During the academic year, Lincoln Academy’s campus is home to more than 80 high school students from 19 countries around the world. These students live in two campus dorms, and while school is in session they are taken care of on campus: the LA Dining Commons serves three meals a day, house parents help students meet their day-to-day needs, and rotating weekend staff members run weekend activities that range from dog sledding, hiking, and community service, to bus trips to the movies and the Maine Mall.
During summer and Christmas vacations, when students have plenty of time to travel, most board flights to Asia, Europe, and South America to spend time at home with their families. During the shorter school vacations, including Thanksgiving, February, and April breaks, Lincoln Academy looks for local families who are willing to serve as homestay families for boarding students.
“Homestays are an important part of the cross-cultural immersion for our international students,” said Ken Stevenson, Lincoln Academy’s Director of Resident Life. “It is one thing to speak English in school, and share a dorm with other teeanagers, but there is no substitute for sitting down to dinner with a local family and truly being immersed in life in a small Maine town.”
During the recent February vacation, about 35 students stayed with local families, often in groups of 2-4. With their host families, these students participated in activities including art projects, ice skating, snowshoeing, skiing and snow tubing, communal cooking with families, board games, and even farming.
“There was loads of fun that I deeply enjoyed during the few days, among them what I enjoyed the most was daily dinner time,” said junior Mark Ma of China, who stayed with Deb and Greg Schaefer in Newcastle. “American people value the dinners the most and they put great effort into each dinner, which is one of the traditional and typical features of American culture. At every dinner, we chatted about all kinds of things and had a happy moment together as a family. Both of my host parents are so kind and we could truly feel that we were taken care of as their children.”
“It was fun to have the house full of boys, reminding us of what it was like when our kids were teens and living at home,” said Mark’s host parent Deb Schaefer, who hosted three other international students over February vacation in addition to Mark. “We really enjoyed getting to know them, having meals together and playing games in the evening.”
Missy Abbott is a dorm parent at Lincoln Academy who sees the value of homestays. “Homestays are an invaluable part of an international student’s experience in coming to school in the United States. There is a comfort that can easily become a crutch to lean on in having friends who speak your language in the dorms… The dorm experience is incredibly fun, but within the dorm we have created our own microcosm that does not represent American life. The students greatly benefit from an immersion into a local home.”
She points out that homestays are also valuable for local families, who have a cross-cultural opportunity in their own home. “Homestays are, in my opinion, advantageous for our students and our local community as they are the most beneficial way for everyone to learn about another person’s culture.”
Families who have had vacation homestay students in the past often ask to have the same students back again, but the school is always looking for more families. Ideally Lincoln Academy prefers to place students in pairs, for the comfort of both families and students.
“Although it was only a short time with an ordinary family,” said Mark Ma, “it is enough to be an epitome of American culture; a harmonious and warm culture that is absolutely worth experiencing.”
William Doan, a sophomore from Vietnam who also stayed with a local family in February agrees. “Having a homestay with local families is a great opportunity for us to learn more about American culture. Moreover, this is a great time for residential students to share, talk about our country’s folklore. I ate many new foods that I have not eaten in Vietnam. I am especially impressed with Nutella.”
Lincoln Academy is seeking new homestay families for April vacation (April 15-22). For more information call or email LA’s Resident Life Administrator Sarah Kennedy: firstname.lastname@example.org/ 563-3596 ext. 223.