Learning abroad and broadening horizons at ICC
About four months ago, Lucas Roemer moved nearly 5,000 miles from home to live with people he did not know in a place he knew nothing about.
18-year-old Lucas traveled from his hometown of Berlin, Germany, to the United States to go to college in order to pursue his educational goals and to provide himself with more opportunities that may not be available to him otherwise. No, he didn’t go to New York City, Los Angeles or Chicago—though he would like to visit those places. Instead, Lucas came to a small, rural town in Kansas; Independence. Instead, Lucas came to the middle of America to a small town in Kansas called Independence, where he discovered that studying abroad is a learning experience for more than just himself.
Upon Lucas’ arrival, he met the Haynes—his host family that he would be living with for the next 10 months while he studied at Independence Community College (ICC). The only communication he had previously had with them was a letter he had written them with details about himself.
The Haynes family consists of Tim (Fab Lab ICC Manager), his wife Emily, and two children under two years old. They have been involved with Youth for Understanding (YFU), an international educational exchange organization since 2013. Lucas is the fifth international student they have hosted, but the first since they’ve had kids. Tim admits that they had their concerns about hosting again due to things like lack of space, privacy and the desire to keep a steady routine in their household.
“You never really know what you’re getting into,” Tim said. “But we were very excited. It’s a great experience to bring someone into your home that is out of their own culture and comfort zone. You become an ambassador for your community, and we like that.”
Lucas left behind a family of his own to come to ICC. He lived in a small apartment in Berlin with his mother, step-father and sister.
“I really love my family,” Lucas said. “They play such a huge role in my life.” However, he was very interested and eager to see how American culture works.
The transition for both Lucas and the Haynes family is going smoothly and both sides are learning and growing from the experience. Lucas and Tim agree that they make a good team and have settled into a routine. Tim even recalls a time when he and Emily went out, leaving Lucas to care for the kids, and when they came home, Lucas was rocking their daughter to sleep on his shoulder and told them that their son was already sound asleep. “He looked a whole lot older in that moment!” Tim joked.
Lucas is thoroughly enjoying his time in Independence living with the Haynes.
“Independence has a really good community,” he said. “I have made a lot of friends and people here are really friendly.” He’s even made a friend from Italy who speaks German fluently.
This experience is impacting Lucas and the Haynes family in many ways. Both are able to better understand each other’s culture and ways of doing things. The Haynes came into the experience with an open outlook that would allow Lucas to see everything about their family. Lucas says that things aren’t so different and that he hasn’t experience too much of a culture shock.
Similar to his living situation, his educational experience at ICC is going extremely well. He says that he prefers the American education system over the German education system. He loves having the option to choose his own classes and has decided to go into business administration.
“I really like taking classes that I have an interest in such as personal finance and accounting,” Lucas explained. “The instructors here are very supportive and helpful.”
Lucas plans to go back to Germany after ICC to work at a bank for two years and then obtain his Bachelor’s degree from Frankfurt School in Germany. Following that, he would like to come back to America to study and receive his master’s degree at The Wharton School in Pennsylvania.
Tim says while being a host family may bring minor challenges, you get a lot more out of it.
“If you think only about what’s in it for you, you might be disappointed.” Tim explained. “You need to have a reason for doing it and an understanding of the impact you are making on a student and their future.”
A former exchange student himself, he believes that hosting international students is a way to stay connected with other cultures.
“I want my kids to grow up knowing about different cultures,” Tim said. “We really enjoy having international students in our home.”
Lucas’s advice to other international students who may be considering moving thousands of miles away to live with people they don’t know in a place they know nothing about? “Do it.”
ICC is always looking for host families that want to make an impact on a student’s life by allowing them to pursue these unique opportunities. For questions and details about the possibility of becoming a host family for an international student studying at ICC, contact Andrea Hucke, ICC Navigator, at 620-332-5408 or firstname.lastname@example.org.