Host Families: The Heart of Our International Program
Cultural diversity is an important part of education. It enriches the learning experience for all students and builds mutual understanding. That’s why international students have always been an important part of our community at NCA. Not only do they get to experience a life-changing year of academics and activities, they build meaningful relationships here that will last a lifetime.
When an international student is accepted to our school, the first step is to be matched with a host family. Rather than staying in a dorm setting with other international students, living with an American family provides a true immersion experience and allows the student to be mentored socially, emotionally, and spiritually as they experience a new season of growth in their lives.
A Growing Family
When the Stinson family decided to host an international student, their primary motivation was to learn and teach their family about another culture.
“We had an extra bedroom and [Mrs. Stinson] thought it would be a great experience for our family. At first, I was against it because we have such a busy life, but I eventually came around to it and it was one of the best decisions we have ever made,” Mr. Stinson said.
The Stinson family has hosted two students thus far. Their previous student, Suah, was from South Korea. She lived with the Stinsons for two years before graduating in 2017. Now, they are hosting Crystal, who is from China. She is currently a junior at NCA.
Host parents are highly encouraged to treat students like their own child and a part of the family. The Stinson’s refer to their two students as their daughters and consider them as much a part of the family as their biological children. “We will always look at Suah and Crystal as daughters to us and sisters to our kids,” they said.
Pamela Starkey, NCA International Student Program Director, believes the Stinsons have been a great host family for their two students. “They always remember my most important rule in hosting an international student, ‘the Golden Rule.’ If host parents treat their student just like they would want someone to treat their own child, then it is a great experience for everyone,” she said.
Coming to America
International students come to NCA to better their opportunities in their home countries. The hope is that coming to NCA will prepare them for attending an American university by learning better English, taking the SAT, and taking AP courses. They also prepare to take an English proficiency exam, the TOEFL, which is important for them when applying to college. Attending a university or even just getting an education in America will allow students to be viewed as successful when they return home. Starkey says this can be a challenge for the students and hosts.
“Truly, the Stinsons, and all of my host families go far beyond what they do for their own children in helping an international student academically; it is a much bigger task than helping our own children. Not only is there the English barrier, but there is no point of reference for most subjects – even in a subject like math, that we think is easy for students from Asia, it is very difficult as when they first arrive and they do not understand the vocabulary. Can you begin to imagine how difficult American History is when you do not know more than the last two presidents and you can only name a couple of states?” Starkey said.
Students are encouraged not only to learn English and flourish academically, but they also have the opportunity to get involved in American culture. NCA encourages international students to join clubs and get involved with their h
ost family’s activities. The family goes on trips together, visits relatives, and practices customs of their household with the student.
Emotionally supporting international students is also an important part of the host family’s role. Coming to a new country and learning a new language can be a very stressful experience. Parents need to be aware of this and try to show as much compassion and understanding as possible.
“I can’t imagine how scary it can be to go across the world to live with people you don’t know, in an environment you don’t know. The best thing you can give these kids is support and stability. I remember Suah writing us a letter about the first time we told her that we loved her. She said she just went in her room and cried. The biggest thing host families can do is show love,” the Stinsons said.
Host families are encouraged to expose their student to the Christian faith, but not to push it onto them. According to the Host Family Handbook, host families may request that their student attend church with them but should be kind in doing so. Students are required to take a beginning Bible class to learn about Christianity and attend chapel at school as well.
“For most of our students, there is not an interest in a Bible class, chapel, or church, so I ask our students to approach it from the standpoint of a history class, or in church they can work on their listening skills to help them prepare for the TOEFL. Once I started explaining this to our students, they were much more willing to take a Bible class or attend a church service,” Starkey said.
Learning on Both Sides
International students learn a lot about American culture and become educated while at NCA, but the NCA community also benefits from having them come aboard. The Stinsons feel it has had a tremendous impact on their family.
“It has opened us up to other cultures. I love hearing my kids ask about our exchange student’s country. They have learned so much because of it. It has also taught my kids to share more. It has opened them up to the fact that life is not all about them and they need to look out for other people,” the Stinsons said.
Find Out More
Thanks to a thriving international program, the mission of providing a Christ-centered, biblically based education in pursuit of excellence extends far beyond Charlotte, NC. Currently, we have students from six different countries. To learn more about our program, request information from Starkey by email, or call 704-602-2239.