May 30, 2024
In the News

Benefits of Hosting Foreign Exchange Students For High Schools

Image of student studying in a classroom.

With 2019 data showing over 69,000 international students are enrolled in U.S. high schools, education has become more inclusive and cosmopolitan than ever before. These students, hailing from countries all around the world, join their peers as they continue their studies and learn more about American culture and societal norms. While these students partake in their enriching experience, there are countless benefits of foreign exchange students for schools and host families alike. 

In this article, we’ll be delving into the benefits of hosting foreign exchange students for high schools, answering questions such as: 

  1. What are high school foreign exchange student programs? 
  2. What makes a good high school foreign exchange student program? 
  3. How do host families help schools? 
  4. What are the benefits of hosting foreign exchange students for high schools?
  5. How does Ayusa support high school exchange programs

At Ayusa, we have spent over 40 years achieving our goal of supporting students around the world in getting access to high school study abroad and exchange programs. By partnering with host families and matching them with students, we aim to build and foster communities through our programs. 

Get in touch or request information to learn more. 

What Are High School Foreign Exchange Student Programs? 

A foreign exchange student program is an enriching initiative designed to foster global understanding by allowing students from abroad to immerse themselves in the educational and cultural life of a host country. In the United States, these programs enable international students to attend local high schools, providing them with firsthand experience of American culture, education, and family life.

During their stay, foreign exchange students are welcomed into the homes of American families who have chosen to host exchange students. These host families are not just providing a room; they open their homes and hearts, offering a nurturing environment where students can safely live, sleep, study, and participate in the everyday life of an American family. These families are carefully selected and work in close collaboration with exchange organizations and local schools to integrate students into the community and ensure they gain the most from their experience. This partnership supports the student's adjustment and learning, making the exchange experience as rewarding as possible.

For the host high schools, incorporating international student exchange into their academic and social environments is profoundly beneficial. It introduces local students to diverse cultures, languages, and perspectives, enriching the classroom discussions and broadening the educational horizons of all students. As exchange students share their own cultural backgrounds and viewpoints, they act as ambassadors of their countries, helping their American peers gain a deeper appreciation for global diversity.

Who Is Qualified to Be a Foreign Exchange Student? 

Exchange students are individuals who participate in an exchange program that allows them to study at another educational institution, usually in a different country, for a specific period. These programs can vary in duration, ranging from a few weeks to a full academic year. 

Exchange students have the unique opportunity to immerse themselves in a new academic environment and culture, which can significantly broaden their educational experience and personal development. Although they come from many different backgrounds, exchange students share some key traits, such as being adventurous, motivated to learn, empathetic, and being a leader. 

To be an exchange student, you will need to apply for the J-category visa, which is intended for those who want to participate in programs like exchange. Students can apply to be J-category sponsored exchange students if they meet the following requirements: 

  • The student is between the age range of 15 to 18
  • The student satisfies English proficiency and academic grade criteria
  • The student has not completed more than 11 years of schooling in their home country
  • The student has undergone a thorough medical assessment
  • The student has fulfilled all required immunizations specified by the school
  • The student adheres  to all Department of State regulations

Ayusa is a U.S. Department of State backed and recognized visa sponsor, allowing us to help thousands of students reach their educational goals through semester and academic year exchange programs. 

How to Become a Host School 

If you want to start your school’s foreign exchange student journey, here are some steps you can take to get started: 

  1. Join the CSIET Online School Community to receive up-to-date information on visa regulations, government grants and scholarships, and international education efforts.
  2. Write a Foreign Youth Exchange Policy that outlines agreed-upon procedures that consider how many students the school will host and make a list of qualities you expect in a program, such as CSIET membership. 
  3. Utilize CSIET’s school resources to develop policies, better understand how exchange programs operate, and how to provide the best experience for hosts and students.
  4. Find an exchange program through CSIET’s Get Started website.

What Makes a Good High School Foreign Exchange Student Program? 

High school volleyball team cheering as they win a game.

A well-designed foreign exchange student program offers a comprehensive structure that facilitates academic success and ensures a rich cultural experience for both visiting and host students. Good exchange programs could offer the following: 

  1. Comprehensive orientation 
  2. Academic integration 
  3. Cultural exchange activities 
  4. Cultural sensitivity training 
  5. Regular check ins and support
  6. Working with exchange organizations 

Comprehensive Orientation 

A good program begins with a thorough orientation session for exchange students. This orientation covers essential topics such as:

  • Program Rules and Expectations: Clearly communicating the goals, rules, and expectations of the program.
  • Cultural Adjustment: Offering guidance on cultural norms and potential cultural shock, providing strategies for effective communication and adjustment.
  • Safety Guidelines: Discussing safety measures, emergency procedures, and who to contact in different types of emergencies.
  • Logistical Details: Covering school routines, transportation, healthcare facilities, and other logistical aspects.

