November 9, 2022
Activities and Tips

The Complete Guide to Hosting a Foreign Exchange Student [Resources, Tips]

If your family is thinking of hosting a foreign exchange student, you’ve come to the right place. We’re so excited to share all the tips and resources to make this experience so meaningful that you’ll want to host again.

Hosting a foreign exchange student is an opportunity to help develop the next generation of global leaders. It’s more than clearing a room for a student to come live with your family for a period of time. It’s an opportunity for you to make a lifelong connection with someone, and to introduce an entirely new culture to your home. 

At Ayusa, we’ve helped coordinate high school exchange programs for over 40 years. We have learned that you don't need to fit a single standard to host an exchange student. The variety of our host families reflects the diversity of the American experience. Some of our host families live on farms or in suburbs.

To welcome an exchange student, you just need curiosity, openness to adventure, and lots of love to spare.

If this sounds like you, please let us know what type of hosting experience you and your family are looking for. You can reach us by phone at 888.552.9872 or by filling out a form on our website. You can also get straight to it and start a hosting application.

If you’re wondering if you should host a foreign exchange student, you’ve come to the right place. In this guide, we’ll walk you through:

  1. How foreign exchange student programs work
  2. What host families need to provide for a foreign exchange student
  3. The logistics of hosting a foreign exchange student
  4. Why you should host a foreign exchange student
  5. What Foreign Exchange Students Look for in a Host Family

How Foreign Exchange Student Programs Work 

If you’re taking the first steps towards learning more about becoming a host family and hosting a foreign exchange student, it’s likely you have a question.

As a host family, your family will welcome a new member into your home to share your everyday lives. As you get to know your foreign exchange student, you will exchange cultural perspectives. In the process, you might be surprised to learn more about your own culture, traditions, and your family members. 

But, how do foreign exchange student programs actually work? Let’s explore the following aspects of a foreign exchange setup and how Ayusa works. 

  • Foreign exchange programs bring thousands of students to the United States every year
  • Foreign exchange programs have varying lengths
  • What host families need to provide for their foreign exchange student
  • Other things to know about foreign exchange student programs 

Foreign Exchange Programs Bring Students from Different Countries to the US

Foreign exchange programs like Ayusa bring students from foreign countries to study in the US. 

Every year, millions of exchange students travel across the world to study abroad, with the United States being the number one destination.

The United States provides countless unique benefits to exchange students to learn, grow, and explore the world they have seen in television and movies. Foreign exchange students also have the opportunity to practice their English, explore the many landmarks, and immerse themselves in a life-changing cultural experience. 

Foreign Exchange Programs Can Vary in Length 

Ayusa’s foreign exchange programs have two lengths:

  1. Academic year program students stay for 10 months and arrive in mid-August.
  2. Semester students stay for 5 months and arrive in either mid-August or mid-January.

What Host Families Need to Provide for a Foreign Exchange Student

Once you’ve decided that working with a foreign exchange program is the right move for you and your family, you may want to know what you need to provide to comfortably host a foreign exchange student for their five- or ten-month period of time. 

Once you’ve applied to become a host family to a traveling high school student, here are the hosting requirements to make their exchange as comfortable as possible. 

  1. A comfortable home. Create a comfortable and safe space for your foreign exchange student to live and study. 
  2. Healthy meals. As a host, you should provide at least three healthy meals per day. 
  3. Reliable rides. While hosts are not expected to be chauffeurs, they should provide reasonable access to transportation so that students can get to and from school. 
  4. Welcoming enthusiasm. Finally, provide an open and warm environment for a foreign exchange student. 

FAQs about Hosting Foreign Exchange Students

Before becoming a host family, it’s important to know how to host a foreign exchange student. This includes asking and answering important questions about the logistics of hosting a foreign exchange student. 

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about hosting exchange students.

  1. Are we good candidates to become a host family? 
  2. How will Ayusa support my family?
  3. What responsibilities do host parents have? Should I set rules?
  4. How much does hosting a foreign exchange student cost?
  5. Will the foreign exchange student speak English?

Are We Good Candidates to Become a Host Family? 

If you’re asking this question, know that there is no "typical" Ayusa host family. 

Ayusa students enjoy living on farms, in small towns, suburbs, and big cities. Whether you are a married couple with children at home, a single parent, an empty-nester, or a grandparent, the most important criteria is your desire to care for a foreign exchange student during their time in the United States. 

Each community and host family can offer a wonderful and unique opportunity for friendship and learning. Somewhere in the world, there is a student waiting to live with a family just like yours!

How Will AYUSA Support my Family?

A professionally trained Community Representative (CR) will be assigned to work with your family and student for the entire program.

Your CR will maintain regular contact with you and your student monthly, offering advice and support whenever needed.

The CR will also maintain regular contact with your local high school and complete a quarterly report, evaluating your student’s progress in family life, academic achievement, and social activity. Your CR is supported by a team of dedicated regional and national Ayusa staff, available 24 hours a day in case of an emergency.

What Responsibilities do Host Families Have? Should I set Rules?

The best thing you can do for your student is to treat them like a family member. If you would allow your child to do something, you can let your student.

During your year together, we suggest that you set clear, reasonable expectations from the beginning. This makes sure your student understands the house rules from day one.

Some parameters are expectations to set for a foreign exchange student include:

  • A reasonable curfew
  • Communicating any house rules 
  • Assigning chores or weekly responsibilities 
  • Creating communication guidelines (i.e. when to check-in if they’re running late) 

By doing this, you will find that your foreign exchange student will more than likely respond to the structure, and will help them feel like part of the family rather than just a guest. 

How Much Does Hosting a Foreign Exchange Student Cost?

