By TERESA HAMMOND
Close to a dozen Oakdale families recently opened their homes to offer hospitality to some German visitors. Just prior to the start of Spring Break a handful of Oakdale High School juniors and seniors welcomed ‘home’ a group of German foreign exchange students for a one-week stay in Oakdale and touring parts of Northern California.
The Thomas family was one such family, opening their home for a second time to the European visitors.
“I had always wanted to host a student,” Donna Thomas, mother to OHS senior Marissa, said. “When Marissa heard about it last year, she took the initiative. She filled out all the paper work and really did it all.”
Thomas said when the opportunity presented itself again in the fall of 2016 the family jumped at the chance to host another student. The commitment required that the family open their home to the visitors for one week, with an option to visit sights with them and their group as well.
“They have pre-planned events,” Thomas said of the 11 students and two German teachers who visited. “They are very loving and kind. It’s wonderful to learn about a different culture.”
It was not a first time visit to the United States, for 17-year-old Eske Bendel, who stayed with the Thomas family. She shared she first came to the United States at the age of 10 to visit Washington, D.C.
“The rodeo, that was really new for me,” she said of the La Grange Rodeo the family took her to see. “In San Francisco … the Golden Gate Bridge (was most memorable).”
Of the Northern California sites the teen felt she would most remember she said, “San Francisco and the beaches we saw, were really beautiful and the landscape from Oakdale.”
As Marissa Thomas prepares to graduate from OHS in May, Donna recognizes the two host experiences may be the last for the Thomas family.
“Makes my heart so happy to be able to invite someone in and show them how we live,” she said. “My heart’s just happy that we met somebody at such a young age, that we’ll forever have a friendship with.”
Michelle Kendig of The Leader contributed to this report.