Home hospitality host Alecia Kissel’s nephew responded to every child’s favorite question to receive— “What do you want to be when you grow up?” —with an answer Kissel loved to hear: “An explorer like you!”
Kissel has her own collection of travels, from Spain to Thailand, but she expands her international explorations by acting as a home hospitality host for The International Center. As a home hospitality volunteer, she hosts international visitors that are in Indianapolis as part of professional development programs coordinated by the United States Department of State, national program agencies and local organizations, including The International Center. She offers a dose of “Hoosier Hospitality” and a delicious meal to welcome the visitors from countries around the world.
Individuals from Jordan, the United Kingdom and Colombia have all been welcomed in Kissel’s home.
“I signed up to volunteer in the spring of 2018. A coworker who was familiar with The International Center suggested I sign up because I was looking to expand my global network and welcome more folks to Indiana,” Kissel said.
Her experience as a volunteer has expanded Kissel’s network. “Through the home hospitality opportunities and my own experiences hosting folks through Couchsurfing, I now have friends in Egypt, Niger and Nigeria, all of which I would like to visit,” Kissel said.
Kissel makes it a goal to travel internationally once a year. Her future destinations include Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland; however, her favorite location is Spain.
“From San Sabastian with the best tapas crawl in the world and horseshoe beach that I thought only existed in storybooks, to Madrid with the stunning all-glass Mercado de San Miguel, to Barcelona with Antonio Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia where the edifice itself feels like you are in a forest where the air is made up of rainbows from the unusual stained glass, Spain has surprised me time and time again,” she said. Kissel compared the agricultural aspects of Spain to growing up in the rural countryside of Indiana, furthering her international parallels.
“Being a host has been one of the most enriching Indianapolis experiences for me as someone who aims to be globally connected professionally and personally,” Kissel said. “I hold The International Center in the highest regard for their work and recommend this experience to everyone in the city who also has a passion for extending a welcoming hand and homemade meal to some of the best experts on a variety of topics to our beloved Indy.”
Kissel, currently The Center’s youngest home hospitality host, encourages recent college grads and millennials to engage with the international community. “Know that your experience and voice matters. This is a way to not only be heard but also to listen and grow as a citizen of the world.”
Learn more about international visitor programs and how to get involved!
By: Jenna Williams, IVLP Intern