the family

 After talking to Ana for a while, Katrina decided they had to meet in person. Ana and her family were eager to meet both Katrina and her sons as well. Both families met in Spain and quickly became close over the few days they spent together.

It was a great experience for both of our families to spend that time together and I really could see on their faces and their teary eyes when they tried to express how much they truly appreciated and were thankful for the opportunities we gave their daughter and the love that we had for her all year long and will now always have.

After returning back to the U.S., the Brown family was counting down the days until Ana finally arrived. The happy reunion was made even sweeter when host family dog Mazie welcoming Ana to the family right away.

Making memories — big and small

As it often does, their time together flew by, and day after day the Brown family made precious memories that both they and Ana will never forget.

When asked what her favorite part about hosting Ana was this year, Katrina said that there were to many to choose from. She enjoyed the extra energy that Ana brought to the house and the laughter that always ensued between Ana and the boys. Perhaps her most favorite part of her hosting experience, however, was watching her sons and Ana become true siblings. They would play board games and watch movies together, sit around the firepit and make s’mores, and cheer each other on at their sporting events.

It really touched me to see the children bond with each other and live with each other like true siblings.