Interview with Sylvia Martin, Family Stay Coordinator

Interview with Sylvia Martin, Family Stay Coordinator

Kirchberg, Germany

Tell us a bit about yourself and your background

My name is Sylvia Martin and I am 47 years old. Together with my son and my boyfriend we live in a rather small town and enjoy the quiet atmosphere and the proximity to bigger cities and a short way to our work. My boyfriend and I work at the same grammar school as teachers. He teaches German and History whereas I am interested in English and Geography. Our son attends the same school, so it feels like a family reunion every day. (But our son tells us that we should keep distance from his classroom.)

How long have you lived in community?

I was born in the federal state of Saxony, grew up approximately 60 km from where I live now and even studied in Dresden not being further away than 120 km. I moved to the community with the birth of our son (14 years ago).

How do you connect with your families?

The relationship with your organization was established a long time ago by a former colleague of mine. Upon her retirement, she thought that I would be suited to this kind of job. But now about the actual question. Families with sons and daughters hosting American students are my students, I’m linked with some families for a longer time as I have taught them for several years. So, everything starts with the German kids. I connect with their families as well at meetings or school events. I don’t work always work with the same families every year. Sometimes it might be possible that families host for more years because of siblings or that some really enjoyed hosting and volunteer for another year. The organizational work is done by emails and phone calls or, from time to time in a personal meeting.

What do you enjoy about being a family stay coordinator?

I do it for the good of our school as I see it as a perfect opportunity for our students to get into contact with students from the United States. They can broaden their horizon, improve their language skills, and expand intercultural skills. It is a motivator for English lessons at school. The open-mindedness and responsibility gained by being a host is very beneficial for their later lives. I hope that students see it as a unique opportunity. I also gain new experience with the annual program as well.

What are some of the main reasons that host families volunteer?

Perhaps parents share my perspective that a new world opens up for their children. They are in the role of host, showing international guests our surroundings and having them participate in everyday situations. 

Do you have families that have been involved for a long time?

As mentioned earlier, it really changes and gets difficult staying in contact with the families when their children leave school. I like the idea of finding partners approximately the same age to share interests etc.

What do you typically hear from the host families after the Family Stay Experience?

The huge majority of families enjoy the family stay experience and are overwhelmed by the similarities of young people no matter where they are from. Difficulties that were seen right at the beginning turned out to be smaller or non-existent in the end. Differences are of interest as well, but not in behavior or whatever, but in tiny items at school or daily life. To sum it up nearly everyone enjoys the time.