I grew up in a home that welcomed exchange students. Each of my high school years included a hosting experience, and my family continued hosting after I left home. In fact, my parents are hosting their 10th exchange student right now!
Every spring and summer exchange programs look for families to provide homes for students the following fall. I often talk to parents who are interested, but nervous, about hosting an exchange student. Here’s what I share with them.
Who can host?
Just about anyone! Many people think they must have teenagers living in their home to host– not true! Exchange students can live in homes with no children, in homes with small children and in empty-nest homes (like my parents).
Most programs require a minimum age (often 25 years) for at least one “host parent”. In addition, many organizations prohibit exchange students from sharing a bedroom with anyone under the age of 12.
Yes, you read that correctly. Exchange students can share bedrooms with host siblings of the same sex. You don’t need to have an empty guest room for the student to use.
All programs have an applicant screening process that includes interviews and a home visit. They aren’t as scary as they sound. The program coordinator needs to get a feel for the home atmosphere and answer your questions.
What Are Your Obligations?
Host families are asked to provide room, board, and transportation to and from school and extra-curricular activities. Students bring their own spending money to cover personal items, outings with friends, cell phone costs, etc.
The best experiences, for both the host family and the student, will come by including the student as part of the family. Students should be included in family trips, holidays, meetings and chores. Many of the students we hosted were only children and a few even grew up with house maids. Throwing them into a family of six offered them the chance to learn how to build sibling relationships and how to do physical work.
What’s in it for Your Family?
You will have the opportunity to share your home and to learn about another culture. Lots of families enjoy the exposure they get to new foods, customs, and languages by being a host family.
The best part of hosting an exchange student is adding a new member to your family. I stay in touch with most of the students who lived with my family. I consider each one a brother or sister. They are people who are dear to me and whom I will always love.
I’d love to answer any questions you might have about hosting exchange students. What are your concerns? Recommendations on exchange programs? Whatever’s on your mind. Let’s hear it.