Ben and Katelyn of Portland, OR have gone “above and beyond” as a host family. Since beginning their host family experience in January of 2022, Ben and Katelyn have hosted six PSE students from Italy, Japan, Germany, and France.  They have included their students on vacations to Seattle, the Oregon coast, Los Angeles, CA, and Michigan. The generosity Ben and Katelyn show is completely natural for them and they have truly embraced the hosting experience.

“We want to be a home away from home for students.  We enjoy mentoring and spending time with teenagers, and this is such a great opportunity!” -Katelyn

Ben and Katelyn value the hosting experience; explaining that “it is a tremendous opportunity to create connections between cultures and to provide a learning environment for the next generation. It also gives us the chance to serve others, which we believe is an important part of the human experience.”

April, their Local Coordinator, describes them as “genuinely caring, inclusive, and hospitality experts!”

Ben and Katelyn say they are more than just a host family.  In fact, they naturally feel like a second family to their students.  Katelyn elaborates, “our students become like family to us. We go on trips together, play together, laugh together, and cry together. By the time they go back home, they are our sons and daughters. It makes it hard to say goodbye, but that just means that we need to visit them at some point.”

Katelyn recalls prom night with two of their host daughters – Sophia from Germany and Martina from Italy.  They helped them find their dresses and shoes and surprised them with their corsages. Katelyn also surprised their host daughter, Martina from Italy, at her home in Rome for her 19th birthday! Even staying local, Katelyn loved admiring the Japanese cherry blossoms by the Portland waterfront with their host daughter from Japan, Himena.

Ben explains how their hosting experience has created life-changing opportunities:

“It has had a positive impact. We have created family culture with them, complete with inside jokes and common memories. It has given us some greater purpose and opportunities to share in our blessings. Through hosting students, we have also come to know their families. Katelyn even had the opportunity to coordinate with a student’s family to surprise the student at her home for her birthday months after completing her exchange program. Some of our students continue to connect with us, meaning we have regular ‘family calls’ where we update each other on our lives, play games together, and reminisce.”

Katelyn shares some favorite memories made with their students:

“Taking trips to the beach, playing games (including hide and seek in the dark), the times when our students have cooked their favorite international foods for us. Even simple trips to the store or evenings talking on the couch have been wonderful and memorable.”

Ben recalls taking their “kids” Himena from Japan and Leonard from France to an arcade and laser tag arena. 

He says, “A family that plays together stays together!”

Ben and Katelyn have thoroughly enjoyed hosting both Trimester (shorter term) and Semester students.  They look forward to hosting more students and building more connections.  Katelyn shares, “We’ve enjoyed the semester hosting the best. Honestly, three months feels like such a short time. We love the idea of hosting for a full year, because that allows us to build even closer connections with our students.”

This is their message for families considering hosting an exchange student:
“If you enjoy learning about other cultures and have a little extra love to give, you should certainly consider hosting an exchange student. The students are polite and kind and you may be surprised about how quickly they become a part of your family.  If you’re not careful, you just might end up with another son or daughter for life!” 

April closes with this message:

“Katelyn and Ben, you amaze me and continue to go above and beyond the typical host family expectations.  I appreciate you both more than I can express!  Thank you for all you have done to provide meaningful experiences to PSE students. You have improved international relationships and undoubtedly fostered lifelong friendships abroad.”

Written by Flo Webb; Edited by Lauren Lunt

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