I have to admit, I was tentative and not fully committed to the idea of receiving a French exchange student in my home. I was worried that the child wouldn’t fit in with my family, would be home sick, wouldn’t  be well behaved, wouldn’t appreciate my 21-month-old son Jackson… the list goes on. I put a note out on Facebook to see what others thought – it was a mixed bag. Half of my followers said it was a GREAT experience and the other half said it was a DISASTER.


What to do?? Well, it was less than a month before the students would arrive on Maui and I still hadn’t decided if it was a good idea for my family… yes, what to do? ACE International is the organization that… well, organizes everything! Tenessa and Chase Cavitt (yes they are married) are the host family representatives – they are very sweet, open and obviously care deeply about the experience this organization can give to French students by traveling abroad.
(Photo of cutie patooties Tenessa and Chase below)




Tenessa initially contacted me through MAUIWatch to see if I knew anyone who would be interested. I thought… me! But then I started having second thoughts… that’s when she sent me 6 or 7 student applications to read through. What a blessing. I didn’t know that’s how it worked. I thought you show up at the airport and pick up a kid you’ve never heard of! lol Kaimi and I read through all of the applications and shared them with family and friends. We “stalked” the kids on Facebook and Instagram and really felt like we got to know who they were before making our choice. We got it down to two girls – one 14 and the other 17 – that’s a big difference. They both pretty much liked the same things, were good students, were curious about culture and loved the outdoors… we ended up picking the older one. (Photo below of us at the airport picking her up)




Leading up to her arrival, we filled out paperwork (a couple of pages) and got in touch with our “daughter” over Facebook. We had already planned on going to the Big Island for our yearly family camping trip so we got permission from her parents to bring her along with us (ACE International provides you with a $400 stipend to spend on food, gas, etc… we decided to put it toward her plane ticket). We talked about what she should pack and what she should be prepared for. I wasn’t scared anymore. ;)




Photo above of all the families greeting their new “daughters” and “sons” (for 3 weeks). I have to admit I was nervous going to the airport to pick her up. I even got the time wrong and was at the airport a full hour before our meeting time!! lol When I saw her coming down the escalator I nearly cried… mommy hormones I guess :)




The night before our student’s arrival Tenessa and Chase had an orientation meeting. They provided us with a handbook. It literally has EVERYTHING in it. Packing lists for the kids, itinerary, drop off and pick up times, locations, dates – a calendar of events, tips for hosting your kid, what to feed them, etc… like I said EVERYTHING. So helpful.




If you’re interested in hosting a French keiki at your home this summer and live on OAHU please contact Tenessa at  (760) 845-7681 or email – ACE International on FacebookACE International Website.


So far here on Maui the kids have been to Hana, they did a west side tour, a south side tour, a Haleakala tour, Iao Valley, they went to a luau, had surf and canoe lessons and will go on a boating trip out to Molokini (if weather permits! Yikes! How’s this storm coming? PS – I have a blog on the latest – click HERE).


You’ve probably determined by my blog so far that for us this experience has not been a disaster but instead an amazing opportunity to have a French student in our home. Tenessa and Chase are there every step of the way. They have great communication with the families and truly help you to have an AMAZING experience. I would recommend it to anyone!

(Photo below of some of the kids here on Maui right now – they are having a BLAST!)




Tenessa and Chase have 12 kids coming to Oahu from August 2 – 23 – they are in need of loving families to take them in. It’s only THREE weeks. Trust me, it goes by FAST! ACE International has prepared activities for the kids three days a week (Mon, Wed, Fri) and if you work they can help to connect you with families that could help with taking care of the kids while you’re not home and / or drive them to pick up locations, etc… On off days a bunch of the kids down here in Kihei walk to the beach and hang out together while their “parents” are at work. Also, you get a stipend based on how many kids you can house (1 kid = $400 / 2 kids = $700 / 3 kids = $1000). All you have to provide is a safe place for them to sleep, three meals a day, transportation to and from pick up locations and ALOHA.


Here is the OAHU Calendar for August

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I will blog about our personal experience with Pénélope after she leaves – she only has a few more days left with us. We’ve all connected with her on a deep (ohana) level and will be super sad to see her go. :(






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9 Responses

  1. Just dive in! Our Exchange Student Experience | Life's Swell says

    […] here on August 3rd! Please email me if you’re interested or know someone who might be – HERE is my blog with more information about […]

  2. Kathy says

    Also Malika it was a good decision to have an exchange student in your home. If you decided not to do it you would always wonder what kind of experience it would have been.

  3. Anonymous says

    Are there any coming to the Big Island? Hosted a boy from Spain his entire senior year in high school on the mainland. Still get in touch with him and went to visit him and his family in Spain 3 years after he graduated in the mid 80′s. I was pregnant with my youngest, my daughter was Jackson’s age and the older two were in 1st and 2nd grade respectively, so we got introduced to teenage parenting before our own! LOL!Best experience ever.

    • Malika says

      If I hear of any I will definitely let you know!

  4. Kathy says

    You and your family is an awesome job by becoming a ohana to Penelope. Can you bring her back next year?

    • Malika says

      ha ha! Well for one thing Kathy, she is off to university next year and wouldn’t qualify for this program anymore. Perhaps an Au Pair in the future? Who knows!

  5. Bridgett says

    yay! My picture made it on your super awesome blog! :) I agree, we’ve had a fun time with our exchange student!

    • Malika says

      Sorry! I totally just stole it of of the FB page! Photo cred: Bridgett :0)

      • Bridgett says

        No worries what-so-ever! I love reading your blog… that funny spur-of-the-moment selfie picture has made it’s way around the world ;) These kids are a blast. I also am going to be sad to see them go!