May 9, 2022
Study Abroad

Shape the Future: Become a Host for High School Exchange Programs

Person wearing a backpack stands in the crosswalk smiling, excited to start a high school exchange program.

Becoming a host for students in high school exchange programs is a unique and meaningful way to have an impact that reaches beyond your local community. It allows you to make a difference that spans the world.

During their high school years, young adults are undergoing countless essential changes. They are forming their identities, learning about their world, and setting up the trajectory for the rest of their lives. This is an incredible time of learning, growth, and development, and enriching it with the meaningful experiences offered by high school exchange programs can yield enormous benefits.

Thousands of high school students from around the world travel to the United States as exchange students each year. These students have the opportunity to live with and learn from an American family that guides them through their year abroad.

Participating in high school exchange programs can give young adults an irreplaceable chance to broaden their worldview by becoming immersed in a new country’s lifestyle and culture. These programs foster leadership skills, resiliency, cooperative skills, and more in exchange students. These remarkable programs are made possible by the host families who welcome exchange students into their lives.

At Ayusa, we’ve spent decades coordinating both inbound and outbound exchange programs. We’ve seen the ways exchange students touch the lives of their host families. In turn, we’ve seen the ways our dedicated host families are changing the world. Read on to find out how you can make your mark on the future by hosting students in high school foreign exchange programs.

Who Are the Students in Ayusa’s High School Exchange Programs?

Before we dive into what makes hosting students in high school exchange programs such an incomparable experience, we’ll start by breaking down what these programs are.

High school exchange programs enable students from over 60 countries around the world to live with an American family while attending school in the United States. These programs often align with academic terms, so they usually last for five or ten months.

The students who participate in these foreign exchange programs during high school are committing to pursuing their personal growth while enhancing their education. That means only a select few are able to become foreign exchange students during high school.

Those who participate in foreign exchange student programs in high school are typically high achieving and driven. These young adults are leaders to their peers who have demonstrated an eager commitment to exploring and changing the world.

To participate in a foreign exchange program for high school students, candidates must meet several requirements, including:

  • Strength of character: Our students must demonstrate a commitment to being mature, demonstrating open mindedness, achieving high standards of academic performance, and developing into well-rounded individuals.
  • Language skills: To participate in high school student exchange programs, we require our candidates to demonstrate a high level of proficiency with the English language. They must be able to understand directions, grasp abstract concepts, and interpret complex sentences.
  • Health requirements: Exchange high school student programs in the USA require students to be up-to-date on all necessary immunizations.

A student who meets these requirements has no shortage of opportunities available to them, so what makes so many students choose to participate in an exchange program? Becoming a part of a student exchange program in high school immeasurably enriches a young person’s education. It also creates unique memories and experiences that they’ll carry with them for their entire life.

There are many other reasons students travel to the United States to participate in an exchange program with American schools, such as:

  1. Building cultural awareness
  2. Gaining a new international perspective
  3. Giving themselves a competitive edge for college and their future career
  4. Forming relationships with people around the world
  5. Helping others to learn about their culture
  6. Changing the world by inspiring global citizenship

What Is It Like to Host an Exchange Student?

Hosting a high school foreign exchange student is an amazing way to make an impact on a young person’s life. In many ways, it can be like gaining a new family member. While your exchange student is with you, you’ll have the opportunity to immerse them in your world. That means seeing your community, your town, your culture, and even your daily routines through a new lens as you share them with someone eager to learn from you.

Foreign exchange students participate in these programs in high school to have the chance to experience life in a different country. That means you have the chance to facilitate and shape exactly how that experience goes. By inviting them to share in your life and culture, you have the chance to work together to build a bridge between your cultures.

As a host family to a foreign exchange high school student, there are a few things you’ll need to plan on providing for them, such as:

  • Reliable transportation to and from school
  • A safe place to live, study, and sleep
  • Three healthy meals a day

The most important thing that host families provide to their exchange students is simply their time. Participating in a foreign exchange program brings many changes to the lives of students. During exchange student programs in high school, the young adults who participate are often living away from their family for the first time. They are immersed in a new culture, a new language, and a new way of life.

