How many international guests is “too many”? If you’re the Kitzmiller family, there’s no such thing! Carolyn Kitzmiller has worked with exchange students for 7 years, and during this time her family has hosted countless students.
“I do it for the relationship,” says Carolyn. “And these kids truly have become family to us.”
A warm, open family by nature, the Kitzmillers have fostered such close connections not only with their students but also with their entire families as well.
Even so, Carolyn never anticipated they’d be blessed by an “international family reunion” right in their own home!
“We always love having the kids come back and visit, we tell them our house is always open, and it just so happened that one month in particular we had several of them take us up on it!”
Before she knew it, Carolyn’s house was bursting at the seams with eager international visitors – 3 from Spain, 4 from Germany, 2 from Belgium and 1 from Switzerland!
“We had 15 people staying in our house, and 10 of them were internationals!” remembers Carolyn. “Our friends and neighbors started to tease us about it, saying things like ‘you guys are the United Nations!'”
Racquel from Spain is one of the students who enjoyed this particular visit, together with her brother Alvaro and her best friend Laura.
“So there we were, Laura and me at 16, and my brother 13 years old, on a plane to Chicago to meet Carolyn!” remembers Racquel. “Being in a house full of people was amazing, there was always someone to talk to or to play volleyball with in the yard. We also had epic movie nights and made really nice dinners all together.”
Carolyn shared that while her family and her home are not “fancy,” they love sharing every bit of real life in Vicksburg, MI with their European friends – and often these “normal” experiences are far more exciting than any flashy tourist options.
Racquel absolutely agreed, even when it involved cramming in admid mayhem and dogs!
“One of my favorite memories is the yearly trip that the Kitzmillers take to Redbud, a motocross race. We took the motorhome and all of the dirt bikes there and enjoyed every moment of the experience. We all had to sleep in the motorhome with sleeping bags and with the dogs. It was tight, but we managed!”
As the Kitzmillers have discovered, student exchange presents countless opportunities to celebrate even the seemingly mundane moments of everyday life! Chatting around the dinner table, singing in the living room, going on a dirtbike ride, visiting the movies – each of these simple moments becomes amplified when shared and celebrated by an exchange student!
“I realize now that what made normal life so amazing with the Kitzmillers was that their ‘normal’ included activities like riding dirt bikes, going to the lake and wake boarding or tubing for hours, randomly singing in the middle of the hallway… their normal life was so special and fun that there was no need to travel elsewhere to have fun, you could just hang out in the barn as Brian made dinner and have just as much fun.”