Foreign exchange students have been a part of life for Bloomquists

RANDOLPH — Magnetized to Elaine and Dick Bloomquist’s refrigerator are 22 frames holding the images of what the couple likes to call their, “global family.”

Thirteen of those photos are of high school-aged exchange students the couple has hosted at their home in Randolph in the past 10 years. These students have been from various different European countries as well as Hong Kong and Thailand.

RANDOLPH — Magnetized to Elaine and Dick Bloomquist’s refrigerator are 22 frames holding the images of what the couple likes to call their, “global family.” 

Thirteen of those photos are of high school-aged exchange students the couple has hosted at their home in Randolph in the past 10 years. These students have been from various different European countries as well as Hong Kong and Thailand. 

Elaine said after their first exchange student back in 2008, it just became a habit the couple could not seem to quit. 

“Once you’ve had someone extra in your home from another country with that culture you do want to keep going for a while,” Elaine said. 

Dick has worked as a truck drive since 1995 and Elaine has been a para professional at the Randolph High School for the past 15 years. This is how she got involved with Education First, or EF, an exchange student program. 

While these exchange students are in Randolph, they attend high school where they are registered as sophomores but can take almost any class they want to or are required to. There, Elaine said the students can’t get away with much since she works at the school. 

The students also have the opportunity to participate in sports, dance and any extracurricular activities that interest them. 

The couple has had students go to state tournaments, sing the National Anthem before sporting events and even learn to drive. 

One of the photos in the magnet frames on their refrigerator is of their son Jimmy and his wife Christina. 

Although Jimmy was only living in the house the first year of the couple’s journey as exchange student hosts, he still considers these students his “global brothers and sisters,” Elaine said. 

So much so, Jimmy and his wife even had one exchange student in their wedding as a bridesmaid. 

Jimmy said these foreign exchange students have taught him a lot — from cooking recipes to foreign politics to different ways to cope with changes in environment and much more.

“You can learn about the world through books and videos, but nothing opens up your capacity for empathy than actually knowing somebody from a different situation or place and being able to relate to them directly,” Jimmy said.

After 10 years of hosting, the couple does not plan on having another exchange student in their home so they can get to know their newborn grandson Martin, who lives in Lawrence, Kansas with Jimmy and his wife. 

Although Dick describes saying goodbye to these students as “a kick in the gut,” he and his wife are constantly reminded of their global family whenever they walk into the kitchen and see all of their smiling faces magnetized to the refrigerator.

“They become one of your family they really do,” Elaine said.

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