Imagine how much you could learn and experience by living abroad for a year. This is the opportunity that high schoolers who come to the USA in an exchange student program embrace every year. Participating in an exchange student program is an amazing learning experience, and the host families who make these programs possible often learn just as much.
Before we dive into how becoming a host for a foreign exchange student program in the USA can be life-changing, let’s talk about the programs themselves. So, what is a student exchange program? An international high school student exchange program is a learning experience that enables young adults to live abroad for a year while continuing to attend school.
For a student who is eager to see the world, an exchange student program can be the perfect solution. Students get the opportunity to explore a new culture, master another language, and have some amazing experiences while continuing their education.
These programs are made possible by incredible host families. You may be wondering: what is hosting, and how do families get involved with an international student exchange program? Hosts are the generous, loving adults who house and care for students during their high school exchange year. They are often families, empty nesters, or single people who volunteer to host an exchange student out of a desire to make a positive difference in a young person’s life. Anyone can get involved!
The learning opportunities made available to a young person when they come to the US in an exchange student program are innumerable. However, many host families are surprised to discover just how much they learn from hosting a student, too. Families who host exchange students learn through:
- Making a difference
- Experiencing a new culture
- Forming lifelong connections
- Deepening their cultural understanding
- Practicing a new language
- Learning about themselves
- Becoming part of a global community
At Ayusa, we’re committed to making every exchange program an amazing experience for students and host families alike. That’s why we strive to ensure that your student’s program year will be an amazing learning experience from the first steps they take off the plane. We’ll break down some of the unique and irreplaceable learning experiences that hosting an international exchange student can create.
1. Learn by Making a Difference As a Host
The opportunity to make a difference can be a learning experience in and of itself. By making foreign exchange student programs in the USA possible, hosts have the chance to impact the students they support in ways that can last a lifetime.
Many students who participate in exchange programs are in high school. As teenagers, they thrive with the support of loving, involved adults. In fact, connections to adults other than their parents are a key part of how teens form an identity and a sense of independence.
Plus, high school kids are not only forming their sense of independence, but also learning thoughts, ideas and impressions that will shape who they are as they grow up. An exchange experience can really impact their future opinions and thoughts about other cultures.
Therefore, when students travel abroad for an exchange program, the hosts that welcome them into their lives are a key part of the experience. Hosts support their exchange students in many ways, including:
- Housing and caring for them
- Helping them achieve success at school
- Introducing them to new people and experiences
A foreign exchange student program for high school students is typically the first opportunity the young participants have to independently explore the world. While they are away from their natural families for the first time, their host families fill this essential role instead by helping them learn and grow.
This means that discovering how to host is often a life changing learning experience for host families, just as it is for the students they welcome. Hosts learn:
- How to love a new member of their family
- How to embolden them to explore the world
- How rewarding it can be to make a difference in a young person’s life
2. Experience a New Culture Through a Student Exchange Program
Hosting an exchange student can be an amazing way to learn about a new culture. Why? It all connects back to this question: What is an exchange student program? At their core, they are cultural exchange opportunities. In fact, exchange students typically travel on J-category visas that are specifically intended for cultural exchange activities.
The young people who participate in a student exchange program come to the USA from all over the world. They bring a huge variety of cultures and experiences with them. While they come to the United States to be immersed in American culture, they also share their own background with the communities they join.
At Ayusa, our students represent more than 40 countries, and many of them have loved sharing their diverse cultures with their host families. This is certainly the experience of the Bray family, who has hosted multiple exchange students in a single year. Hosting has given them the opportunity to blend their own culture with the cultures their students bring.
This opportunity to combine and explore different cultures is why the Lough family feels that they have traveled thousands of miles without having to leave home. They’ve hosted more than 100 exchange students over the course of nearly 40 years!
Aside from living in a foreign country, hosting an exchange student is one of the most immersive ways to explore a new culture. This kind of experiential, meaningful learning has many benefits, including:
- Gaining an awareness of new cultures
- Fostering tolerance in your family and community
- Increasing your sense of empathy for people different from yourself
- Broadening your interests by experiencing new things
Whether it’s sharing traditions, exploring traditional recipes, or simply swapping stories of local customs, living with someone from across the world can be an amazing learning experience.
3. Learn How to Form Lifelong Connections
You might be wondering what is so unique about student exchange program participants and the relationships they form with their host families. By living, learning, growing, and exploring together, hosts and exchange students form deep connections. During their program year, they become like additional family members to each other.
This is one of the main reasons our tenured host families are always willing to host another exchange student. Just take it from a family that has hosted more than a dozen exchange students and counting. They call each of their exchange students “another person to love”, and say they couldn’t imagine their lives without them.
One of the amazing things about foreign exchange programs is that exchange students often stay in touch with the families that host them for years after their program ends. Some have even:
- Traveled to visit each other again
- Stayed in touch via social media
- Attended special events like weddings and graduations
Exchange programs give hosts the opportunity to mentor and guide a young person. Supporting them throughout their exchange program is what leads to forming these deep connections. Students and their hosts can both learn an enormous amount from these intergenerational relationships.
These connections with the leaders of tomorrow can help both generations come to understand each other at a deeper level. Whether we grew up in the 2010s or the 1970s, there are deep commonalities in our experiences that connect us. The bonds hosts form with their exchange students help everyone develop a more inclusive understanding of the world around us.
4. Deepen Cultural Understanding Through International Exchange
Hosting an exchange student is an amazing way to discover another culture, but this has more benefits than just being a learning experience. When we learn about other cultures, it increases our tolerance, fosters empathy, and helps connect us to the people we share our world with.