Academic Integration 

While free periods, class blocks, and attendance checks may feel like common sense, foreign exchange students may be entering an academic system that is completely different from that of their hometowns. Throughout the exchange program, it’s important that schools provide continuous context and support for exchange students. This can apply to: 

  • Course Selection and Enrollment: Assisting students in selecting courses that align with their educational goals and interests, while also fulfilling any requirements from their home country.
  • Academic Support: Providing tutoring and additional support as needed to help exchange students cope with differences in teaching styles and curriculum.
  • English Language Support: If necessary, offering language classes or resources to help non-native speakers excel academically.

Cultural Exchange Activities 

There are numerous ways to help exchange students feel more immersed during their semester abroad. Here are some things schools can integrate into their foreign exchange programs: 

  • Organized Excursions and Field Trips: Schools can plan visits to local historical sites, museums, and cultural landmarks.
  • Cultural Days: Schools can have culture days where students can share their own culture and learn about others through food, music, dance, and art.
  • Community Service Projects: Exchange students can engage in local community service activities to foster a sense of community involvement and responsibility.

Cultural Sensitivity Trainings 

Students, host families, and high schools can all benefit from cultural sensitivity training as each party grows awareness towards each other’s cultural and ethnic identities. Here are some ways to navigate these topics: 

  • Awareness Sessions: Workshops to educate participants about cultural differences, biases, and stereotypes to avoid.
  • Conflict Resolution: Training on handling misunderstandings or conflicts that may arise due to cultural differences.
  • Empathy Building: Exercises aimed at developing empathy and understanding towards people from different cultural backgrounds.

Regular Check Ins and Support 

Ongoing support is critical for the success of exchange students, involving:

  • Regular Meetings: Scheduled check-ins with students to discuss their academic progress, social integration, and overall well-being.
  • Support Network: Access to a counselor or advisor who can provide guidance and support as needed.
  • Feedback Mechanism: A system for students to provide feedback on their experiences and any difficulties they are encountering.
  • Communication with Sponsoring Organizations: Frequently being able to check-in with sponsoring organizations whenever there are any questions or concerns. 

By creating holistic and interdisciplinary approaches to support, inclusion, and immersion, schools can foster a welcoming academic environment for their foreign exchange students. 

Working with Exchange Organizations 

At Ayusa, we are dedicated to helping students, host families, and schools have unforgettable experiences and lifelong connections from foreign exchange student programs. During our four decades of work, we have developed a vast network that connects exchange students from over 60 countries to an American high school for 5 to 10 months.

Ayusa students are all required to be: 

  • In good academic standing
  • Between ages 15 and 18
  • Have an ELTiS English proficiency score of 212 or higher;
  • Active participants in extracurricular activities

With our decades of experience and close relationships with U.S. high schools, we know what is required of American exchange programs in high schools. To learn more, you can request more information about our programs anytime. You can also virtually meet our students and hear their stories to see where they are studying and why! 

How do Host Families Help Schools? 

Host families play a pivotal role in supporting the objectives of school-based exchange programs. Their involvement extends beyond merely providing lodging for exchange students; they actively contribute to fostering an educational environment that is safe, inclusive, and conducive to learning and personal growth. Here’s how host families help schools in these essential areas:

  1. Fostering a positive environment
  2. Safety and well-being 
  3. Integration and inclusion 
  4. Clear communication 

Fostering a Positive Environment for Learning and Growth 

Host families create a nurturing home environment that acts as a foundation for the student’s overall well-being and academic success. By offering a stable and supportive home life, they help exchange students adjust to a new educational system and cultural setting, which can be initially overwhelming. This stability allows students to focus on their studies and personal development without the added stress of navigating daily living logistics alone.

In addition, host families often engage in educational activities at home, such as discussing various topics, helping with homework, or even participating in cultural exchanges that enrich the student's understanding and appreciation of the host country. These interactions contribute significantly to the student's intellectual and social growth, complementing formal education.

Safety and Well-Being 

The safety and well-being of exchange students are central to an enriching exchange experience, and host families are crucial in ensuring both. They provide a safe living environment, oversee the student’s day-to-day activities, and ensure that any health or emotional issues are addressed promptly. By acting as the first line of response for any concerns that might arise, whether it’s a medical emergency or emotional distress, host families play a critical role in safeguarding the students entrusted to their care.

