Hosting a foreign exchange student is an incredible chance to immerse yourself in a fascinating new culture, without even leaving your living room! While the idea of welcoming a foreign exchange student into your home is an exciting one, it often comes with some big questions. Do I get paid to host a foreign exchange student? What support is available for host families? What do I do if there’s an emergency? To answer these questions and more, we’ve put together a guide covering the most common questions that our prospective host families have.
At AYUSA, we connect foreign high school exchange students with host families in the United States, giving students a place to call home while they study abroad and host families an incredible opportunity to share their culture and learn more about a new one. We have more than four decades of experience in creating lifelong connections between host families and students, and an incredible support network that helps both exchange students and host families make the most of this unique opportunity. If you’re interested in hosting an AYUSA exchange student, start your application here!
In this article, we’ll discuss some of the most common questions that host families ask. We’ll also cover:
- The foreign exchange student program at AYUSA
- The financial aspect of hosting a foreign exchange student
- How to prepare your home and family for hosting a foreign exchange student
- How to host an AYUSA exchange student
Ready to find some answers to your burning questions about hosting an exchange student? Let’s dive in!
Understanding the Foreign Exchange Student Program at AYUSA
Before we explore the financial elements of hosting an exchange student, let’s first take a look at AYUSA’s programs, and why hosting an exchange student through AYUSA is one of the best possible ways to open your home and heart to a new culture.
How Does AYUSA Work?
AYUSA stands for Academic Year in the USA. Founded in 1981, our mission is to provide international students with the best possible experience as they learn what living and studying in the US is all about. As a non-profit study abroad organization, we are dedicated to fostering the next generation of global leaders and world citizens. Through the best high school exchange programs, our students learn:
- Intercultural awareness
As well as focusing on the future, we also know how important it is to live in the here and now. We’re committed to creating unforgettable experiences and moments between host families and students that lead to bonds strong enough to stand the tests of distance and time.
What Are the Benefits of Hosting With AYUSA?
Speak to anyone who’s previously hosted an AYUSA exchange student and you’ll see exactly what the benefits of hosting are. For some hosts, it’s an opportunity to immerse themselves culturally and satisfy their wanderlust. For others, it’s an opportunity to expose their own kids to a different culture and way of living. Most hosts use hosting as a chance to grow their family, learn, and create incredible memories with a grateful student who won’t ever forget their time with you.
What will the benefits be for you? Start your AYUSA hosting journey here to find out!
The Financial Aspect of Hosting a Foreign Exchange Student
Welcoming a foreign exchange student into your home is an incredible opportunity for both parties, but it's essential to understand the financial implications involved before you get started. Let's address some common questions that prospective host families may have about the financial aspects of our study abroad program, including:
- Do you get paid to host a foreign exchange student?
- Are there financial obligations for hosting an exchange student?
- Are scholarships or stipends available for exchange students?
Finding the answers to these questions can help you better understand the ins and outs of international student host family compensation and determine whether you’re in a financial position to host a student.
Do You Get Paid to Host a Foreign Exchange Student?
One of the most frequently asked questions by prospective host families is whether they get paid to host an exchange student. The short answer is no, host families typically don’t receive direct payment for hosting. However, being part of a study abroad program isn't really about financial gain; rather, it's an opportunity to share your home and culture, fostering cross-cultural understanding and enriching your life in the process.
Becoming a host family and welcoming a foreign student into your home can bring benefits other than financial compensation. While you don’t get paid to host foreign exchange students, the cultural experience and memories you can create are a different kind of reward. Plus, it potentially unlocks the opportunity for you to travel to a different part of the world to later visit your exchange student. Having a tour guide in a foreign country can be invaluable!
Although you don’t get paid directly, a $50 per month tax deduction can be claimed for each month you host an exchange student with AYUSA.
Are There Financial Obligations of Hosting an Exchange Student?
While there's no direct host family compensation, there also aren’t any significant costs associated with hosting an exchange student. Your student's natural parents will pay for all travel costs, program fees, and health insurance. They will also provide your student with a monthly spending allowance used for school expenses, social activities, clothing, and other essentials.
As a host family for an international student, your financial responsibilities include:
- Ensuring room and board for the student
- Providing the student with three meals a day
- Creating a welcoming, caring environment for them to succeed in
Other incidental costs, like a sightseeing trip or vacation, should be covered by the spending money provided by the exchange student’s natural parents.