Connecting with people from different cultural backgrounds has been linked to everything from an increased quality of life to higher levels of creative thinking. Cross-cultural friendships are an important way that our society can collectively move forward as we learn from one another.
However, despite their importance, diverse friendships are actually relatively rare. 91% of the average white American’s circle of friends is also white. While most people recognize the value of diversity, it can be difficult to break out of your homogenous circle and meet people who are different from yourself.
Hosting an international exchange student is a powerful way to overcome this. By welcoming an exchange student into your life, you aren’t just improving yourself - you’re also building bridges that connect your community to other cultures around the world.
In a way, this means hosting an exchange student isn’t just a learning experience for you. It helps you become part of a greater learning experience that impacts people all around the world.
5. Practice a New Language Hosting for an Exchange Program
While Ayusa’s students are required to have a high level of English proficiency, it isn’t usually their first language. That means, in addition to their diverse cultures, exchange students also bring their native languages with them when they come to the United States for a year abroad.
Learning through immersion is one of the best ways to learn a new language. Part of this is because understanding a culture is often a key element of truly understanding the subtleties of a language.
Whether you master it or just reach a conversational skill level, practicing another language has some astonishing benefits. For example, bilingualism can:
- Improve your overall brain function
- Make it easier to travel
- Give you a competitive professional edge
- Enhance your critical thinking abilities
- Slow down the brain’s aging process
- Improve your confidence
However, between work, school, kids, and other commitments, it isn’t feasible for most adults to live abroad for long enough to learn a new language. This is another reason why hosting an exchange student can be a unique learning opportunity.
Instead of traveling abroad to immerse yourself in a new language and culture, becoming a foreign exchange student host allows you to bring the language and culture to you. You can practice vocabulary over the dinner table or conjugate sentences while you visit the grocery store together. This can also enhance your exchange student’s English skills. After all, we all know that teaching someone else is a powerful way to learn!
6. Learn About Yourself While Hosting an Exchange Student
Your day-to-day routine might start seeming a little mundane after a while. If you’re looking for an experience that will help you learn to see the world around you in a new light, hosting for an exchange student program could revolutionize your life.
Think about what you’d do if you were hosting an exchange student. Where would you take them? What would you show them? This is a powerful chance to think about the amazing things that surround you, even if you’ve started to take them for granted lately.
As you share your world with your exchange student, you’ll have the opportunity to see it through their eyes. Imagine showing a student from Cairo, Egypt their first snowfall over your town in Vermont, or taking a student from the mainland of China to swim in the ocean for the first time. You could show a student from Norway what it’s like to live in the Arizona desert, or hike up a frigid mountain with a student from the coast of Portugal. These experiences will stay with them forever, and they might change your life, too.
Connecting with a student and sharing your world with them can help you see the important things in your life in a new way. It might help you rediscover a passion, gain a new hobby, or simply develop a new appreciation for the world around you. By hosting an exchange student, you’ll learn to see the world around you through a new lens.
The entire experience of welcoming a new person into your life and loving them like a family member can teach you many things about yourself as well. You might discover a sense of resiliency, flexibility, or open mindedness that you never knew you had.
7. Learn How to Become Part of a Global Community
From the moment you welcome your first exchange student, you’ll become part of a global community of students and hosts. This community is connected by being key players in global efforts to build cultural bridges and relationships that circle the world.
Becoming a part of this international community has many benefits, including:
- Providing support and advice during your student’s program year
- Encouraging you if or when you decide to host more students in the future
- Becoming a source of supportive connections for your exchange student
- Allowing you to connect with other like-minded hosts who value cultural exchange
In fact, this is one of the key ways our Ayusa local representatives will support you during your exchange student’s program year. They’ll connect you with the community of other host families and exchange students in your area. This community can become your support network, while also deepening many of the benefits surrounding cultural exchange and learning opportunities that exchange programs create.
Ready to Start Hosting? Here’s How.
Becoming a host for an exchange student program is an incredible experience. It can create innumerable opportunities for learning and growth for both you and the students you welcome into your life.
Wondering how to apply to become a host for a student exchange program, or what the process is like? When you partner with Ayusa, we make hosting stress-free so you can focus on learning and growing alongside your student.
To become a host for a foreign student exchange program, start by filling out a hosting application. We’ll be in touch to go over more details with you and ensure that hosting for a student exchange program is the right choice for your household.
Once you’re ready to host, you can start searching through Ayusa’s database for the right foreign exchange student in high school. You can find a student looking for a:
- Summer exchange program
- Semester-long program
- Academic year-long program
You can also search for students that come from a specific country or speak a certain language. This is a good chance to make sure your student will mesh with your lifestyle, like ensuring they aren’t allergic to your furry family members.
When you’ve made a connection with a student in an international exchange program, all that’s left to do is wait for their arrival! Our team at Ayusa will handle details like securing their visa and organizing their flights. Before they arrive, you’ll just need to take care of a few things, like enrolling them in the local high school. Don’t worry—we’ll help you through this process, too.
Before long, the day will come when your exchange student arrives. Then, the real adventure of hosting for a foreign exchange student program begins. You’ll get to experience your world through your student’s eyes, learn about their culture, and forge lifelong bonds. By welcoming a student into your life, you’ll also make their transformative year abroad possible.
Does becoming a host for an international exchange student program sound like your next great adventure? Request more information or start a hosting application today. We can’t wait to see how an exchange student can change your life, and hear about all the things you’ll learn from each other.