By showing your exchange student your support throughout these changes, you’re encouraging them to explore and thrive in a new environment. You have the chance to support them and help them feel comfortable as they explore your country, make new friends, and forge international connections.

Participating in an exchange program is a huge experience that requires maturity, strength of character, and discipline. Exchange students might be exceptional young people — but they are still teenagers who need the guidance of caring adults. Host families become like a safety net for their exchange students as they explore and grow during their program year. Hosting an exchange student means you have the chance to become an essential part of this life-changing experience for a young person.

The Host Family Experience

So, what is it really like to welcome one of these students into your home? According to our experienced Ayusa host families, it’s an incredible experience. That’s why so many of them are always ready for the chance to host another exchange student. Just take it from the Coutu family — they’ve hosted 45 students so far, and have already signed up to host their 46th!

One of the biggest benefits host families gain is a lifelong relationship with their host students. Leva Okasha, who lived in Alaska as an exchange student, said that she no longer needs to put the word “host” before “family” - they’re all just family after their time together.

The Suggs family from North Carolina agreed with this sentiment after hosting their first exchange student, Franziska. They explained how their daughter gained a sister, and they gained another family member to guide and mentor. After their program year came to an end, the family agreed that Franziska was the perfect fit for them.

Ultimately, many of these families reflect on the choice to become a host family for foreign exchange programs for high school students as one of the best decisions they’ve ever made. Host dad Alan explains the experience of getting started as, “It’s a five minute application they fill out. And then the ball starts rolling and then they have one of the most meaningful experiences of their life.”

Person wearing a backpack and holding books waits to start their high school exchange program.

Learn by Teaching: New Experiences and Immersion with an Exchange Student

When students come to the United States to participate in international student exchange programs in high school, they come to learn about a new culture, language, and country. Additionally, foreign exchange high school programs become amazing learning opportunities for host families as well.

High school exchange students are part of programs intended to foster cultural exchange. The very idea of cultural exchange tells us it’s a two-way street: as you show them your culture, you learn about theirs in return.

Hosting a high school exchange student is an immersive experience. It creates the opportunity for you to explore not only their culture, but their language as well. A huge variety of research into language acquisition has shown that immersion is one of the best ways to learn a new language. Imagine how easy it is to pick up words and phrases in your target language with a native speaker under your roof!

Learning to speak a second (or third) language can benefit the brain in impressive ways. It can improve your overall:

  • cognitive functioning
  • memory
  • retention
  • problem-solving abilities

Bilingualism has also been shown to actually slow the aging process of the brain. If you’ve dreamed of learning a second language but struggle to get started, hosting an exchange student could be a powerful push towards achieving this goal.

Becoming a host for high school exchange student programs can also help you learn new skills that will yield unexpected boosts to your career. While the language skills you may pick up from your exchange student are certain to benefit you, they are far from the only way this experience can help you in a professional setting.

Hosting an exchange student shows your ability to thrive in changing environments, to adjust to new scenarios, and to learn new things. It also shows that you have the disposition and dedication to mentor others and take efforts to improve the world around you. In the 21st century, these are all absolutely essential workplace skills.

Our world is increasingly globalized and interconnected. Operating on an international scale is becoming the norm for businesses around the world. Unique cultures and customs are driving the decisions enormous industry leaders make. That means being able to communicate in a business setting goes beyond speaking the same language — cultural understanding is a necessity, too. Hosting an exchange student can help you learn more about becoming a culturally responsive global citizen.

