Anne Kuusio, Hannele Kauranne and Anu Adermann couldn’t agree more: hosting an exchange student solo is a life enriching experience.

Mom, Dad, some siblings, and maybe even a dog? The picture of a host family for an exchange student is often that of a family with children. While the families are arguably a key element in a successful exchange year, sometimes the family can consist of only one person. Three Rotarian “host grannies,” Anne Kuusio, Hannele Kauranne, and Anu Adermann share their hosting experiences and encourage other empty nesters to open their homes.

“I always liked it when my children’s cousins, friends, and schoolmates visited us. It was great to follow the world and thoughts of young people. As my own children moved out already 20 years ago, it was wonderful to have a high schooler living in my home again”, says Hannele Kauranne from Helsinki Finlandia Hall Rotary Club. She hosted a French student, Camille, for three months this winter.

The experience was a first for Hannele, and she worried that the student would not be comfortable living only with her. She resolved this by encouraging Camille to invite her friends over as often as she liked. Even though it hadn’t been easy for the exchange student to get Finnish friends, Hannele would soon find almost the whole of Europe by her kitchen table:

“Other exchange students from France, Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands visited us, and Camille’s friend from France also came to Finland to visit Helsinki,” she rejoices and adds: “I belong to the generation for whom the exchange study periods abroad were not even thought of when I was studying.”

While Hannele had volunteered as a host family well in advance, Anne Kuusio and Anu Adermann found themselves in the new role quite unexpectedly.

“The situation came unexpectedly when an obstacle came up for the agreed host family,” says Anne Kuusio from Ekenäs Rotary club, who currently hosts a girl from the USA. “However, I have been involved in the District Exchange Student organization for a long time and used to come to the rescue in tricky situations. This is my second time as a host mother.”

Anu Adermann from Tallinn International Rotary Club hadn’t initially thought about having an exchange student. There haven’t been many Rotary exchange students in Estonia in recent years. This spring Anu welcomed a boy from the USA and gave him a home for 2,5 months. The experience has been mind-blowing – in a positive way.

“The best moment was on Mothers’ Day – I got a present and a big hug from him! He is a very kind boy; I see him like my own son when he was 17” She rejoices and recommends the hosting experience wholeheartedly – as do the other two empty nesters:

“No need to be shy – we seniors have so much more experience! If you have raised your children and sent them out of the nest, you can manage one teenager for a couple of months. The same delights and the same quirks, but still… They will have school, friends, other exchange students, and the host club around them, and it’s not your duty to fill their days with programs and activities”, says Anne Kuusio.

“Boldly get a new experience in your life! As part of Rotary’s youth exchange, you can implement Rotary’s best principle, service above self. On top of it, you get to be an important part of a young person’s growth process and their experience about your home country”, adds Hannele.

On top of that, exchange students could be the key to growing the membership of Rotary.

“We need to invest more in this. We need to invest in the young people who will become our dedicated future members!”, says Anu.

Would you be interested in hosting an exchange student? Rotary students usually stay in about three families during their exchange year, 3-4 months in each. Read more about becoming a host family!