Cross-Cultural Connections

How Host Families Enrich the Lives of International Students

Host families play a pivotal role in shaping the transformative experience of international students. The exchange of customs, traditions, and daily life not only enriches the students’ understanding of the host country but also fosters deep connections that go beyond geographical borders. In this article, we explore how host families become catalysts for personal growth, cultural exchange, and lifelong connections, creating a home away from home for international students.

In the heart of Cedar Falls, where the cold winds may blow, the warmth of the community, embodied by hosts like Mr. & Mrs. Johnson, remains a constant flame. Their story is not just about hosting international students; it’s about building bridges, fostering friendships, and creating a home that stretches far beyond the physical walls—a home where everyone is not just welcome but embraced with open arms.

-Yohan Fernando, Sri Lanka

As the crisp autumn leaves make way for the chilly winds of winter, the Cedar Falls community stands as a beacon of warmth and hospitality for international students. Cedar Falls, nestled in the heart of Iowa, is not just a place on the map. It’s a community that takes pride in its inclusive nature and the genuine connections forged within its bounds. For international students, the transition to a new culture and environment can be both exciting and challenging. However, the residents of Cedar Falls, like Mr. & Mrs. Johnson, go above and beyond to make this transition seamless and memorable. Today, let’s delve into the heartwarming tale of one exceptional host family, Mr. & Mrs. Johnson, who embody the spirit of kindness and camaraderie.

Meet Avery and Lauren Johnson!

Avery and Lauren, designated as my spouse’s host family by the International Engagement Office, graciously extended their hospitality to include me as well. Our first encounter took place on Saturday, November 18, 2023, at their charming countryside residence in Cedar Falls. Avery is employed at the Admissions Office at University of Northern Iowa. His spouse Lauren, a dedicated homemaker, have a delightful daughter named Martha, a lively two year old who undoubtedly holds the title of the cutest little girl I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.

Invitation for Brunch

The Johnsons warmly invited us to brunch, where we were joined by our mutual friend Caleb, another resident and a cherished companion. The spread was delectable, featuring pancakes accompanied by fresh fruits and maple syrup, as well as Lauren’s delicious egg muffins and Cherry Pie for Dessert. It was my inaugural experience with egg muffins, and I must admit, they were exceptionally tasty—testament to Lauren’s culinary prowess. Her culinary skills not only lean towards the scrumptious but also encompass a dedication to crafting wholesome and nutritious meals, a quality that left me genuinely impressed.

Post-brunch, we embarked on a leisurely stroll around the picturesque surroundings. Our route included a visit to a charming bridge and a glimpse of a nearby train track, adding a touch of adventure to our day. Martha, the Johnsons’ spirited daughter, reveled in the outdoor experience, particularly enjoying throwing stones into a pond—a source of simple yet delightful amusement. As the day wound down, we returned home, having enjoyed a day filled with good company, delicious food, and the joy of discovering the natural beauty surrounding.

Pancakes, fresh fruits, egg muffins, and a delightful Cherry Pie
Yay! we found the train track

Invitation for a Pie Night

The Johnsons family extended yet another gracious invitation, this time for a delightful pie night within their small group. If you are not sure what a Pie Night is, click here to find some exciting information about its tradition. Thrilled by the prospect of learning the art of pie-making, I eagerly joined Lauren in her kitchen on Tuesday, November 21, 2023. While I was familiar with the concept of pies, my exposure to them had been limited in Sri Lanka, making this hands-on experience in the United States particularly exciting.

Baking Delicious Apple Pies & Jalapeño Cheddar Sourdough Bread

Under Lauren’s expert guidance, we embarked on creating an Apple Pie entirely from scratch. Lauren’s teaching prowess made the process seem surprisingly easy, and I relished both the learning experience and the engaging conversations that accompanied our baking endeavors. The end result was nothing short of fantastic, and I couldn’t help but marvel at how well the Apple Pie turned out. Lauren, not content with just pie-making, generously shared her expertise in crafting Jalapeño Cheddar Sourdough Bread—a revelation in freshness compared to store-bought alternatives. Her culinary skills, in my opinion, deserve a solid 5-star rating.

Getting ready for the Pie Night

The entire pie-making venture, from preparation to baking, took a couple of hours. Post our culinary exploits, we joined the small group gathering, where we were joined by Steve, another international student from India. The evening unfolded as an extraordinary experience, with a diverse array of savory and sweet pies on display. It was my first encounter with such a variety of pies, adding an extra layer of excitement to the evening. The ‘2023 Pie Week’ was undoubtedly the Pie Night photo op, capturing the joyous moments we shared.

A delightful spread featuring pumpkin, cherry, pecan, blueberry, and some delicious mysteries waiting to be unraveled

Reflecting on our time with Avery and Lauren, I am immensely grateful for their warm welcome and hospitality. They go above and beyond to facilitate cultural exchange, offering international students like myself a window into American life. Their support and efforts contribute significantly to making our stay in the U.S. not only memorable but truly enriching.

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