John and Linda Wilmott and their two sons Craig and Jason hosted Chiho Kim from Korea for 5 months in Tramore, Co. Waterford where he attended school at CBS Tramore. Here they talk about their experience with him.
Why did you decide to get involved in hosting an exchange student?
Prior to our involvement with EIL, we had been hosting foreign students for 15 years. We did this each summer for a 4-6 week period. Then we got the opportunity to host a French student called Elodie who was here on work experience for 6 months. We found this to be a successful and gratifying experience culminating with us staying with Elodie and her family, in France, for one week. Therefore, it seemed to us, to be a natural progression to continue hosting long term.
Has the experience been what you expected?
As with any new experiences it is not always easy to know what to expect. Overall, there have been no surprises. We pretty much knew beforehand that Chiho, along with ourselves, would be a little apprehensive but we connected quite quickly. We are enjoying having Chiho here with us and look forward to the future months in his company.
What are some of the challenges your family has experienced while hosting?
Introducing a student into a family, long term, has the potential to be a disruptive intrusion. As our children have grown up with the inclusion of students in our home, this was not a challenge as such. The challenge can occur when the children cannot gel with the new arrival. Chiho did not present a problem in this regard as he is easy going and very easy to get along with.
How has having Chiho living with you affected each member of your family?
We are quite a close knit family so introducing another individual into the mix just involved minor changes. We do share a lot of our time with Chiho but we still have ample opportunities to spend family time together. In this regard the children witness that the family unit is not finished, just temporarily altered. We are happy to report that no family member has been affected adversely in any way. If fact, we believe the opposite to be the case, we are benefiting from the additional member.
What do you see as the positives of hosting?
Firstly, we think that it is beneficial for our children to talk and interact with individuals from other countries and cultures. I believe, for them, this will make the world a smaller and less intimidating place. It also allows us to share our experiences and personalities. From this we can gauge how others from different cultures and backgrounds view us.
What advice would you give to a family considering hosting for the first time?
As it is a new venture for the family, we would perhaps advise them to begin hosting for the shorter period. This will allow them to determine if hosting is what they expected. Also talk to each member of the family as this will firstly give them time to get used to the idea and also feel as if they are part of the process. Listen to what they have to say as this will allow time to deal with any questions or apprehensions, this will be to the benefit of all involved.
What advice would you give about Irish family life to an exchange student thinking about coming to Ireland?
The family unit in Ireland is held in high regard. As parents we try to provide a safe and loving environment for our children to develop. We try to teach our children to be kind-hearted, courteous and well mannered. We endeavor to provide them with as good an education as possible. We like to think a typical family home in Ireland is a pleasant place to be, a unit where foreign students will feel welcome and at ease.
Did you do anything special in the beginning, to help Chiho settle in?
We feel it is far more difficult for the student to leave the safety and security of their own surroundings than it is for us to receive them into our home. For our part we tried to make Chiho feel at home as soon as possible. We made sure he had all he needed regarding his accommodation and if he needed anything else, he should feel free to ask. The day after his arrival we took him on a tour of the local area, including his school, shops, and places of interest and so on. On his first day of school we accompanied Chiho to introduce him to the person that had the responsibility to show him around. Apart from that we just tried to allow him to slot into normal family life as soon as possible.
What has been your fondest memory/experience so far with Chiho?
We took Chiho to watch a game of hurling between Waterford and Dublin. As this was his first encounter with our national sport, it was great to witness his reactions to a crazy group of fearless Irishmen apparently doing battle with big sticks in their hands. It has altered the way he now views soccer, played by a bunch of girls (his words), forever. Chiho found the whole event enchanting.