We would like to share an amazing experience in our family, in the hope that others will open their eyes, heart and home to a new world. Last year, our family decided to host an exchange student when we saw the request for host families on the Teton High School bulletin. We wanted to share our cultures with another student in our home, and theirs with us. We believe sharing our culture, language and lifestyle breaks down barriers that often lead to misunderstandings in a world that is always changing.

International Experience is the sponsoring organization, and Local Coordinator is Iris Saxer. Once our information was fully vetted, we perused through the profiles of students from all over the world, and we chose Valeria from Northern Spain.

We didn’t know what to expect with a student from another culture, but we were so excited to welcome her into our home and life. We found that Valeria fit so well into our family, it was uncanny, and many have remarked how much she looks like our own daughter, Taryn.

Valeria joined the many extracurricular activities at school including the Cross Country Team and Track, where she made it to State Championships. The teachers were welcoming, and Mrs. Pence, the English teacher, understood that the exchange of languages could be a bit difficult, and offered her always warm and welcoming help.

We are lucky and grateful to have so many caring teachers in our schools. Having such a lovely, charming, and wonderful young girl from another country has been such a learning experience for our family, and heart-warming year for us, but we didn’t expect it to be life changing. We did not have a student that we would just say good bye to (this week) forever, but instead, gained a daughter. Valeria will always be part of our family. We will visit her family next year in Spain.

Let’s celebrate diversity! Consider looking beyond language, culture, physical barriers, and appearance, and open our arms to a student from around the world!

Theresa, Ron, Taryn and Nelson Paradis Family

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