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The joys of bringing a fellow artist and thoughtful person to our home

Yixuan from China came on program because she wanted to learn more about American culture and broaden her perspective on the world, and introduce Chinese culture—the education system, family life and community activities—to Americans. She firmly believes that through intercultural exchange we learn a lot about one another and are given not only a fresh perspective on another culture, but are also able to identify areas of improvement in our own culture.

Yixuan’s time with her host family has also lent her introspection into her relationship with her family in China. She states, “I know more clearly how much my mom and dad devote to my family and how much they love me when I look at my host mom, her care towards her family and her effort in a family life. We also share a lot in common, including interests and personalities. We share our opinions on various issues, and improve multi-culture understanding. Since I’ve arrived to the States, I’ve started contributing more time to doing my art, which is going to be a big part of my future career. The atmosphere in Asheville has provided me a lot of inspiration and enjoyment, and I’ve also improved my English!”

Yixuan’s host mother, Elizabeth, writes about why she loves having Yixuan as part of her life:

I hosted three exchange students from Switzerland and Italy before with real success.  So, when the Hardys - a former Ayusa host family  - telephoned to say I really needed to read an Ayusa student profile, I was hopeful.  I’ve known this family for a long time and I trust their judgment. They were spot on. Yixuan’s interests are a delight to my home. I respected the depth shown in her writings and felt I could provide opportunities for her that she would enjoy.

I have benefited greatly from having Yixuan here. Primarily, I’m the recipient of the sincere care and appreciation of a bright and diligent young woman – which is priceless. But, also, she is an artist – which means my living room is now filled with drawings and paintings, charcoals and gouache, inks and colored pencils – and papers, lots of papers. She choreographs modern dances and is learning to play the piano – which addresses a hope I have, that I will return to playing myself. Yi has also connected me to my friends.  We’ve shared visits to the Cone Sisters exhibit at Duke, the exhibition at the Guggenheim and Les Troyens at Lincoln Center, and a UNC basketball game thanks to friends and family who want to introduce her to the U.S. We drove so that we could see the country and we did not do expensive things while in New York. Museum tickets were gifts from members, we bunked with my brother who lives just outside the city and the opera was her Christmas present. 

We’ve spent time hiking in DuPont forest, attending symphony concerts, and lots of time sitting on floors in bookstores. I have four sons who are all out of my home. They love visiting now that Yi is here and her presence certainly reminds them to connect with their exchange siblings. I also have a grandson who loves Yixuan. He especially loves his art table in the living room now that she’s here.

We’ve had wonderful conversations of the differences in our cultures. I love her realistic personality tempered with affection.  She came home from class to explain that American history text books don’t exactly get it right. They compare Marx and communism to democracy instead of capitalism. And, she’s exactly right.  Communism and socialism are economic theories not theories of government. Communism is the opposite of capitalism. It is not the opposite of democracy. She also explained that when Americans talk about the right thing to do, they always follow with a reason. In China, there is no need to offer a reason. She explained that she chooses to do the right thing because she knows inside that it is the right thing to do. Knowing that it is the right way to treat another person is the important thing. I fell in love—immediately.  Her having such a strong understanding of the human internal compass commanded my respect.

Hosting an exchange student opens our minds to the simple facts.  Human beings are loving and kind when allowed. Exchange programs are a strong peace promoting opportunity. Knowledge that people are made of so much love and concern for one another overcomes violence in modern media. Seeing first-hand how other cultures think and choose to behave defeats bigotry rendering thoughtless cultural generalities meaningless.