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Host an exchange student: Bringing another culture home

Has your family ever visited a foreign country? Traveling overseas is always easier when you speak the language or stay with locals. Why not give that experience to a student from another country and host her in your home? Keep reading for what you should know about these programs.

Traveling abroad can be a life-changing experience for a young person. By hosting an exchange student, you give someone the chance to experience your culture by immersing himself in your day-to-day activities. Rather than playing the role of tourist, your exchange student becomes a part of your family for a period of time.

Why host?

The interactions between your family members and the student you host provide a window into another culture that enriches everyone’s lives. Your guest will be eager to share stories about life in her home country, and to compare her experiences to those she shares with you. Many host families stay in contact with their students long after they have gone home. The Labrum family of Utah says, “This year has been wonderful. We feel like we have added another daughter to our family. We love our student and cherish the opportunity to have had her in our home.”

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Things to consider

Are you considering becoming a host family? While the experience will be rewarding, the commitment of time and resources should not be taken lightly. Here are some questions you should discuss with your family before agreeing to participate in a hosting situation.

  • Do you have room? Students who are living with your family for an extended period of time would feel most comfortable in a room of their own. It’s ideal if you have an office or spare room that can accommodate a bed and room for personal items.
  • Can you afford to support another child? Reputable agencies will not provide any payment to host families, which helps ensure that they are participating in the program for the right reasons. Host families are expected to provide meals and transportation for their guest student. Your student’s family will pay for all travel costs, program fees and health insurance, and provide a monthly spending allowance for additional expenses such as school items or social activities.
  • What length of time can you commit? Hosting opportunities range from just a short stay to a semester or a whole school year. Often a student who comes to this country to attend a whole year of school will stay with a few different families during the course of that year.
  • Are you willing to play tour guide? Students who live with you will become a part of your everyday family life, but they will still be your guests. They will be interested in exploring the area surrounding your town and taking in the sights. Touring local areas that are already familiar to you can be a completely different experience when you are sharing it with someone from abroad.

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A student’s perspective

What is it like to be an exchange student? We asked Michael, who was 15 years old when he participated in an exchange program and lived with a host family in Germany. “Living with my host family in Germany was a good opportunity to experience a different culture and family life,” says Michael. “It was definitely one of the best experiences I have ever had.”

Hosting a student from another country can be an amazing experience for your whole family.

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