Integration and Inclusion

Host families are instrumental in helping exchange students integrate into the local community and school culture. They introduce the students to local customs, traditions, and social norms, helping them understand and navigate their new environment more effectively. This integration helps students feel less like outsiders and more like a part of the community, which can significantly enhance their educational experience and personal satisfaction.

At school, the integration facilitated by host families can lead to a more inclusive atmosphere as students share their experiences and what they’ve learned from their host families with their peers. This sharing fosters a greater appreciation and understanding among local students, promoting a school culture that values diversity and global perspectives.

Clear Communication 

Effective communication is essential in any educational setting, and host families act as an important conduit between the exchange student, the school, and the exchange organization. They ensure that any academic or behavioral issues are communicated promptly to the school, facilitating timely interventions that might be necessary for the student's success.

Host families also help in explaining school policies, expectations, and cultural nuances to the exchange students, which is crucial for avoiding misunderstandings and ensuring that the students can fully comply with and benefit from school programs.

Ayusa’s Community Representatives 

Ayusa’s Community Representatives, or CRs, serve as support throughout the entire exchange process. They work closely with all parties—host families, participating schools, and foreign exchange students—fostering cross-cultural understanding and providing much-needed information and assistance.

CR’s can become liaisons for all parties, providing context and knowledge for school administrators and host families so that students can have an ideal exchange experience. 

If you are an individual interested in making an impact as a community representative, you can apply now

Benefits of Foreign Exchange Students for High Schools 

Students in the bleachers with face paint on as they watch their team game.

Foreign exchange students bring a multitude of benefits to high schools, enriching the educational experience for all students and staff. These benefits can transform a school's culture, enhance academic offerings, and broaden the perspectives of the entire school community. Some benefits include: 

  1. Language learning opportunities 
  2. Global awareness
  3. Academic enrichment 
  4. Diverse perspectives
  5. Enhanced school reputation 

Language Learning Opportunities 

Foreign exchange students often speak one or more languages other than English. This presence in the classroom provides U.S. students with unique opportunities to hear and practice foreign languages in realistic contexts. Language classes can be enriched by having native speakers who can offer correct pronunciation, colloquial terms, and cultural context for the language being taught. This real-world exposure is invaluable for language acquisition and helps stimulate interest in language studies.

Global Awareness 

Having students from different parts of the world naturally brings global issues and perspectives into classroom discussions. This presence helps local students appreciate international news and understand global interdependencies in politics, economics, and culture. Teachers can leverage the diverse backgrounds of exchange students to enrich lessons and provide a more comprehensive view of the world.

Academic Enrichment

Exchange students often bring different academic strengths and knowledge bases, particularly in subjects where education might differ internationally, such as history, science, or literature. This diversity can lead to more enriched discussions and a broader range of ideas and approaches in classroom projects and debates.

Diverse Perspectives 

The presence of students from different cultural backgrounds can challenge local norms and expectations, both in teaching and learning styles. This can prompt teachers to adapt and innovate in their teaching methods and materials, accommodating a wider range of learning styles and preferences. It also encourages students to consider multiple viewpoints and develop critical thinking skills.

Enhanced School Reputation

Schools known for hosting foreign exchange students gain a reputation for being open-minded, diverse, and globally oriented. This reputation can make the school more attractive to prospective students and parents, and it may also increase the school's eligibility for certain grants and international programs, further enhancing its educational offerings.

How Ayusa Supports High School Exchange Programs

As a U.S. Department of State backed and recognized visa sponsor and recognized by CSIET,  AYUSA has remained dedicated to the educational value of student exchange since its inception. Our four decades of experience matching foreign exchange students from over 60+ countries with host families has made us excel at supporting schools, families, and students throughout the exchange journey. 

By partnering with Ayusa as a community partner, you’ll also be providing your students enriching opportunities, such as study abroad programs in Germany and Japan, as well as the ability to volunteer to become Student Ambassadors

As student ambassadors, local students can partner with Ayusa Community Representatives to befriend, support, and inform the exchange students in their school. In exchange for their support, they will increase personal awareness and provide an opportunity to have a global impact in local communities. Moreover, they are able to make new friends around the world and boost their college applications. Ayusa’s goal is to provide benefits for all those involved in the exchange program experience, whether that be host families, American students, or our foreign exchange students. 

If you’d like to learn more about why Ayusa is one of the best foreign exchange student programs for high school students, you can read stories from host families and students to hear how participating has impacted their lives.

If you would like to start your exchange student journey with Ayusa, your school can reach out to request more information. We’re always eager to answer questions and connect schools with one of our local coordinators

Ready to get started? Start your journey here!

Sharing cultures and building communities with high school exchange.

Start application