ANN BAILEY: Isolated but not cut-off from the worldAnn Bailey writes about how hosting overseas visitors is a learning opportunity.
One of the reasons that I like living in rural North Dakota is that it is not crowded, and, when I walk down the country road that runs by our house, I’m more likely to come in contact with a coyote than another person. However, I know that one of the drawbacks of living in relative isolation is that I rarely come in contact with people from other cultures.
That’s why, over the years, I’ve taken advantage of opportunities to host people from other parts of the world.
Three of the people who stayed at my home were journalists participating in an exchange program with the Herald. When the Herald was owned by Knight-Ridder, during the 1980s, 1990s and in the early years of this century, several journalists from across the globe came to Grand Forks to learn about the newspaper industry in America.
The journalists stayed with members of the Herald staff and I was fortunate enough to host Elizabeth from Germany, Adrian from Romania and Beatta from Botswana.
When I hosted Elizabeth, I was single and living in an apartment in Grand Forks. I had married Brian and moved to the farm when Adrian stayed with us, and Brian and I had three young children when Beatta was our guest.
Sharing my home with Elizabeth, and later both Brian and I with Adrian and Beatta, were positive experiences. We learned something about each of the journalists’ countries and customs and I think they gained better understanding of ours.
It also was interesting to see the United States through the eyes of someone who is not a citizen. In some cases, it gave us new appreciation of our freedoms and way of life. In others, it made us see the ways we could improve.
Because we had such good experiences hosting international visitors, when Brian and I were presented with another opportunity we agreed.
For the past three months, a young woman from Germany has been living with our family.
Ines, a friend of a friend in Larimore, had dreamed of visiting the United States and, after she graduated from high school this past spring, went to live in Canada for a few months, and then in October came to stay with us.
Just like family
Hosting Ines, a delightful, hard-working, helpful, soon-to-be 19-year-old, has been a wonderful experience. During the past three months, we have learned much; from German cooking and culture, to how someone from a European country views our presidential election to the differences between the German and American educational systems.
Ines has seamlessly fit into our family and, when she leaves Tuesday, Brian and I will feel like we are sending a daughter off to college overseas.
We hope, though, that she will be returning within the next two years to stay with us again, this time for longer. She is interested in attending UND and plans to explore an exchange program through a university in Germany.
Ines’ and our other international visitors have enlarged our world and, at the same time, made it seem smaller. We are grateful to have had the opportunity to be their host family. We hope that Ines’ exchange program plans work out and we will have another opportunity to share our home with her.
Reach Bailey at email@example.com or (218) 779-8093.