I’m 28 years old. Steven is 31. Almost all of our friends are having babies.

“You better hurry up!”

“When are you going to start?”

“Don’t wait too long!”

For years, I’ve found these often well-meaning comments to be frustrating. Don’t worry, friends and family – I am fully aware of my biological clock, and either it is broken or it’s just not ticking quite yet. Either way… stop pestering me!

Last spring, Steven and I bought a house. That was a milestone we’d been looking forward to for years. And with the purchase of our first home, we realized that we wanted to fill the extra bedroom. So we decided to have a kid.

“We’re going to be parents!” we exclaimed to our friends last spring. Their faces lit up. “We’re hosting an exchange student!” Their faces froze.

“Oh!”

“An exchange student!”

“That’s… awesome!”

And yes, it is. It’s awesome.

Steven and I lived in South Korea for three years, and ever since returning to America, we’ve really missed the international, intercultural relationships that we had abroad. As English teachers, we were always around young people, always learning from them and teaching them about our culture. We wanted that back. Hosting an exchange student seemed like a perfect way to fulfill that hole in our hearts.

Over the summer, we were able to Facebook, e-mail, and Skype with our student, Jude, and her family. We got to know her before she even arrived – and the moment I saw her in real life, we threw our arms around each other and hugged like we’d been family forever. And, just like that, we really were a family.

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Jude fits so well with us. She has a perfect sense of humor. She is sarcastic with Steven but cuddly with me. She is very motivated. She is so much more mature than I was at her age, and she’s constantly teaching me about her home country, politics, and religion. She is open minded and thoughtful, gracious and silly.

Every morning, Steven takes her to school. She is in orchestra, debate team, and will soon join Model UN. She has attended school events, and still makes time every night to do her homework and hang out with us. We cook together, clean together, shop together, and travel together. I don’t know how we got so lucky, but we really are parents, and we love our daughter so much already.

I hope to keep blogging throughout the year about our experience hosting Jude. For now, I just want to say this. You are never too young, too old, or too busy to host an exchange student. I work at Iowa Resource for International Service, the organization that was responsible for placing Jude with a host family in Iowa. I’ve wanted to host for years, as most of the students through Jude’s program, Youth Exchange & Study, are the most amazing, active, insightful, and mature high schoolers that I have ever met. And I’ve asked almost everyone I know to host a student too. I decided to walk the walk this year, and I am so grateful for this opportunity. I want everyone to be able to experience hosting one of these students, so I hope that this blog will help convince some of you to go for it. 

Jude, if you’re reading this – we love having you and I have already cried once thinking about how you will leave in June. Also, is your homework finished?

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