It’s a new year! This is the time for new beginnings! For big plans, fresh starts, and maybe even a do-over or two. It means re-evaluating what was, and making plans for what SHOULD be – and, with a little intention – what WILL be!

I LOVE the “life cycle,” if you will, of the exchange student – moving from dreams to hopes, hopes to plans, plans to reality, reality to memory. It’s a beautiful time of purpose, commitment, renewal, and discovery!

So let’s look at this slice in time – January. What does January look like for IE?

January means our current students have enjoyed 5 months with their host families! They may be wondering where the time has gone and how half the year has flown by so quickly! To the students: don’t be afraid to go all in! Make a “bucket list” of little things you’d like to do before you go home. You never have these moments again – LIVE them!

It means our host families are reflecting on their experience so far, gauging what worked and what didn’t. Loving the good. (Evaluating the difficult!) And renewing their commitment to make this year a great one! To the host families: you make all the difference! Thank you!

It means students from years past have exchanged holiday calls, gifts and letters with their American friends and families. They’re home, and the exchange year is but a memory – but their life in America forever holds a piece of their hearts, and during the holidays, they remembered. And they know they will be forever grateful.

It means our staff is eagerly reviewing new student applications! Interviews in Germany, Spain, Italy, Montenegro, China, Thailand, and around the world bring bright-eyed students before seasoned staff to talk about the greatest of all dreams – EXCHANGE.

And it means our future students are sitting on pins and needles wondering when THEY will find a new home. Who will say “yes” to a life with them in it? When will THEIR dream become a reality?

Though the cycle repeats year after year, I never tire of the meaningful change it inspires and the friendships it produces. And this exact moment in the year, though it’s subtly hidden in sleepy January, is perhaps my favorite:  It’s about DECISIONS.

Current students and families: what will you do with the time you have left? How will you fill these remaining moments?

Future students: what will you pledge to do to earn trust and friendship in the adventure that awaits you?

And future host families: Could you imagine a life with an exchange student in it? Could envision a piece of this grand adventure fitting into your home?

Dear Reader: As you ruminate on the past and plan for the present, consider student exchange. Then, join us. The journey is a gift in itself.