Are Scholarships or Stipends Available for Exchange Students?
In some cases, scholarships or stipends are available to exchange students in study abroad programs to help offset the costs associated with studying abroad. These financial incentives can unlock incredible opportunities for gifted, curious students who otherwise may not have been able to afford them.
AYUSA is proud to work with the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange & Study (YES) Program to bring international high school exchange students from predominantly Muslim countries to the U.S. to live and study with American host families. A merit-based application, English language proficiency testing, and a thorough interview process lead to a 3% acceptance rate—a small number of students who excel in their host high schools and thrive at home and in the community. Meet AYUSA’s YES students here!
Commonly Asked Questions From Host Families
As prospective host families embark on their journey to welcome a foreign exchange student into their homes, they often have a range of questions and concerns. In this section, we’ll address some of the most common questions about hosting an exchange student, including:
- What are the requirements to become a host family?
- How long does the hosting commitment last?
- What kind of accommodation does an exchange student need?
- How can we make our exchange student feel welcome at home?
- What should we expect when our exchange student leaves?
- Is it possible to stay in touch with our student after the program?
- How do I become a host family with AYUSA?
Finding the answers to these questions will help you better understand the requirements, commitments, and the overall international student exchange experience.
What Are the Requirements to Become a Host Family?
Of course, it’s important to understand what the requirements are to host an exchange student, and who can host an exchange student. At AYUSA, we like to stress that there aren’t really any specific requirements for hosting an exchange student, and every host family looks different. As long as you are 25 years or older, and can provide your host student with:
- A safe and welcoming home, with room to live, sleep, and study
- Three nutritious meals a day
- A caring, loving, nurturing environment
Then there’s a good chance you’ll make an exceptional AYUSA host!
One thing that makes AYUSA the best student exchange program for host families is how diverse our student pool is. Some students enjoy living on farms, others prefer small towns, while some may want to experience life in a suburb or big city. Whether you are a married couple with children at home, a single parent, an empty-nester, or a grandparent, the desire to love and care for a student is all that is needed to host. Somewhere in the world, there is a student waiting to live with a family just like yours!
How Long Does the Hosting Commitment Last?
At AYUSA, we have both year-long and semester-long programs, allowing host families to choose a commitment that works best for them. Year-long programs run for 10 months, while semester-long programs are a five-month commitment. While that’s the duration of the time your host student will study abroad in the US, you’ll likely also have to invest some time before they arrive, to prepare your home and family for the event.
For most host families, preparation is minimal, and the hosting period itself has a tendency to fly by. 10 months may seem like a long time to host an exchange student, but most of our hosts (and students) are amazed by how quickly their study abroad experience happens.
What Kind of Accommodation Does an Exchange Student Need?
Exchange students typically need a safe and comfortable place to live within your home. While many host families believe providing a private bedroom is a must, studies have shown that students who share bedrooms do better connecting with their host families than those who have their own rooms.
The student should have access to essential amenities like a bathroom and a place to study, such as a kitchen table, counter, or other designated quiet area. You certainly don’t need a mansion or three empty bedrooms to be an international student host family. Most students show up with nothing but a suitcase and don’t tend to take up a lot of space!
How Can We Make Our Exchange Student Feel Welcome at Home?
Making your exchange student feel welcome involves creating a warm and inclusive atmosphere. Involve the student in family outings, gatherings, and traditions whenever you can. Take them to your favorite local restaurants, go on road trips to visit extended family members, and make family dinners a chance to bond over both differences and similarities.
Teach your exchange student about your culture and customs, and encourage them to share theirs. A big part of why they’re living with you is to fully immerse themselves into your way of life, so don’t hesitate to share as much as you can when you host a high school exchange student. Do your best to create an environment where the student feels comfortable discussing their needs and concerns. Communicating with teenagers isn’t always easy, but make sure you stress that they can approach you for anything they need at all.
What Should We Expect When Our Exchange Student Leaves?
Saying goodbye to your exchange student after their academic year in America wraps up can be emotional. Many families are surprised by how quickly their exchange students feel like part of the family, which can make goodbyes a bitter-sweet experience. It can also be a challenging time for an exchange student, as they are often sad to be leaving, excited to be returning home, and sometimes also nervous about going back to school after such a long time abroad.
