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Getting to Know You

Flipping through international student applications, Marina Harvey recognized the time was right to host an international student in her own home. She shares the joys of sharing her family with German student Amelie, a current junior at University Liggett School.

Just before the start of this academic year, ULS parent and associate director of admissions Marina Harvey added a new child to her brood. She didn’t have a baby; she welcomed a teenager. More specifically, she welcomed Amelie Ehrhardt, a German student from the non-profit ASSIST exchange program, and increased her home’s teen population from two to three.

In her admissions role at ULS, Harvey reviews applications from international students from ASSIST, which places scholar-leaders in private independent secondary schools throughout the country. She knew she had room at home to add another child, had always considered hosting a foreign student, and recognized the time was right for her family.

“It wasn’t some great calling,” says Harvey modestly. “It was more like, we have the room, we have the ability. Let’s do this! It will be fun!”

Welcoming Amelie has been fun for Harvey and her family. Amelie arrived from Germany just in time to spend a long weekend in northern Michigan with Harvey’s children and extended family, and join the family vacation to Lake Michigan. “All of those things helped us get to know each other. We chatted about the little things and the routine that would start once school began,” says Harvey, who adds that she enjoys watching Amelie’s reactions to what Americans find commonplace. For example, like many international students, Amelie was fascinated by the antics and varieties of the Michigan squirrel population.

“I have enjoyed seeing our everyday lives through her eyes, the houses in our area, our lakes, shopping malls and grocery stores,” Harvey says, “We recently went to Chicago and took Amelie to her first musical. It was great to see the joy and appreciation on her face.”
Fully supported by ASSIST, which provides monthly communication regarding what to expect for both host family and student as they get to know each other, Harvey says daily life with an international student feels normal now. “The experience has been similar to how I thought it would go. We are lucky that we have such an engaged person who is easygoing and independent,” she says.

Amelie arrived fully committed to continuing her established vegetarian lifestyle, which has helped Harvey and her family adopt a healthier way of eating at home. “We eat most of our meals at home and now they are mostly vegetarian. Everyone in my family has enjoyed the health and environmental benefits of a more plant-based diet. At least no one is complaining too much!” she says.

While the whole family has learned a lot from the experience of hosting an international student, what remains constant is the universal comfort that comes from living life en famille.

“Hosting Amelie gives our family a unique perspective,” Harvey says. “It allows us to see things beyond our narrative and nationalistic view. I think I’ve learned that most families are pretty similar, no matter the geography or language.”