Being a YFU Host Family

By Karin, YFU host mother from Pretoria

Karin and her family have hosted three YFU exchange students over the years.

Two years ago, I read an article in our school newsletter about YFU. They had a request for accommodation for international students. Our first exchange student, Ruben, came from The Netherlands. On average they have rain on 220 days per year. The South African climate was therefore a big bonus.

Our second exchange student was Ella from Germany and she thoroughly enjoyed the nice and warm weather! Both Ruben and Ella went to Hoërskool Waterkloof in Pretoria and both could understand Afrikaans quite soon. We are currently hosting Gilian from Germany and it has been an amazing experience for both us and our children!

What’s hosting an exchange student about?

The major purpose of an exchange is to open your South African home to another child. Students have the best experience at homes where they are accepted as one of the children of the household and immediately form part of the family. The responsibility as host family is not only to provide food and shelter, but to involve them in the culture of the family. Both Ruben and Ella can braai and Ruben’s favourite dish is still braaibroodjies. We frequently receive photos from The Netherlands showing barbeque with braaibroodjies on it.

Why do we host YFU students?

The first question people ask is why do we host YFU students? It offers our children the opportunity to make new friends and have life-long friendships with someone from another continent, who can be as close as a real brother or sister. Furthermore, it teaches them to share a room, live with a friend and to cope with the good and bad which form part of it.

I think it is a privilege to give a child a place in our home.  As a parent, I also get the opportunity to make a difference in a child’s life. For my own children, there is obviously the advantage the household tasks are now divided between three siblings and no longer only two. They learn about other cultures and even some of our traditional family gatherings have changed.

We now include stroopwafels (The Netherlands) and Blueberrypie (Germany) as part of the meals. They become part of the family and are one of the family. Sometimes they also get scolded and other times you have to wipe away some tears. But they know and realise that Africa will forever have an impact on their lives.

If you are a host family, time flies…!

Ten months may seem very long, but time flies. It is not only school, but also other activities such as hockey; choir; photography and supporting athletics! Even though they eat KFC once a month, a go with on holiday, they also get a turn to do the dishes! Sometimes they do not immediately understand the meaning of all the words, but they feel welcome and enjoy the South African hospitality.

Then the day arrives when we have to go to the airport. It is completely different as when they arrived when everything was new, and they were so excited about the new experiences awaiting them. Now you have to say goodbye to one of your own children, who is returning to their biological parents.

Three days before the due date a dark cloud hangs over your house. Everyone becomes quiet and you can feel the lump in your throat. No one says a word on the way to the airport. The booking in of luggage, a last coffee and going to the departure hall.

We cry and we mourn because we say goodbye – but at least we know it is not a good bye forever!