High-achieving young people who crave adventure often find themselves gravitating towards high school foreign exchange student programs. Besides completely shaking up their normal routine, these programs provide opportunities for growth that even parents can get behind. High school foreign exchange programs allow teens to:
- Rapidly grow their language skills
- Deeply immerse themselves in a new culture
- See more of the world
- Test the waters of living away from home
Are you past your high school exchange years but still excited about what these programs can offer? Did you benefit from an exchange student program in high school and want to pay the generosity forward? You may be a great fit to host high school exchange students.
At Ayusa, host families enable high school exchange programs by opening their homes to adolescents from around the globe. We’d love to have you on the team!
In this piece we’ll discuss:
- The details of exchange student programs in high school
- The role of high school exchange student program hosts
- The community benefits of foreign exchange student programs in high school
- The importance of high school student exchange programs from a global perspective
We’ll also cover questions about how to become an exchange student in high school so you can share the information with any ambitious teenagers in your life.
Let’s jump in!
What are Foreign Exchange Student Programs for High Schoolers?
At their most basic, high school foreign exchange programs are opportunities for teenagers to safely travel to another country. While students’ natural families won’t accompany them abroad, they do receive adult supervision from local coordinators, host families, and teachers. Here are some fast facts about our Ayusa high school exchange student program:
- We match students with host families all over the U.S.
- We provide opportunities for 5 and 10 month stays
- We help students transition to life as an American teen; attending school, celebrating holidays, spending time with host families, and participating in extracurricular activities
Throughout high school international student exchange programs, host families will provide a safe and welcoming home base for these globe-trotting teens. We’ll share the basic requirements below.
All About Ayusa Exchange Program Hosts
At Ayusa, we believe in the diversity of the human experience and our host families reflect this. Because our programs are not tied to one specific location, we can match our exchange students with host families of all shapes and sizes. Hosts can:
- Own a farm
- Work from home
- Run a restaurant
- Live in the city
- Live in the country
- Live in the suburbs
- Have 5 kids
- Have no kids
- Have kids who already left the nest
As long as you can provide a safe and welcoming environment for our amazing students, you can become a host!
Foreign Exchange Student Host Requirements
What responsibilities do hosts need to take on to help open the world to more students? There are four key necessities:
- Provide three meals a day
- Provide a comfortable place to sleep and study
- Provide a reliable ride
- Provide a warm and supportive environment
These responsibilities are already light, but they’re nearly weightless when you factor in teens’ desire for independence. Live near public transportation? Then you are welcome to teach your exchange student to use the train and get to school on their own! Not one to sit down and eat a family breakfast? No problem. Just stock your kitchen with a few options and let your exchange student fix their own morning meal.
You will likely find that your exchange student seamlessly folds into your daily household routine, and you may even find a perfect fit. The vast majority of our host families report building friendships with their students that stand the test of time.
The Role of High School Exchange Student Program Hosts
Beyond meeting the minimum requirements for hosting, how can families go above and beyond to deliver an amazing experience to high school students?
We have a few tips:
First up: inclusion. It’s no secret that traveling to a new place can be scary, especially when you are young and just beginning to find your footing as an independent young adult. That’s why host families can make all the difference in their host student’s experience by actively including them in family activities.
After you include your student in family life, it’s time to encourage them to spread their wings a bit. Studying and resting at home is great, but to make the most of their experience, students should also be making friends and participating in extracurricular activities. Host families can help students take this leap by talking with them about their interests and helping them find activities that align. You can even go the extra mile and cheer your exchange student on after tryouts and auditions!
While students are the ones who travel across the world for their program, the exchange they participate in is a two-way street. Host families have the amazing opportunity to bring the world to their doorstep and learn so much. If your host student isn’t quite ready to have long discussions with you in English, there are still so many ways to trade cultural knowledge. You could ask your student to:
- Make a favorite dish from home with you
- Teach you a game or sport from home
- Show you their favorite film from home
The Community Benefits of Foreign Exchange Student Programs in High School
Not only do foreign exchange student programs for high schoolers benefit the people they live with, but also the entire local community.
USC’s Center on Public Diplomacy outlined five dimensions where local communities are impacted by cultural exchange:
- Knowledge Capital: Exchange helps communities learn about other countries.
- Cultural Capital: Foreign exchange programs for high school students help communities learn cross-cultural communication skills.
- Social Capital: Exchange helps locals build stronger bonds with visitors and with each other.
- Civic Capital: Foreign exchange student high school programs promote volunteerism and a community sense of belonging.
- Economic Capital: International high school student exchange prepares businesses and students for a multicultural, globalized economy.
In other words, welcoming even one high school exchange student into your community can have profoundly positive and long-lasting effects.
Global Results of a High School Student Exchange Program
Those effects ripple outwards and create national and global benefits.
