For Des and Helen Sao, hosting international students has given them an extended network of host children all around the world.
“We’ve been hosting students for so long now that some of them are married with kids of their own. They often come back to New Zealand to stay with us – some of them even spend Christmas with us,” says Des.
We regard all our host students as our own kids.
Des and Helen, who live in the Auckland suburb of Green Bay, hosted their first international student 14 years ago.
They enjoyed the experience so much that they offered to take another student, then another. Now they usually have three students staying with them at a time.
Des and Helen’s first international students were girls, but they switched to boys when they had their own sons: Callum, now 16, and Logan John, nine.
The students, who attend Green Bay High School, have ranged in age from 11 to 18, and stay for between three and six months.
Des and Helen are currently hosting boys from Thailand, Japan and Brazil. Their Brazilian student has had such a great time in New Zealand that his family has asked the Saos if he can come back again next year.
“He loves it here, and our boys love him,” says Des.
Callum and Logan John enjoy hanging out with the host students, whether it’s playing football or basketball in the grounds of the high school, exploring the nearby native bush and beach, or playing board games at home.
“The kids we host love the outdoor lifestyle we have here in New Zealand. They like becoming more independent and making Kiwi friends, which also helps them improve their English,” says Des.
They like becoming more independent and making Kiwi friends, which also helps them improve their English.
Des enjoys introducing the students to the Kiwi way of life, and to his own Samoan culture. He hasn’t managed to convert many of the students to the delights of taro and Marmite yet, but they’re all huge fans of the the Saos’ barbecues and chicken burritos.
“For us, hosting students has been an awesome experience. We’ve had a lot of fun, and our kids have been exposed to many different cultures,” says Des.
“It has definitely brought us closer together as a family. We learn something from our host students every day.”
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