Memories That Mean the World: An Unexpected Connection

3 minutes

At InterExchange Au Pair USA, we're celebrating our 25th anniversary this year with Memories That Mean the World. What's a Memory That Means the World? For us, it's the type of memory that only happens through cultural exchange, when young au pairs from around the world make unforgettable connections with welcoming U.S. host families.

This month's Memory That Means the World comes from Maria Capistran, from Mexico, and her host family, the Turnofs.

"I'm amazed with all the first times I have had since I arrived. They took me on a ski trip with them and I actually tried skiing, something that I never imagined I was going to be able to do," Maria said. "My host dad was trying to help me ski but I got really scared and I fell so many times that I was becoming part of the snow. My kids and I laughed so hard. I can't believe eight-years-olds can ski so well!"

Maria's arrival to the Turnof home has enabled this busy family with three very active children make Memories That Mean the World, despite a manic schedule.

"All of our children play on a total of three different travel soccer teams. Our 11-year-old daughter is a nationally ranked fencer," said Mr. Turnof. "She practices almost year-round and competes throughout the U.S. Our twin boys are competitive wrestlers at the state level and practice almost all year round as well. As one can imagine, our family has an amazingly hectic schedule. We practically need the logistics department of UPS to plan the most efficient routes, schedules and times. Fortunately, we still make plenty of time to have created so many wonderful memories of Maria being with our family. Whether it be joining us for anything from a family dinner to a ski trip, we all always try and make time for each other. She is quite special."

The Turnofs keep a kosher household, something that made Maria nervous at first.

"At the beginning, I was nervous about making sure I followed their home traditions correctly, but they were really patient and helpful in teaching me," she said.

Then, a conversation about family roots brought about a surprising discovery.

"One day while talking with my host dad, I learned something about my family that made my stay here even more interesting," said Maria. "We discovered that I actually have Jewish ancestry. My grandmother's family is from Hungary, so while we were talking about that, my host dad started asking me some questions. We called my grandma to inquire. He did some research and connected all the dots. We figured it out and I was so excited and happy because if it wasn't for this experience, I would have never realized that important part of my family and roots."

With such a deep connection formed, Maria wanted to extend her au pair program for a second year.

"I have to admit that I haven't had enough of this beautiful experience and that's why I extended; at the beginning, I told my family I was leaving after completing my first year but they really wanted me to stay," she said. "The kids and my host parents are now a part of me. Because of this, I wanted to stay longer and now recognize that I was truly saddened to leave this experience and family. Every single time they smile at me, it lights a fire in my heart."

Want to read about more Memories That Mean the World? Read our previous posts:

U.S. Department of State-Designated J-1 Visa Sponsor
Alliance for International Exchange
Exclusive partner of the Erasmus Student Network for J-1 Visa sponsorship of internships in the U.S.
European-American Chamber of Commerce New York
Generation Study Abroad
Global Ties U.S.
International Au Pair Association
WYSE Travel Confederation