Before your exchange student’s time comes to a close, ask them whether they would like to celebrate their time with your family. You might like to organize a nice dinner at home with family and friends, or a picnic at one of their favorite local spots. Some students prefer a quiet goodbye at the airport, so make sure you have a feel for your student before organizing anything too extravagant.
Is It Possible to Stay in Touch With Our Student After the Program?
In the age of social media and video calls, it’s easier than ever to stay in touch with your exchange student after you say your final goodbye. Some host families and exchange students are even lucky enough to reunite after the initial exchange period. Also, many AYUSA hosts enjoy the experience so much that they opt to host again, experiencing a new, exciting culture each time they open their door to a new exchange student.
How Do I Become a Host Family With AYUSA?
There are three basic steps to becoming an AYUSA host:
- Indicate your interest
- Complete your application
- Choose your exchange student
To get started, indicate your interest here in hosting an exchange student with AYUSA. We will then connect you with your local AYUSA representative, who can help you complete your application and answer any questions you might have about the hosting experience.
Sometimes, your representative can also connect you with other AYUSA hosts in your area so that you can hear about their experiences as you get ready to host a student. Once your application is approved, your AYUSA representative will work with you to find a student to match your family’s interests and activities.
Preparing Your Home and Family for Hosting a Foreign Exchange Student
Welcoming a foreign exchange student into your home is a significant commitment that requires you to prepare both physically and emotionally. To make sure you and your exchange student both have an enriching, successful experience, it’s essential to:
- Make your home a welcoming and comfortable environment
- Address safety concerns and adjust your home as needed
- Prepare your family members for the journey ahead
Let’s take a detailed look at how to best prepare for the incredible experience of hosting a foreign exchange student.
How Do I Create a Welcoming and Comfortable Home Environment?
Creating a welcoming atmosphere is key to helping your exchange student feel comfortable and at home. You can start by personalizing the student's bedroom with a few decorative touches that reflect their interests or culture, or even a big banner welcoming them to your home. Small acts like this can go a long way in making a student feel welcome and comfortable.
Before you host an international student, take some time to stock up on essentials before they arrive. Ensure you have key items like toiletries, bedding, and towels ready for the student's use. It’s also a good idea to take your exchange student shopping once they’ve had a chance to settle in, so they can pick up anything else they need without having to navigate foreign stores or new public transport systems so soon after arriving. Students come prepared to cover the costs for their personal needs, so you can expect your student to pay for whatever else they may require.
What Safety Considerations and Home Adjustments Should I Make?
Ensuring a safe and secure home environment for your exchange student is of utmost importance. Make sure all the power outlets in the student’s room are functioning properly, and check your home’s smoke detectors and replace batteries as needed. Gather together a list of emergency contacts that you can provide your exchange student with, including your family’s contact information and the details of your local AYUSA Community Representative.
How Do I Prepare My Family for This Experience?
Preparing your family members, especially children, for the arrival of an exchange student is essential for a smooth transition. Set aside some time to discuss the upcoming arrival of your exchange student, emphasizing the importance of kindness, patience, and cultural sensitivity. If you feel it’s necessary, you can delegate specific responsibilities to family members, such as showing the student around, helping with homework, or planning cultural exchange activities during the exchange student program.
Make sure you also encourage your family members to learn about the exchange student's culture and language to foster understanding and connection. Before your exchange student arrives, spend some time with your family learning about the country they’re from and their culture. Encourage your family to interact with your new exchange student as much as possible, helping them feel welcome and ensuring an enriching, memorable experience for both sides.
Join AYUSA Today to Experience the Magic of Hosting an Exchange Student
Becoming part of the best foreign exchange student programs with AYUSA is an incredible opportunity to immerse yourself in an exciting new culture. It also provides you with the chance to open amazing doors for young students eager to further their knowledge and understanding of the wide world around them. Although you can’t host an exchange student for money, there are plenty of other rewards that come from welcoming an exchange student into your home.
If you’re ready to begin your hosting journey with AYUSA, start your application here. Working with a local Community Representative, we’ll ensure that you’re matched with an exchange student who matches your family’s interests and activities, ensuring you both have an incredible time sharing your lives together!