By Gabrielle. Photos taken April 2012 — Ralph and Olive on the Eiffel Tower.
Oh my goodness. Ben and I arrived home from Sweden yesterday afternoon, just in time for a remarkable week for our family. We have two birthdays this week — Olive and Ralph. We have the first day of school (it’s today!). And we’ll be traveling to Utah as a family this coming Friday to celebrate my mom’s 70th birthday.
But more impactful than any of that: two of our kids will be exchange students this fall, and they are flying off this week! I find myself crying elephant tears while I type this because the reality of them leaving feels so big. I can honestly say, I’m over the top happy that they’ll get this experience, and at the same time my heart tightens and I catch my breath trying to imagine the house without them.
Ralph is turning 17 this week and he is headed off to England and France. He’s staying at the homes of boys that lived with us this past Spring/Summer. He’ll spend one month in England with Chris, and 3 months in France with Charles. Then he’ll come home for Christmas.
Olive is turning 13 this week and is also heading out. After her school trip to France in the spring, she asked us if there was any way she could attend school in France this fall. So we started making phone calls and tentatively reaching out about possible options. Our dear friend, Caroline, graciously offered to host, and now, it’s actually happening! She’ll come home at Christmas as well.
Ralph’s exchange has been on the calendar for ages. He and his friends started making these arrangements before we left France. But Olive’s France plans are still new and my brain is still adjusting. When I’m feeling nervous about having both of them so far away, this is what I remind myself of: They both speak French and they both know the families they will be staying with — I know a semester away would be a thousand times harder if they were showing up somewhere unfamiliar and staying with people they’d never met or speaking a new-to-them language.
Also, once Ralph arrives in France from England at the end of September, he and Olive will get to see each other almost daily, because they will both attend the same school. I’m so comforted by that! The school they’ll be attending is actually the same school they went to when we lived there — they’ve only been gone for one year, so I’m hoping the transition back to French school won’t be too jarring. And of course, if any of this turns out to be a mistake, they can always come home.
Mostly, we’re all super excited for their upcoming adventures! We’re talking about the amazing food they’ll eat. What it will be like to live with another family. Ways they can help out at their host family’s home. Where they might go during school breaks. How often we’ll facetime. That sort of thing.
Tell me, Friends, have you or your kids ever been exchange students? Or maybe lived for awhile with an Aunt or Grandparents or family friends in another state? What are your thoughts on exchanges like these?