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International Students Search for Homes Over Vacations

When home means Switzerland, Korea, or Jordan, finding a place to stay over breaks can be stressful. For international students, who make up approximately 12% of the student body, vacations often pose this problem.
This year, students from the United Arab Nations, Kazakhstan, Hungary, and Botswana will be coming to Deerfield. “It will be very hard for these students to go home over breaks,” said International Student Advisor Lynne Robbins. She encourages all members of the Deerfield community to offer to host these students and to see for themselves how rewarding the process can be.

“I couldn’t have gone home for most of the breaks; it would have cost too much to do that,” explained Omer Khalayleh ’09 from Jordan, “although His Majesty King Abdullah II [’80] was kind enough to pay for me to go home for winter break.”

For all his other vacations, Khalayleh needed to find places to stay that weren’t half a world away. Luckily for him, many members of the Deerfield community were eager to lend a hand.

“I got invitations from [English teachers] Suzanne Hannay and John Palmer, Margot Robinson ’07, Deerfield Club Member Phil Corrinet, and more,” said Khalayleh.

But finding a place to stay is not always this easy and can sometimes be uncomfortable for international students, especially those entering the year without knowing anyone.

“Oftentimes these [international] students feel like they are imposing, and on the other end, the students who are asked to host might shy away because they feel that they do not know the student well enough,” Ms. Robbins said.

But in most cases, the experience proves to be a great one for both the student and the host family.

“It is not the least bit burdensome, but rather fun and interesting to get to know another culture,” said Ms. Robbins, who has hosted many students herself. “It is also important to remember that you do not have to work hard to entertain—just provide a comfortable home and they will be very grateful.”

Aaron Clayton-Dunn ’09 can attest to the excitement that comes with hosting international students. His family has offered their home to various students, and Clayton-Dunn recalls their time hosting Cindy Chen ’10 and Michelle Ju ’10, both from China, as “eye-opening.”

“All three of us had cultural encounters that we may not have gotten otherwise,” said Clayton-Dunn. “I remember trying to teach them why The Office is so funny. They taught me a fun card game which they were insanely good at.”

Khalayleh also has spent some of his vacation time with Clayton-Dunn, as well as with the Robinsons and Patrick Tiongson ’09. He especially enjoyed living with Tiongson in Los Angeles over spring break.

“It was an amazing experience,” said Kahlayleh. “I have always wanted to stay with host families that live far away from Deerfield, so that I could see as much of the country as possible. I want to thank all [of the families who hosted me]. Even a small gesture like this makes a huge difference.”