WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE HOSTING AN EXCHANGE STUDENT

Every year, thousands of families open their homes to exchange students that come to the United States in hopes of exploring opportunities and making meaningful memories. Bringing the world into your home, family and community by hosting an international high school exchange student is not a decision that should be taken lightly. Nearly all experienced host families will tell you that every student, every situation, and every experience will be different. After all, each culture and family dynamic is different depending on the circumstances. There are inherent challenges of hosting an exchange student, but the joy and rewards of hosting outweigh the struggles. Our host families that partner with ETC enjoy their experience so much, that 50% of them return to host again the next year. Interested? There are some things you should know prior to hosting.

Exchange students have desire for international immersion

While different partner organizations will have different qualifications for entry, there are some basic requirements that students have to meet in order to participate in cultural exchange. For instance, students that come to the United States through Education Travel & Culture are between 15 -18 and come to America on a J-1 Visa. They come for semester- and year-long stays. They are fluent in English and maintain a C or higher in all of their high school courses. All students coming to the United States will have proficiency in English language. However, it’s important that they are also immersing themselves in the culture of the country in order to improve skills, so there may be some language barriers along the way.

The experience will benefit the student and your family

Hosting a student is a rewarding experience and families will learn about another culture and language through everyday interaction. Because the student will be interested in participating in school and community activities, families may also come to see their own communities in a different light. Through this experience, hosts get a new perspective on the world and forge meaningful relationships that often last beyond the stay of the student. By hosting and providing students with an ideal environment to enjoy their immersion, families have the opportunity to break stereotypes about American life while establishing positive understanding between cultures. 

Host families come in all shapes and sizes

It is not a requirement for host families to already have children of their own. Exchange students and the organizations they work with are interested in a truly American experience, so all family types are represented. One Education Travel & Culture Local Coordinator reported: “In the program I’ve been working with, more than 20 percent of host parents do not have children of their own, and another 25 percent have children under the age of 12.” Regardless of the makeup of the host family, it is important that the family provides a safe and welcoming support structure for the student(s).

Bringing the exchange student into your family will help the experience

As you would be welcoming a student into the family, you would treat them as such by providing meals, housing, and transportation. Students should be welcomed as a family member and treated as you would any guest in your home. Students are expected to follow your family rules, which may mean helping out around the house, just as your children might. It is important to open up lines of communication with the student upon arrival in order to set the stage for a healthy family dynamic. At first, students may feel a little uncomfortable in their new environment, but there are ways you can help them adjust.

There are some costs associated with hosting

Although all students that come to the United States on exchange are provided with monthly funds for extracurricular activities and shopping, there are other expenses to consider. Just like the communities exchange students are looking to be a part of, host families represent a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds, and costs associated with hosting are designed to be non-prohibitive. All students come to the United States with medical insurance coverage and are expected to pay for travel expenses to and from their home countries and also for any additional travel they may partake in with their host families or school groups, clubs, or sports teams. According to United States law, host families cannot be paid, there are charitable tax deduction benefits to hosting an exchange student.

Students are matched with families based on lifestyle

Once your application is approved, we will work with you to find a student to match your family’s interests and activities. ETC partners with organizations in the home countries of students in order to gather information about the students and what they want out of their time in the United States. Using your interests and preferences, a representative will help you in matching an exchange student to your family situation. It is always our goal to find arrangements that are mutually beneficial so families can make the most out of their cultural exchange.

Hosting has its challenges

As students are coming into a situation that is very foreign from what they know back home, it is inevitable that they will need time to adapt to their new way of life. It is rare, but there are situations that arise in which the arrangement between organization, student, and family simply does not work due to a variety of factors. Before considering replacement, host families should explore conflict resolution resources and discuss concerns with their local coordinator.

Families receive organizational support

Prior to and throughout the student’s stay, families work with local area coordinators that take care of the needs of students in terms of documentation, emotional support, and more. Your local coordinators will also be points of contact in getting to know the families of your student back home. Coordinators are tasked with providing support while also recruiting families through local networking. Your local coordinator will be your main resource in making your exchange experience all it can be.

Hosting may allow your family to exchange in a wonderful cultural experience with a foreign student that may develop into a deeper bond. You might be surprised by just how much your family and community has to offer to a student looking for an abroad experience. Every family looks different and has different needs and way of life. If you’re considering welcoming an exchange student into your life and home, it’s crucial that you choose the right program and coordinator that will guide you through the student selection process and assist in planning and support throughout the student’s time in the United States. If you have any questions at all or would like to learn more about the specifics about the ETC experience, we encourage you to get in touch with us.

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