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Switzerland to America: A billet family’s story

Fate.

Sometimes things just fall into place.

Sometimes we are at the right place at the right time.

This was our case.

A friend sent us a message on Labor Day weekend about a girl who wanted to be a foreign exchange student.  She was 16 and from Switzerland.  Phil and I shrugged and said “So what? We already have our plates full with Hannah’s schedule, church, work, etc”.  Then we read the next sentence: “A dream of hers is to play ice hockey in America.”

Now you have our attention.

We have the space.  We have the means.  We had billeted for five years in the past for a local junior hockey team.  Why not?  We miss the activity from when we were a billet family years ago.  Why not do it again?  We decided to make a list of questions and concerns on our ride home from vacation the next day.  From that moment, it was all a blur.  I sent an email with all of our questions and concerns Tuesday to YFU.  Within 15 minutes we had the response of “Can you talk now?”  Thankfully I could and Christi was more than willing to answer all of the questions we had.

By 10:30am the application was done.

She had our references called by noon.

We set up our home visit for Wednesday evening.

Thursday our background checks came back and we were able to get our new foreign exchange student’s info.

Friday she responded to our email and asked to Skype with us on Saturday afternoon.

Our Skype session was amazing!  Thankfully, Liv and her parents speak excellent English so we were able to really talk to them and get to know Liv a little better.  We showed them around our home.  She was able to see everything from her bedroom to the kitchen to the basement where there is synthetic ice for shooting pucks and the backyard where Phil puts in a rink every winter.  We explained we had found a couple teams for Liv to play on depending on her level of play. (Remember this is September and travel teams chose their teams back in June!)

Her dad had tears. He kept saying “What’s the catch?”

How could we explain that there is no catch?  This is just who we are!  We all know how crazy hockey families are.   We drive distances no other sport does.  We drive in snow, rain, hot or cold weather.  I always giggle and say the life of a hockey mom is all about the 1 hour wait.

One hour drive to the rink.

One hour wait for the game.

One hour for the game.

One hour wait for the girls to get out of the locker room.

One hour to drive home.

We pay insane fees for ice bills, extra training, skates, gear and more.  We promised to treat her how we treat our own daughter (minus paying the ice bill and hockey related expenses!)

It was at this time we found out she would be arriving Monday night.  Wait!  What?  Monday night?  Seven days after we decided to take in this girl, she was ready to move in?  I don’t think Hannah slept for those two nights!

Liv hates our first family picture.  She had been traveling for almost 24 hours.  It was midnight our time and 6am her time.  We allowed Hannah to stay home from school the next day so when Liv woke up, Hannah would be able to show her around the house.  This was a great time for the girls to bond.

When I got home from work, they were upstairs giggling and talking. They had spent the whole day watching movies and Liv asked a billion questions about us and Hannah had asked a billion questions about Liv.  They had already become fast friends.

The first two weeks Liv was with us flew by. She started school in the district I teach in (and the same district Hannah goes to).  She skated with a 19U team that is out of the same rink that Hannah skates out of so now we have two Ravens in our house.  She had all of her paperwork come through by the time the first tournament rolled around.  Liv elected to attend the out of town tournament and skip homecoming.  Thankfully one of her hockey teammates invited her to their homecoming a week later.

This was the first time I saw tears.  This was the first time her dad wasn’t there when she got off the ice.  Just me.  Her host mom that she’s known for only a couple weeks.  So hard to see the homesickness.

We’ve now done a couple tournaments, late night skates, LOTS of hours in the car, the flu, a cold, shopping, and so much more

Since day one, she just “fit in”.  It’s like she has been here all along.  She rats Hannah out when she is being naughty and they sit in the backseat together and tell “sister secrets”.  We never thought that this experience would be half as amazing as it is.  It has been only eight weeks and we’re just talking about how fast it flew by.  I’m sure there will be bumps in the road but many laughs, giggles and tears as well.  June will be here before we know it and we will have made so many memories and gained a new daughter.

 

   


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