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Dear Abby: Hosting exchange student is rewarding venture

Work out logistics beforehand; benefits outweigh sacrifices

Dear Abby: I would like to comment on the letter from "Wary in the West" (Aug. 10), the young girl who is apprehensive about having to room with her sister to accommodate a new exchange student the family is hosting.

My family has hosted several kids from Northern Ireland, and two years ago we hosted a young man from Brazil. He is now my best friend, and I will be going to Brazil for a month this winter.

Although I didn't have to give up my room, I felt the pressure of sharing a bathroom with my parents. But I wouldn't give up my experience for anything. "Wary" needs to be open and kind. It can be surprising how much exchange students already know about the United States and the world. Many of them also speak English well before they arrive and just need to practice it. "Wary" will come to regard her visitor as family and have the time of her life! — Marina in Pennsylvania

Dear Marina: Thank you for sharing your experiences. Hosting a foreign exchange student can be a rewarding adventure — as long as the logistics are worked out in advance. This is a program with great worth and appeal in our modern, diverse, "global" world, as the following readers attest:

Dear Abby: I, too, was forced to compromise when an exchange student came to stay. Because we did not have an extra bedroom, I had to trade with my brother and share with "Helga." Yes, the year was trying at times — she and I were very different, but the result of her stay has been a 25-year friendship. Our families are very close, and we go back and forth to Norway often. She and her children also come here.

"Wary" may be surprised with the result of hosting an exchange student. If she is open-minded, a whole new world will reveal itself to her. I know I never would have guessed that Norway would someday feel like my second home. — Thankful in Edgewater, N.J.

Dear Abby: During the summer of 1975, while I was home from college, my parents hosted two boys from Japan. When I returned to school for my senior year, I looked for elective courses to round out my schedule and noticed classes in Japanese language, history and literature. I signed up for all three. (I had been fascinated by the handwriting of the two students and wanted to learn it.)

While I was practicing in the language lab, I met a female student from Japan who was studying Spanish, as I had previously done. We agreed to tutor each other, which led to dating, which eventually led to marriage and two wonderful sons. During the summer we celebrated our 28th anniversary. — Jeff in San Jose, Calif.

Dear Abby: My husband and I have hosted students three times. They have all been wonderful experiences, and my children love doing it. Having a foreign daughter/sister has been rewarding and memorable for everyone in our family as well as for each of the visiting students.

Since it is such a major undertaking, the adjustments and changes to be made must be discussed by all family members. The teenagers are coming from another culture, leaving behind their own friends and families. They need to know that the host family wants to share everything with them, as well as learn from them. — Foreign Exchange Fan

Dear Abby: I am the oldest of six. In the early '60s, my parents hosted two teen boys from Mexico City for two months. They had so much fun the first year, they returned for two more winters. All six of us spent at least one summer in Mexico. This exchange has enriched our lives. We are still in contact with our Mexican brothers and sister.

My husband and I have befriended many foreign students and families, and have been hosted in Norway, Germany, Japan, Spain, France and Turkey. If "Wary" embraces the experience, it will bring her great joy. In this shrinking world, understanding other cultures and languages is critical. — Pat in Tucson

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069. © Universal Press Syndicate