Just as no two exchange students are alike, no two host families are alike. ETC seeks diversity in host families so students can get the true American experience. Living with an American family or individual is almost always beneficial to the student regardless of family makeup, which is why it is not required that host parents already have children in the home. What is important is that families help them acclimate to their new environment with a built-in support system and providing an immersive experience of life and culture in the United States. Although exchange certainly benefits the student, hosting will benefit families as well. In fact, families that don’t already have children in the home may be uniquely affected by the experience of hosting. Here are just some of the ways hosting may benefit you without already having children at home:
While your student is discovering your area for the first time, you get to rediscover all the amazing places you may have forgotten about, or perhaps never known were there within your own community. Everyone experiences places in different ways, so you may be surprised by what activities your student may want to take part in or what things your community has to offer that they would like to take advantage of. Exploring your own city or region with your student will open your eyes to what you do and don’t enjoy about the place where you live.
Having an exchange student in your home will change your perspective of your own community. If you don’t already have a child in the school system, your world will be opened to different events and social activities as your student participates in the American school experience. After welcoming a student into your home, you’ll be growing your network of personal international connections. Some host families mistakenly believe exchange is just going to be about the student living with them, but a whole community comes along with your student. You’ll meet other host families at group events, work with volunteers and meet other students too. Even after your student has returned home, you will remain connected to the people that were brought to you through exchange and related activities.
Both family and student will walk away from the exchange experience with memories to last a lifetime. In many cases, saying goodbye at the airport at the end of the stay is more of a “see you later.” Studying abroad is an experience that will live on in the hearts of students for many years and their learnings will undoubtedly influence how they operate back home. Going through the exchange experience will also impact the host family’s household moving forward. If a relationship with the student is maintained, it is possible that you will have the opportunity to visit them in their home country in the future.
When exchange students are invited into communities, the communities indicate they are open to new perspectives from people from other cultures. Families and friends get to share what is important and valued in their own culture while students teach their hosts about practices and norms abroad. These interactions lead to greater levels of empathy and understanding. Through hosting, your family will have the opportunity to be citizen diplomats through creating positive impressions about the United States and Americans, breaking stereotypes, and fostering mutual understanding and respect. Perhaps this will take place over the dinner table while all enjoy a dish from the student’s home country.
If you have been considering hosting, we encourage you consider the opportunity regardless of where you do or do not have children in the home. Consider hosting because it opens your eyes and heart to the world, teaches you about another culture, and helps you forge new relationships. Opening your home will change you for the better.
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