By FLEX Alumni Program

Mother’s Day is a time to highlight the impact of mothers, both birth mothers and host mothers, and their role in caring for and influencing others. Every year, more than 900 families welcome FLEX students from 23 countries into their home. Many of these host families include a host mother. Below, we share three stories, written by alumni, about the impactful role their host mother had on their life.

A Tribute to My Host Mother Louise Shumaker

Anna Petrova ’14 (St. Petersburg, Russia / Holland, Michigan) shares her story of living with Louise Shumaker – her host mother and a person who had a great impact on her life.

“I was assigned a host family very early on,” Anna said. “I found out that my host parents were in their mid-sixties, my host mom was blind, and that they lived in a small town in Michigan. When I described the family to my Russians friends and other fellow FLEX finalists, everyone thought that I was crazy for accepting their offer to live with them. Well, they were all wrong. It turned out that I had one of the best host families in the history of the FLEX program.”

Read more about Anna’s relationship with her host mom here.

A Host Mother’s Reflection on Hosting

Jane Kipp Scott hosted Fidar Bedoshvili in Colorado in 2010. Though she had children and grandchildren of her own at the time, she cites this experiences as being like adopting another child.

“Even though I have four children, three son-in-laws, six grandchildren, and two previous foreign exchange sons… would have thought this was my very first child,” Jane said. “I was so excited. Christmas, which is my favorite holiday, wasn’t this exciting. I made a sign with his name on it and when we arrived at the airport I couldn’t sit still. Even though my husband is a calm, reserved person, he couldn’t sit still either, and we both found ourselves walking around the waiting area, nodding and smiling every time we passed each other.
His plane landed and I actually had butterflies in my stomach. Any minute now and I would get to meet the newest member of our family.”

Read more about Jane and Fidar’s relationship here.

Alumnus Finds Singing Future in California

When Emin Eminzada ’15 (Baku, Azerbaijan / Marshall, TX) and his host mother drove to Los Angeles, California for a visit, he had no idea that it would influence the rest of his life.

After reciting Shakespeare and singing Broadway songs in auditions, Emin received a scholarship to attend the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in Los Angeles to study music theater in 2017.

“Reciting Shakespeare, even in my native Azeri language, is difficult, but doing it in English, filling words with emotions and pronouncing everything correctly, that was an enormous challenge,” Emin said. “Yet, my host mother who is a voice teacher and who was my AP English teacher encouraged me to try and tutored me after school.”

Read more about this journey to California here.

Volunteer Opportunities

Hosting a FLEX student can be a life-changing experience. You have the opportunity to bring the world into your family and to learn firsthand about other countries from their young people, including those with a disability. At the same time you also have the chance to teach about the United States, and the culture and values of your community. Most students say that their host family is the most important part of this life-changing experience. While host families often find the experience to be profoundly gratifying, this type of person-to-person connection also serves the greater good by promoting goodwill and mutual understanding across countries and cultures.

Find more information about hosting here.