My wife and I are hosting another foreign exchange student for the school year and I’m always a bit apprehensive before their arrival.

Will he be a good kid and enjoyable to live with for nine months…or will he be a difficult guest who demands more focus than the typical teenager? Will he adapt to life on a farm that is 15 miles to the closest town when he is accustomed to living in a metropolitan area? Are we crazy for housing another adolescent when our own two sons drove us to the brink of insanity 10 to 15 years ago?

Kornelijus is from Lithuania and, even though we had communicated by email for a couple of months before his arrival, and video chatted with him twice, one can never be sure until the student shows up. A week before he left his home country, Judy asked the young man what he wanted for his first supper upon his afternoon arrival. His reply was, “Anything is fine. I eat everything.”

Pressing him further, Judy asked, “What is your favorite food.”

When the young man replied, “I love steak,” I knew we had a keeper.

After we picked him up at the airport and returned home, I fired up the grill and prepared him a big, thick, juicy steak and Judy had all the trimmings ready. When Kornelijus declared it the best piece of beef he’d ever eaten, and then asked, “Is all American beef this delicious?” I was certain he was going to fit right in here on the farm.

Since then, we have found the young man from Eastern Europe to be smart, courteous, polite, helpful, fun to have around, and…more proficient in the correct use of the English language than the old man with whom he lives. Luck of the draw? Maybe.

When luck of the draw is mentioned concerning exchange students, we usually think of the host family being lucky to get a good match for their home, but Kornelijus was recently texting one of his friends from Lithuania that is placed in a home in the Southwestern U.S. The young lady is staying with a family that lives in one of those stereotypical artsy towns, and she was venting about her situation. They were visiting right after we had finished supper.

“Oh, no!” Kornelijus exclaimed. “My friend had to eat grass seeds and soup for dinner.”

“Are they vegetarians?”

After more conversations between our boy and his friend, he said that the girl’s host family ate “ecologically sustainable and organically raised, free-range chickens” occasionally, but that her host parents “were trying to quit.”

As he continued texting with her, he found out that for dessert that evening, his friend was provided with “coconut water with honey.”

When asked if she ever got to eat any normal food, she replied, “Yes, I sometimes get a salad, but the dressing is some kind of exotic oil.”

She went on to add that her supervisor (all exchange students have a supervisor that visits monthly) had taken her out to lunch and she had gorged on pizza… and cried… because it tasted so good.

Kornelijus was sad for his friend because he had just finished a supper of grilled beef kabobs, stuffed peppers and mushrooms and fresh-made bread. As we sat on the back porch and enjoyed a big helping of Judy’s homemade apple pie with ice cream, our new son pondered, “I wonder what my friend is doing right now?”

“Oh, she’s probably sitting on her back porch, sipping fair-trade herbal tea, singing Kumbaya and dreaming about…a cheeseburger.”


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