In fact, landmark study abroad programs like Fullbright were specifically created in an effort to “promote international good will through the exchange of students in the fields of education, culture and science.”
The goal of international exchange has always been more broad than the localized impacts on an individual, family, or town. While those small-scale benefits are important, they contribute to the overarching aim of cultural exchange: to build a more productively connected world.
Below, we’ll explore both the diplomatic and economic benefits of foreign exchange.
The Diplomatic Impact of Foreign Exchange Student Programs
Cross-cultural competence, foreign language skills, and international cooperation are important objectives for many governments, and leaders recognize that exchange programs facilitate the acquisition of these skills.
In a talk for Fullbright, retired U.S. ambassador and former exchange participant Thomas R. Pickering emphasized the importance of study abroad for American diplomacy.
He explained that student exchange programs provide opportunities for students to:
- Provide cultural insight
- Share information and knowledge
- Promote mutual understanding
Exchange programs are a singular opportunity for this process, because students live in the homes of American families and attend schools with American teens. Unlike other forms of travel, exchange programs are not marked by close adherence to tourist hubs.
The teen you host today may even be an important Minister of Finance a decade from now. Ayusa host families have the opportunity to pave the way for positive diplomatic relationships by welcoming students into their homes.
The Economic Impact of Foreign Exchange
Beyond their use for fostering positive relationships between the United States and other countries, foreign exchange student programs also stimulate the U.S. economy.
The National Association of Foreign Student Advisors (NAFSA) reported that the total contribution of international students studying at U.S. colleges and universities for the 2020-2021 academic year was $28.4 billion. For every three international college students, one job is created. That’s because international students spend on:
- Higher education
- Health insurance
In all, international students support 306,308 U.S. jobs each year.
This is a massive benefit to the U.S. economy. High school exchange students gain a strong understanding of the English language and build relationships in the U.S, making them likely to return to the country for college.
For example, years after his Ayusa month abroad, Lazar Krstic (the foreign minister of finance we mentioned above) returned to the U.S. to attend Yale. Not only was he contributing to the U.S. economy as a student, but his current role makes him a key player in the global economy.
Scholarships for Student Exchange Programs in High School
While some international students contribute to the U.S. and global economies during their time abroad, at Ayusa we also recognize the benefit of free foreign exchange student programs.
There are many grants and scholarships that help youth travel and learn languages, and we make it a point to work with these programs.
For example, Ayusa works with the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange & Study Abroad (YES) grant program to facilitate exchanges between the U.S. and countries with significant Muslim populations. These countries include:
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- North Macedonia
The program was designed to promote mutual understanding, eliminate stereotypes, and help students develop skills to be leaders in the global community. YES Abroad helps students pay for tuition, cultural activities, and airfare. This program also provides a small stipend for participants, making it possible for students of all economic backgrounds to study in the U.S.
Benefits of Completing Student Exchange Programs in High School
Now that we’ve covered the multidimensional benefits of high school exchange programs for hosts and communities, we’d love to spotlight what our students have to say! Below are just a few examples of the glowing reviews our students leave for their host families, communities, and time spent in the U.S.
German exchange student Judith wrote a letter to her local coordinator, Rose, reflecting on her year abroad. In it, she said “I had an AMAZING time in the USA and I’m so thankful for everyone who made it so special. I got more confident, I learned to appreciate the little things more and now I see what the important things in life are.”
Mohammed, a Bangladeshi student also had a transformative year. We featured what he wrote about his experience on the stories section of our site. Mohammed explained that before he came on the YES program:
- He was shy and stammered when he talked to strangers
- He couldn’t stand on stage because his legs would shake
- He couldn’t give a presentation because his stomach would hurt
- He was afraid people would laugh at him
However, Mohammed’s experience abroad changed him. “Now I run to the top of the stage, and give presentations about my country in front of the whole school,” Mohammed wrote. “I’ve even been to other cities to give presentations. My legs don’t shiver anymore, and my stomach doesn't hurt. My friends here say I am a very engaging person, but I know, I used to stammer. People still laugh at me sometimes, but now I am not afraid anymore, I laugh with them too. I’ve learned to come over my fears, in order to be my best self.”
Riwa, a Lebanese Ayusa YES student echoed Mohammed’s sense of becoming a new person during her time abroad. “It's been 7 months today of what I like to describe as being born again,” she said. “It felt like I was created again and granted a new life that I have to live on my own. I had to be not only an independent, strong and responsible teenager but an ambassador for my country and this international program gave me that wonderful opportunity.”
Nearly all of our students view their experience abroad as transformative. Even bumps in the road like culture shock, language barriers, or homesickness, become opportunities for growth. Ayusa students leave the U.S. with not only lifelong friends and family abroad, but also a personal toolkit for weathering all life’s challenges.
Plus, our amazing local coordinators are always available to lend support.