How the Romeros built a global family

About 10 years ago, Floyd Romero heard an announcement at church looking for host families for international exchange students. The idea of becoming a host family sounded really interesting to him so, without speaking with his wife, he signed up. To Floyd’s surprise, his wife Jan was just as thrilled as he was.

The Romeros never had children of their own; they had considered fostering or adopting, but the timing was never right for them.

 

As part of the process to be host parents, the Romeros reviewed many student profiles before selecting their first student. Jan said, "We were looking for someone that wanted to come here and create lasting relationships – someone that’s going to stay connected to us. Because we were looking to make them a part of our family."

 

And they found just that! In the fall of 2010, the Romeros welcomed their first exchange student, Raphael from Germany. Raphael was outgoing, talkative and interested in being a part of the Romeros’ life from day one. They felt they had truly gained a son. Raphael said, "I loved staying with Jan and Floyd from the very beginning. The fact that I clearly remember my arrival day even after nine years shows how much I cherish those memories. The Romeros quickly became actual family to me and I still feel like they are my American parents and I don´t think that´s ever going to change. I think about my Texas home pretty much every day."

 

That initial host experience changed everything for them. They had found a way to build the family they had always wanted. Nearly a decade after that announcement at church, the Romeros are now parents to nine children – from Europe, that is.

A few years into hosting, the Romeros decided they wanted their students to become close with each other as well. In order to make that happen, they began to host girls from the same region of Norway – that way, they could easily visit and get to know one another. Each year the Romeros introduce their newest daughter to her ‘older sisters’ in Norway. This helps put the girls and their parents at ease before starting their exchange. 

 

Their fourth exchange student, Barbro, reminisced about what it’s been like preparing future students, "When my year was over, I happened to live in the same town as their next exchange student, Cathy. I offered to meet over a cup of coffee so I could answer all the questions she had. Two summers later Cathy, Sarah their sixth student and I all met up with the next exchange student, Anniken. They’re all really friendly."

"Some of the students connected with me when they found out I was going to be the new exchange student to live with Jan and Floyd. That made me feel so welcome and taken care of! I knew I was in good hands," said Sarah.

Most of the Romeros' former exchange students now know each other and have built strong connections of their own. The girls meet up regularly in Europe and have even gone on vacations together. Cathy told us how she's been able to create life-long relationships through the Romero family, "I think that we all have a good relationship with one another. We became good friends and have stayed in touch. I do think of them as my sisters, and I love the bond that we all share through Jan and Floyd."

 

Sarah echoed her sister’s comments, "One thing that is so special about the Romeros is that they think of me and the rest of the kids as their own children, which makes us all one big family."

 

With most of the girls coming from the same area of Norway, it’s normal for them to meet up or run into each other from time to time. Here, Sarah recognizes a customer at the café she works at in Kristiansand, Norway as her older sister, Maureen!

The Romeros have been lucky enough to have had each of their students return home to Texas for a holiday or family visit. In 2018, four of their previous exchange students visited for Thanksgiving – the most they’d ever had together at one time. It was a celebration they’ll never forget. Jan shared, "We are so blessed that they continue to come back to their Texas home every couple of years – two of our students have come back yearly! We have also bonded with their parents and continue to stay in touch with them. This has been a terrific experience for us."

 

Raphael, that very first student from 2010, shared what it’s like having family across the globe, "Since I´ve gotten older, my appreciation for the Romeros has only grown. I have been back a few times to visit and always felt instantly right back at home. That is an incredibly heartwarming feeling, knowing you can hop on a plane, take an 11-hour flight only to arrive at your second home. I am beyond grateful for that."

Over all the years they’ve hosted with EF, Jan and Floyd have been able to create the family they had always wanted.

"We truly love these students as our very own. I am so thankful that my husband was there when this local coordinator was looking for families at church and look at us now. I wouldn’t trade any of them. They’re a special group. I love it when they get together – it really worked – we built a family!"

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© EF Education First 2011-2020. EF High School Exchange Year is operated by EF Educational Foundation for Foreign Study, a non-profit corporation designated by the U.S. Department of State to operate a J-1 student exchange program. Note: Featured photo/videos do not include prospective students, and are representative of program participants.