Make International Connections and Cultural Bridges

High school international exchange programs are, at their core, about cultural exchange. The exchange students attending high school in the United States, the host families, and the broader communities surrounding them all are impacted by these programs as they demonstrate the positive impacts of diversity on our lives. These impacts include:

  • Increasing global cultural awareness
  • Fostering tolerance and empathy
  • Exposing us to new ways of thinking

In our rapidly-globalizing world, it’s important to be connected to the wide range of people around us. International high school exchange program students are a key element of forging these bridges between cultures. They help to teach their peers from a young age that, around the world, people have more in common than the differences that separate us.

By creating a home for participants of foreign exchange programs for high school students in the USA, host families are an indispensable part of forging these connections. When host families welcome exchange students into their home, they’re making it possible for these young leaders to nurture cultural understanding by becoming ambassadors for the youth of their country.

In fact, supporting cultural competence and tolerance are such essential goals to high school international exchange programs that the United States government designed a grant to help students achieve this goal. The YES (Youth Exchange and Study) program awards grants to students from countries with significant Muslim populations to participate in exchange programs so they can work towards breaking down cultural barriers. By enabling programs like this, host families are truly making it possible for the leaders of tomorrow to change the world someday.

student sits at desk and smiles.

Explore the World Without Leaving Home

Traveling can be life changing. It’s no wonder that exploring the world is a passion for so many people. Traveling takes you out of your familiar routines and emboldens you to:

  1. Meet new people
  2. Try new things
  3. Experience new cultures
  4. Conquer fears

These experiences allow us to learn more about ourselves, like what matters the most to us or what we really enjoy. Unfortunately, between time and financial constraints, it isn’t feasible for most people to spend as much time on the road as they would like to.

Instead of waiting for your next vacation that’s long enough to catch a flight, why not bring a piece of the broader world right to your door? Hosting a participant of a student exchange program at a local high school allows you to connect with a new culture and may even inspire your travels in the future.

Many of our host families have visited the home countries of the students they welcomed into their lives. The bonds host families and exchange students form can transcend borders, connecting you to your bonus family members spread across the world.

Exchange students become a part of your daily life. For many people, becoming a host for exchange student programs for high school students is much more practical and feasible than finding the time to travel as much as they would like. Plus, hosting is also a cost-effective way to experience a new culture.

Outside of your time and dedication, hosting for high school student exchange programs is next to free. There are no program fees that host families are responsible for. In fact, they can claim a monthly tax deduction for serving as a host in international exchange programs for high school students.

An exchange student’s natural parents provide them with spending money and cover expenses like their airfare and travel insurance. The only cost to host families are the basics that come with providing room and board for their student.

How to Start Hosting Students in High School Exchange Programs

Wondering how to be a high school foreign exchange student host family? We make it easy for our Ayusa hosts to get started. If you’d like to find out more about hosting a high school foreign exchange student, start by requesting more information from our team. We’d be happy to help you decide if becoming hosts is the right fit for your family.

When you’re ready to get started, you’ll fill out a short hosting application to help us get to know you. Once your application is approved, we’ll help you find an exchange student in one of our programs for high school academic years that will be the right fit for you.

Then, all that’s left to do is prepare for their arrival. Our Community Representatives will be there to support you on each step of your hosting journey. They’ll even introduce you to the other Ayusa hosts and exchange students in your area. As a host to a foreign exchange student, you’ll join a supportive community that spans the globe.

Change the World One Exchange Student at a Time

Hosting a foreign exchange high school student can be a life-changing experience. Bringing one of these young leaders into your world creates irreplaceable opportunities, like:

  1. Surrounding yourself with a new culture
  2. Immersing yourself in another language
  3. Forging international connections
  4. Mentoring a young person through a meaningful experience
  5. Supporting the next generation of leaders

By welcoming an exchange student into your life, you’re giving them a place to call home as they explore the world and build cultural bridges. These exchange programs have lasting impacts on our interconnected world, and host families are an essential part of making them happen.

Our supportive team of tenured experts at Ayusa is ready to help you start changing the world. Learn more about us, or read stories from our Ayusa host families to find out the ways these high school exchange students can change your life.

Sharing cultures and building communities with high school exchange.

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