Hosting international students is no easy feat for any individual to accomplish. It is a task that requires much patience and care. It is also one that can be quite enjoyable and rewarding. Local resident MJ Adams recently sat down to talk about her wonderful experiences as a host for many international students at ILI over the years.

At the dinner table with international students.
MJ, Flora, Edumundo & Luis- evening meals were the best time to talk.

MJ first decided to become a host family for international students in 2015 and hosted dozens of aspiring students up until 2021. Students from countries such as Congo Brazzaville, Afghanistan, Japan, and many other countries found themselves in her happy home for their time spent learning the English language at ILI. A local resident of Northampton at the time, she felt inspired after her one of own daughters spent her junior year of high school studying abroad in Italy. After this experience, MJ’s family hosted a young woman from France studying in the United States. These experiences demonstrated to MJ and her family how truly amazing it can be to explore other cultures and diversify paths for education.

After her daughters went off to college to follow their own academic paths, MJ found the house she owned to be a bit too empty. As a result, she reached out to ILI and soon began hosting many international students from all over the world. The students she hosted

Jawid, a Fulbright student experiencing the joys of homeownership by cutting the grass.
Jawid, a Fulbright student experiencing the joys of homeownership by cutting the grass.

ranged in age, were at different chapters in their academic and professional careers, and came from many different countries. From teenagers aspiring to start their careers to established poets and even government officials, MJ welcomed each student into her home during their stay. She describes her experiences and relationships with all the individuals she hosted as “a really important piece of my life, at a time when I could’ve been very lonely, my home and my heart felt very full.” The students’ ultimate goal for traveling to America was to learn English, but MJ explains that during their stay they were able to learn so much more, culturally, than language. Noting that the learning experience went both ways, MJ experienced deep joy in learning about different cultures from all over the world while hosting. From different religions to cooking, she was able to understand so much more about other cultures in the world and how those impactful experiences could shape a person into a global citizen.

For MJ, an extremely significant practice was eating dinners at home with the students in a comfortable family environment. During this time the students could practice their English and learn

A day at the beach with international students.
A day at the beach with Jawid, Mim, Prince and Lastone.

about the culture around them. These important and enjoyable moments let the students unwind, be themselves, and practice the language they were learning. They also learned about other global cultures from each other. Spending time with the students outside of her home also became a way to have fun and learn from one another. Hiking and exploring the area around Northampton helped the students bond. Practices such as these enabled everyone to grow more as an individual and as a global citizen. In her own words, MJ refers to what she learned from these experiences saying, “I don’t just see myself as being an American. I see myself as being a global citizen and this is one piece of being a member of that global environment.” 

During the interview, MJ highlighted how much the students seemed to grow in the time between their arrival and departure. She noted that some students might arrive with barriers in verbal communication despite strong written skills. However, upon their departure from her home there was a noticeable development in their communication skills. This stems from both their hard work and outstanding education at ILI as well as the experiences they had staying in her home. When finally asked about what her overall time hosting has meant to her, MJ said with a smile, “I hope I gave them good solid encouragement and love and support for what they want to do and make the world a better place. I hope that I am remembered as a host family that was curious, engaging, supportive, and enthusiastic, giving them what they needed to be successful but also encouraging them to explore and to step out of their comfort zone.”

Interview and article by Tony Scarpa, UMass Amherst Community Engagement Course: Multilingualism and Literacy, spring 2022

Learn more about becoming a host family here.   

Questions? Contact Amy Ben-Ezra,

Prince, Mim & Jawid ride the ski lift to top of a mountain.
Prince, Mim & Jawid ride the ski lift to top of a mountain.