Your financial responsibility is minimal. Host families are responsible for providing room and board for students, which includes 3 meals a day. 

Your foreign exchange student's parents will pay for 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. A $50 per month tax deduction can be claimed for each month you host.

Will the Foreign Exchange Student Speak English?

While some teens will be almost fluent, while others will have a stronger accent and use smaller words depending on how many years they have been studying English. Some students may be overwhelmed or not as confident in their English skills at first. 

Once they settle, their English will likely improve quickly, especially as they meet native English speakers at school. Most foreign exchange students we’ve worked with improve their English significantly throughout the process.

Why Host a Foreign Exchange Student?

Exchange students are looking for an experience that is likely to shape their lives forever—and this is not a one-sided experience. The host family, too, often undergoes a transformative experience that changes the way they see the world.

The benefits of hosting a foreign exchange student include:

  1. Help a foreign exchange student have a new experience in the United States
  2. Cross-cultural exchange
  3. Discover new hobbies
  4. Create a lifelong relationship

Help a Foreign Student to Have a New Experience in the US

A foreign exchange student program is a great way to engage in cross-cultural experiences.

By hosting a foreign exchange student, you have the opportunity to learn about a new culture and to share your own. Hosting an exchange student also gives you a way to broaden your perspective and learn about the world from a different point of view.

Give your Family the opportunity for Cross-cultural Exchange

Cross cultural exchange is arguably the biggest takeaway that every participant experiences from a foreign exchange program. Yes, this includes the foreign exchange student, their teachers, fellow students, and the host family. 

Cross cultural exchange describes the way people from differing cultural backgrounds communicate among themselves, and how they endeavor to communicate across cultures.

It invites all participants to explore their similarities and their differences without judgment, but with introspection. In fact, cross-cultural exchange has always been a fundamental part of the development of societies.

It remains one of the best ways to enrich societies through mutual understanding. Through this form of exchange, countries and communities have been able to share knowledge. By doing so, they’ve enriched their own cultures.

Discover new Hobbies

Once a foreign exchange student arrives in your home, planning fun and enriching activities is a great way to start the memorable visit off right. 

Since some exchange students experience homesickness or language barriers, planning a few fun activities can do the work to keep everyone busy and engaged. Depending on where you live, the climate, and the time of year, some activities can include:

  • Going to the movies 
  • Exploring a local park
  • Attending a community event, like a parade or a festival 
  • Visiting your family’s favorite restaurants 
  • Taking a road trip to a well-known landmark 
  • Shopping at a local market

Create a lifelong relationship 

While foreign exchange programs last five or ten months, the experience and takeaways are lifelong for every participant. Often, host families and foreign exchange students remain connected far past their time living together. 

Some students even choose to visit their host families years later, or invite their host families to visit them in their home countries. 

Hosting for a foreign exchange student program creates an irreplaceable opportunity to form a new lifelong connection, one that you can share with your entire family. By the end of your hosting experience, it’s not uncommon to feel as if you’ve gained a new family member. 

Support a Young Student’s Dream to Travel 

While many students grow up dreaming of traveling the world, not all have the opportunity to make that dream a reality. By opening up your home to a foreign exchange student, you’re supporting a student’s ability to travel and experience a new country. 

In addition to the experience of traveling, living with a host family also allows foreign exchange students to gain confidence, independence, and skills that they can take with them throughout their lives.

By becoming a host family, you can support a young student’s dream to travel to America and discover the culture for the first time. Creating a safe and comfortable environment ensures that your foreign exchange student’s time in America feels like it’s spent with new members of their own family. 

What Foreign Exchange Students Look for in a Host Family

Foreign exchange programs offer a variety of learning experiences for a student visiting the United States for the first time. Many host families are surprised to find what they learn from hosting a student.

What are foreign exchange students looking for in their study abroad experience? Here are ways students learn from their host families and their experience: 

  1. Experiencing a new culture
  2. Forming lifelong connections
  3. Deepening their cultural understanding
  4. Practicing a new language
  5. Learning about themselves
  6. Becoming part of a global community

Keep these seven points in mind as you prepare for a student’s arrival, and as you plan activities. During their academic year in America, the best host families will pay attention to their exchange student’s goals. Here are some questions to ask so that you can plan to provide an enriching experience for a foreign exchange student:

  • Are there any American experiences you’d like to have during your time?
  • Do you enjoy being outdoors?
  • Are there any places you’d like to travel while in America?
  • What activities do you like to engage in at home? Are there any activities you’d like to try?
  • Are there any extracurricular classes you’d like to take?  
  • What can we do to make you feel the most at home?

Keep an open line of communication with your student, without being overbearing or intrusive. Some students might take a little while to warm up, while others will jump into the experience with enthusiasm.

How Ayusa Can Help You Find the Right Foreign Exchange Student for Your Family 

Hosting is truly a gift. We're excited that you and your family are interested in hosting a student!.

At Ayusa, we’ve worked with the U.S. State Department since 1981 to develop the next generation of global leaders and world citizens.

By connecting international students with host families and high schools, we’ve connected foreign exchange students with high school exchange programs and host families.

How to Host a Foreign Exchange Student With AYUSA

Step 1: Indicate Your Interest

Fill out our short interest form to receive more information and get connected with your local Ayusa representative.

Step 2: Complete Your Application

Your Ayusa representative will help you complete the application and answer any questions you may have about the hosting experience. Your representative can also connect you with other host families in your community as you get ready for an unforgettable year!

Step 3: Choose Your 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.

Questions? Contact Us! We’re happy to help answer any questions you may have! You can reach us at 888.552.9872 or email us directly and we will respond promptly.

Sharing cultures and building communities with high school exchange.

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