by Klara Maria Breitkopf, Social Work Graduate from the Catholic University of Applied Sciences in NRW, Germany
“Why is your Host Family the Host Family of the Year?” When I got the email with this question I asked myself how I should express that in less than 800 words.
Rick and Katie Halberg are two remarkable people that make awesome parents and the best host parents anybody could ever wish for. When I skyped with them for the first time they immediately won me over. Their bright smiles and laughing eyes made them seem so truly happy! I met their five adorable children via Skype and knew instantly that I wanted to work with them. I was so happy when they invited me to be a part of their family. We were in contact every day before I came to California.We sent each other funny pictures, voice messages and the seven-year-old twin girls learned a German word each day.
When I finally arrived in June, the Halbergs welcomed me with a big sign painted by the girls and flowers that were given to me by the three oldest children. All seven of them picked me up from the airport and brought me to my new home. They did everything to make me feel home, crafted more welcome-signs, printed pictures of my family to decorate my room with, gave me a huge welcome basket with nice and useful things, bought food and candy that they knew I like, placed little presents from their family and friends on my bed, got me a car that I can use for my time here and included me in every family interaction from the very beginning. They always introduced as a friend first and then as an Au Pair. Everybody knew who I am, they had told everyone about me and made sure they knew I was a member of their family before I even arrived.
Whenever I have a question or need help, Rick and Katie are there for me. They frequently make phone calls on my behalf and accompany me wherever I have business to attend to. They always welcome my friends and family with open arms (and cute welcome-baskets as well as self-crafted welcome signs;). My brother and his girlfriend stayed at our place for two weeks, my sister visited us for the same amount of time later and even my cousin came over for a few days. Every time Rick and Katie organized wonderful family dinners for them, helped them with renting cars and made them feel as if it were their home.
I am included in every family event and welcome to accompany them wherever they go. Rick, Katie and the kids have gone the extra mile to make me feel as though I were a family member, which makes it impossible for me to get home sick. We share each other’s family culture, for example through our special praying traditions before dinner. They start with a little game to get everybody’s attention, say prayers and talk about the parts of the day each family member is thankful for or enjoyed the most. I introduced my family tradition of singing a special song for prayers before and after dinner. A very special time for me was the family vacation at Lake Crescent in Washington State. We spent two weeks with my host dad’s family. They all treated me as one of them and let me take part at the very private occasion of my host dad’s father’s commemoration and funeral.
My smart, creative and beautiful girls like to draw, craft and dance with me, give me hugs and introduce me as their big sister. My cute and intelligent little boy loves to ride his bike on walks with me and read books. He tells me over and over again that he loves me to the moon and back. My bubbly little babies are happy when they see me, give me bright smiles and walk (yes, they walk now, I’m so proud!) towards me to give me hugs and kisses.I can feel that love from the whole family and I have the same feelings towards them. We have a very special connection, a great relationship and show/tell each other over and over again how we feel and how grateful we are to share this time. Besides love, we also value communication, patience, honesty and appreciation. These are all important things and make our family life special.
Rick and Katie always ensure that I am comfortable and care for me just as they do for their own five little wonders. I could never ask for a better Host Family and I’m looking forward to my extension time with the Halbergs and ‘Papa Angelo’, our “adopted Grandfather”. This time has been and will continue to be one of the greatest experiences of my life.