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Tips on hosting a foreign exchange student

It is possible to expose your children to an international education, the cultures of others and still stay at home. How you ask? Consider becoming a host family to an international exchange student. The benefits to your children and your family will be huge.

Foreign Exchange Family

The horrific event that occurred on September 11th, 2001 changed the world forever. Security changed. Perceptions changed. Unfortunately many people have become fearful of those who look different, speak differently or worship differently. What we have lost is the ability to openly embrace other cultures in the way we had done previously.

What we do know is that exposure to the culture of others is a valuable education for ourselves and our children. Travel is always a great cultural experience but travel can be expensive and sometimes your family budget just doesn’t allow it. This is why hosting a foreign exchange student may be a great option for your family.

how do you become a host family?

quotation mark open Children especially are known to become more globally aware and interested in other cultures, languages and people. quotation mark close

There are many reputable organizations, such as AYUSA Global Youth Exchange, and schools who place students in North American homes for the duration of their studies. Both the family and potential student are screened for interests and lifestyle suitability and a match is selected. Once the student has been chosen and placed, the family provides a bedroom, meals and treats the student like one of the family. Often a small stipend is provided to cover the cost of food. Some organizations may request volunteers.

The student benefits by learning about American culture, values and customs first-hand in a safe and supportive environment while they study. The entire family benefits by enjoying an international experience without leaving home.

What are the benefits of being a host family?

“Welcoming a foreign exchange student into one’s home has a profound, lasting effect on the entire host family,” says Sherry Carpenter, Executive Director of AYUSA Global Youth Exchange. “Children especially are known to become more globally aware and interested in other cultures, languages and people. We have countless stories of young Americans being inspired to study or travel abroad because of foreign exchange students their parents hosted.”

For more information on AYUSA Global Youth Exchange, check out .

Helping your student feel at home

You’ll probably find that your student is missing his home-country meals. Why not suggest that they cook a traditional meal for your family? Make it a party! Plan a menu together and get the kids to make hand-made decorations, flags of both countries and traditional costumes to wear. Take everyone grocery shopping. You may need to search out some Asian, Muslim or other ethnic food stores. On the day of the dinner, have everyone help with food preparation, setting the table and perhaps some cooking depending on age.

This is guaranteed to be a great learning experience for the whole family. It will be a lot of fun, not to mention sampling some great tasting food. Gathering around a family meal is perfect time for learning in a warm and relaxed atmosphere. Moments mean much more when they shared with others. It’s a win—win for everyone!

You may also want to learn a few words or phrases in your student’s native language. Not only will this help them feel at home, but it is a great way for you and your children to learn a new language!

Learning about other cultures

Lori DeWolfe and her family have hosted international students from Japan and Mexico for over twelve years. A mother of two and stepmom to three she says, “What the children and I enjoyed most was seeing our environment and our city through our student’s eyes. Our Japanese students were amazed to see the stars at night and the number of trees we have. When we were shopping they were shocked at the size of the packaging our food comes in.” She says. “Even though the student’s English was often poor they were always eager to learn and our kids found it quite easy to communicate with them. Many students didn’t want to return home, nor did we want them to!”

Must you have high-school aged kids to host?

A common misconception is that you must have a high school aged child but in reality, households with young children or no children at all are also great host families — and benefit from the experience just as well.
Children need to learn that different is just different. By taking part in a cultural exchange such as this, your child can build lifelong friendships, develop a love for travel and language that will serve them throughout their lives. Why don’t you consider this opportunity soon? You won’t be sorry!


Foreign Exchange Student

A story that ran about a foreign exchange student’s life at The Canyon, in Las Vegas and in the United States.

More tips on teaching your kids about other cultures:

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