I wish I could head back in time to fully understand what it was that drove me to enroll in an overseas study in college. I was a senior, working two jobs to earn my way through, and somehow aware that I needed to head to England for a semester abroad. Finding the funds was no small task and fortunately my determination was great. I knew living within another culture would be so beneficial as I had so many decisions on the horizon. It was a summer I still recall with such fondness. I was away from anything familiar with so few means and I had to make it work. I had to meet all new people, navigate the big city of London and learn how to trust my own instincts and decisions. I cannot be sure but it seems that is where my deep desire to see the world and meet her many people was born. I could not get enough of the variety or people I met while in various areas in England, Barcelona, Spain and Edinburough, Scottland.
Fast forward many years later and I dream of ways to engage my children in the world. I want nothing more than to make certian they are aware of differences and similarities of cultures all around the world. I want them to know that our way is one way but certainly not the only way and I want them to know that they can make a difference in the life of someone, anyone no matter where that person lives or what that person knows or believes. There do not have to be barriers and people really are people who all require the same basic things no matter where they reside in the world.
He was a kindergarten student and the program was relatively new. When we said yes to Spanish Immersion we were not entriely sure what we were getting into but the program intrigued us and of course triggered my deep desire to have my children aware that the world is made up of many cultures and many languages. We called it brain food and said yes without looking back. Now we have three children in the program and we could not be more proud of the work they have done to become bilingual students who value various cultures and their people.
Last spring Hayden was selected along with 20 other students to travel abroad to Madrid and live with a Spanish family to become completely immersed in their way of life and obviously their language. He hit the jackpot and a very strong friendship was formed with the student, Nico, who just after the start of school in early September made his way to us to live with our family to learn and explore our American culture. Nico was a dream. I had my fears. He is the youngest of two children in his household and he would be joining our wild and crazy crew. I had no idea how he might fare. He did very well and after week one was talking about reasons why he would like to stay. His freindship with Hayden blossomed and they became inseperable ping pong oponents. Inbetween seeing this and eating that, homework and time to play soccer with Hayden’s brothers it was great fun to watch them squeeze in game after game. The boys did everything together and it was very eye opening the questions Nico asked about our government or our expectations for school or sports programs. In addition we loved seeing Hayden take good care of his new buddy, escorting him to the bus stop, helping with his needs and inviting him to soccer practice. It was a remarkable two weeks of adventure and fun. We were sad to say goodbye as we sent Nico home to his family but as Hayden puts it, “I know I will see him again, Mom.” That was the intention, to develop a strong connection to someone halfway across the world and to do life together no matter how different. I believe it is where tolerance is born.
We are grateful to Nico’s parents for entrusting us with their son. We know he will be very tired today when he returns home and hopefully he will be willing to share his stash of peanut butter.
it is so clear that we were meant ot be one of the families pioneering the program in it’s early days.