In the past year, the number of people asking me “Who is Anja?” really dropped. Instead of just seeing posts saying “14 days until Anja arrives!” or “Painting Anja’s room”, people were seeing ANJA.
For 10 awesome months over 2009 and 2010 Anja lived with our family as an exchange student to the local high school.
While she was here, Anja was not only a student at LC Bird, she became part of our family. I almost typed “she was part of our family”, but that makes it seem like she isn’t now. While Anja left at the end of June 2010, she remains and will always be part of our family. When people ask Kailtyn her sister’s name (as Kourey stands by), Kaitlyn answers “This is Kourey and she is two, but my big sister Anja lives in Germany now.”
While Anja was here, we had some mundane days and some amazing days. That’s how it works in families. Anja was a junior at LC Bird High School. She was an active member of the Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church youth group, from Bible studies to mission trips to bowling parties. Anja is a sporty girl, and while in the US she played field hockey – earning a Captian’s C and Offensive MVP, even though she had never played before coming here- as well as indoor and outdoor track and field and Ultimate Frisbee.
There are a number of posts featuring Anja – and just because she’s back in the Vaterland doesn’t mean there won’t be more. This blog is about our family, and Anja will always be a part of that!
based on August 31, 2009 post
In the wide, wide world of internets, sometimes you read someone’s blog or a social network post and you stop, scratch your head, and wonder if you missed something.
So did you know that Keith and I were hosting a foreign exchange student this year?
We started the process back in April, and by the end of May we had picked out a student to join our family, gotten her approved by the high school, and started waiting on paperwork to go through the agencies and the Department of State.
Fast forward a few months to Friday, August 28, when Keith, Kaitlyn, Kourey and I waited at the gate at RIC with a red, hand lettered sign that said “Welcome Willkommen Anja!” A just-turned-seventeen teen in a grey hoodie with an orange bookbag roughly the size of Texas met met us there, and came home to be my third – but oldest! -daughter.
Anja will live with us for 10 months, but be a part of our family forever! She attends LC Bird High School, and plays on their Varsity Field Hockey team.
Some of the questions we’ve gotten (updated as we go):
Does Anja speak English?
Very well, actually! Of course, she learned mainly British English in school, but by in large she is incredibly fluent. That being said, it will take her a few weeks to get to hearing English and not needing to translate in her head to German to understand, and to throw in all of the slang and colloquialisms we use.
Should I talk louder/pantomime poorly/talk to you like she can’t hear me?
Geez, no! She’s from Germany, not Mars! No one has actually *asked* us this, but sometimes it seems like people unconsciously do this!
How long will Anja be here?
Ten months – all the way through the school year. This means that, yes, she will be here for Christmas, winter break, Easter… all the way until school is out.
Is she an Au Pair? (added 9/1/2009)
No, the foreign exchange program is different from the Au Pair program. I can see the confusion; a vast majority of the people with kids our age that bring a foreign student to live with them go the au pair route. That means the family pays, and the au pair works. We are volunteers, neither paid nor paying, and Anja is a student and a member of the family. We try our best to treat her as our own teenage daughter. With one clear exception – if I had a teenage daughter she would have to watch her sisters MUCH more than I expect Anja to (if ever), if for no other reason than to avoid even the appearance of thinking this is an au pair relationship.
Being a foreign exchange host family sounds awesome! I’ve always wanted to do that! How do you get started? (added 9/1/2009)
We’re working with an organization called ERDT/Share! This is the organization Keith’s best friend and wife have been hosting with for ten years (and now 15 students!), and also work for as Exchange Program Coordinators (but in PA).
Those are just a few questions, if you have any more feel free to ask. Even if it’s whether she’s ever heard of Guitar Hero before (yes), likes chocolate and peanut butter (not yet), or if she has ever seen “The Sound of Music” (no).