Holy Family’s International Student Program welcomed six students for the 2022-23 school year. In August, several families from our community opened their arms and homes, making students from Spain and Italy part of their families and our school community for the next ten months.
Dave and Beth Grussing, parents to Maren ‘25, Addie ‘26, and Charley ‘28, hosted 16-year-old Mai from Spain. Mai quickly became a dear part of the Grussing Family. We recently sat down with them to talk about their experience and learn what advice they might give other families considering hosting an international student. Click on the video below to learn more about the incredible experience hosting an international student can be.
Have just a minute? Read an excerpt from our interview below.
How did you decide to become a host family?
Beth: We decided to become a host family after seeing an email newsletter from Jorge Oconitrillo. I was so excited to be a part of this that I didn’t even run it by him (Dave) first. I thought, “Oh my gosh, we have to get in on this opportunity before some other family jumps in and there are no students left to host! I quickly emailed Jorge and let him know that I am Virtus certified; we speak Spanish; we have three girls and two dogs; we love culture and introducing the kids to new places. We thought since it is Covid, we can’t go anywhere or do anything, so let’s bring that culture to us.
Dave: Beth sent me a text that said, “Do you have a second to talk?” I was in my office on a call so I couldn’t talk with her. She then sent some information from Jorge, and I thought, “I think I know why she is knocking on the office door.” After meeting with Jorge and thinking about how happy we have been with how everything has gone at Holy Family, we were glad to invite a student to stay with us.
What are some of the benefits of hosting an international student?
Beth: There are so many benefits. We have formed a true, long-lasting friendship with Mai. I think she will be in our lives forever. We’ve gotten to know her family, her cousins, and her friends.
We’ve learned so much about Mai’s culture. I think it has just opened the girls’ eyes to a world outside of what they know. Most of our family dinners are spent talking about what do you eat and what’s this like in Spain. Honestly, I think the whole climate in our house has been better. It’s just been calmer. Having that extra person changes the dynamic of a family, but you slip into a routine and in the end, our girls are better for it. It’s been an amazing experience for our entire family.
Dave: It takes a lot of courage and confidence for a high school student to come to a new country and stay with a host family for ten months. It is really impressive. Mai stepped in and tried new things, and that has helped our girls in their confidence to try new things. It wasn’t an anticipated benefit, but certainly something that will stick with them.
What would you tell someone who is considering being a host family?
Dave: If you are interested, I would encourage you to talk to Jorge and other host families that have tried it. All these students are different, but we have been so impressed with each international student we met. They are impressive young adults who are coming here. If you have questions, just ask. There probably isn’t a question or concern Jorge hasn’t heard. He will answer it honestly, because he wants the right fit for everyone—the students, the host families, and the school
Beth: We had some of the concerns that others may share: What if this isn’t a good fit for our family? What if we have issues? What if we can’t communicate? All of those worries were put to rest. Holy Family’s International Program needs you. It needs warm and welcoming families.
If you are thinking about becoming a host family, I advise you to follow your heart. I believe God puts things on our hearts for a reason. It is such a rewarding experience that we will cherish forever. I hope more families open their hearts and homes to our international students.
What do you imagine it will be like when you have to say goodbye?
Beth: Oh my gosh…it makes me teary-eyed to think about it. We’ve tried to talk her into staying another year the entire time she has been with us. It’s going to be so hard. There will definitely be an empty spot in our house and our hearts.
Dave: We talk about what that will be like. I think it is going to be really tough for the girls. Fortunately, this isn’t 20 years ago. There are all kinds of ways to connect. We plan to visit Spain to see Mai and meet her family. We know this is a relationship we can maintain. But yes, it will be really tough because she has become a part of our family.