Traveling across the world to foreign lands requires courage, and so does opening your home to strangers. But courage has its rewards. This February we witnessed courage from our 88 Brazilian students who traveled to Colorado and our 80 Colorado host families who opened their homes and hearts. US-Brazil Connect welcomed these students from 32 sites across Brazil as the final stage of the Conexão Mundo program. US-Brazil Connect partnered with schools, universities and companies with a focus in STEM to engage students in English immersion, educational visits and a fun cultural experience.
During their stay, students stayed with host families across the Denver and Boulder area. Participating families opened their home and their hearts and the impact that resulted for both the students and the families was truly heartwarming and inspirational. A few host families share their experience here:
Believing in the World More
By Hannah Margalit Lamboy-Lavi
Being in love with culture and travel, having an exchange student come to live with our family was one of the most immersive and wonderful experiences of our lives. We learned many things from our amazing guest, Thayna. She told us about her family, about Brazil and where she lived, about the foods she ate and prepared, and about her life. It was incredible to see how similar Thayna and I are, even though we live hundreds of miles away from each other. One night, we spent our time sitting together listening to some of our favorite music, both in English and Portuguese, while making each other laugh and talking about cute boys. The biggest thing I learned from this experience is that everyone on earth is somehow connected. Before my family and I picked up Thayna from the airport, I couldn’t help but think about how different we were going to be. I was shocked and ecstatic to find out that we weren’t very different at all. This experience strengthened my family’s and my own feelings of love toward travel and people, as well as made us believe in the world a little bit more. Now, the world doesn’t seem quite as large as it did before we welcomed Thayna into our home.
Wander and Awe: My Life Through the Eyes of Denis and Bob
By Elena Saenz
When I volunteered to be one of the homestay families I didn’t realize what an impact saying “yes” would have on my life. Denis and Bob (his nickname) were assigned to me by Tracy Simpson. She matched the two most amazing boys in the world. They were very distinct and unique from each other. Denis loves to talk and Bob is shyer, Bob is athletic and Denis is a musician. They were both willing to try anything we proposed. They ate everything we made for them, even though our food was not very American, as my sister and I are Mexican American and eat quite a bit of Mexican food. They were the most polite teenagers I have met. They offered and helped with everything, including plowing my driveway on our snow day (whew that was a workout for them).
Everywhere we went I got to see my world through their eyes of wander and awe: the Air Force Academy, Garden of the Gods, my church, restaurants, a movie theater or even leaving my school in the evenings. They were so appreciative of what I take for granted every day. These two amazing young men allowed me to remember to take the time to notice the wonder and beauty around me. I am grateful to have two sons now who have made my life richer just by meeting them. Thanks US-Brazil Connect for this life changing opportunity.
Opening Our Eyes
By Debbie Blanco
We have hosted a student through US Brazil for 2 years now, and have had the most amazing experiences with our students, one from Joinville, and one from Aracaju. With 3 teens in the house, we were hesitant to host due to the perceived chaos of having another student to fit into our crazy schedule. But it was one of the best decisions we made. Our kids have learned so much about another culture….through the eyes of other teenagers. And the groups of kids that are chosen for this program….they are amazing kids. Polite, curious, kind, calm….and so interested in seeing everything here….but also interested in sharing with us about their culture and their country.
I see a trip to Brazil at some point in our future. And I would have never said that before hosting these students through this program. It has really opened our eyes in a positive way to not only Brazil, but to other opportunities as well. Maybe hosting other students from other programs, or having our own kids participating in an exchange program. The Brazil kids in particular, are so nice….and we’ve loved sharing our home with them, and including them as part of our family. We would be thrilled at any point in the future to have Yana or Ricardo visit again….or to see them in Brazil. I believe we’ll stay connected to them for a lifetime. We couldn’t have asked for better experiences!!!