Twenty years ago our family welcomed into our home a beautiful fifteen-year-old exchange student from Brazil named Thais. Her parents, Antonio and Inês, trusted us to take care of their daughter for a year. A few months later they invited Chad, age sixteen, to live with them in Brazil for seven mouths. We learned so much from Thais’ parents because in the beginning Thais was very homesick and wanted to go home, but her parents were very patient and lovingly talked her through it. From that experience Mark and I learned that homesickness wasn’t terminal and if we could be patient and brave like Thais’ family we might be able to see the beauty of the exchange unfold. This past weekend Thais, her two little boys Joau and Pedro and her parents came to visit. This was the first time we met two-year-old Pedro and the first time they met Harrison. Before they left I asked to hold Inês’ hand. Even though Inês and I don’t speak the same language, words were not necessary because we shared a son and a daughter. We saw the true beauty of the exchange unfold.
In 1995, 15-year-old Thais Durighetto traveled from Brazil to spend a year in the United States as an exchange student. At first we were a little reluctant to take Thais because our family had hosted a exchange student from Japan the year before and I thought we needed a break. Mika Horiba, our Japanese student, spent nine months with us and we had a great experience, but taking on another child involves so much and I felt we were already overloaded with four busy kids. Now in August 1995, a month after Mika left to go back to Japan, someone asked us to host Thais for year. At first I said “no” and then I said we would take her for a few weeks until they could find another family for her to live with. Well, we fell in love with Thais immediately and she stayed with us for the whole year.
Thais was young and very homesick at first. At one point she was so homesick and asked her dad if she could go home. Her loving parents talked with her and told her that if she decided to go back to Brazil she would probably regret her decision for the rest of her life. Thais thought about what her dad had said and decided to stay with us and make the best of it.
Chad had an interest in being an exchange student as well, so Thais’ parents invited Chad to live with them in Brazil for the rest of his sophomore year in high school. Chad left right after Christmas for seven months and had a wonderful experience. With Chad being my oldest child and me being immature, we took the advice of Thais’ parents and let him deal with his homesickness. Chad did beautifully the seven months living among Thais’ loving family, learning the culture and learning to speak Portuguese. It was an awesome exchange for all of us.
10 years later Thais asked Mark and I to be in her wedding. We traveled to Brazil in June 2006 to experience our beautiful Brazilian daughter’s wedding. It was a wonderful experience for us and such an honor.
Today, Thais still visits us in the States. We know her family really well and love them all. Thais and Paulo live in San Paulo with their two precious sons, Joao and Pedro. We love Thais like a daughter and we are so thankful she didn’t give in to her homesickness and go back to Brazil early.