After an expected dip in 2020-21, the number of international students studying abroad is on the rise. In fact, the number of certain demographics of international students is already outpacing pre-pandemic numbers. This means more families are needed to host students through foreign exchange programs now more than ever.
At Ayusa, we pride ourselves in pairing host families with exchange students. With over 40 years of experience, we find the right fit for you through our foreign exchange study abroad program, providing formative and fun experiences for everyone! We have seen how exchange students can positively impact the lives of their host families, and how host families—like you—have influenced the futures of our host students. Reach out today for more information about how you can get involved.
In this piece, we explore the many ways you can become a host family, along with all the exciting and enriching activities you can share with your host student. We cover:
- What it takes to become a host family
- How you can get involved in hosting an exchange student
- Exciting activities you can share with your host student
- Firsthand accounts of hosting through exchange programs
Check out all of the tips and resources you need to become a host family, along with stories and guidance from the families that have shared the experience!
What Does it Take to Host Students Through a Foreign Exchange Program?
When we discuss the term “host family” with prospective clients, a few frequently asked questions come up:
- Am I the right candidate to host students?
- What are the responsibilities of host families?
- How do I become a host for foreign exchange students?
We answer all of your questions and concerns about becoming a host family below. Simply put, if you are passionate, capable, and interested in hosting a foreign exchange student, then you are the family Ayusa wants! Ayusa does not discriminate based on age, gender, or demographic; empty-nesters, grandparents, or married with children, all families are welcome to host through Ayusa.
To get started on your hosting adventure, all you need to do is:
- Express your interest to Ayusa
- Get connected with an Ayusa representative
- Review requirements for hosting students
- Complete the application process
- Get paired with your host student
Express Your Interest in Hosting a Foreign Exchange Student
The first step on the way to becoming a host family is simply letting us know you are interested. Fill out a quick form to request information—no strings attached—and our representatives will reach out promptly to answer any questions you may have.
Once all of your questions have been answered, we will put in touch with your local Ayusa representative. We believe in providing comprehensive assistance— from the moment you decide to host a foreign exchange student to your student’s eventual return home. Your Ayusa representative will be available for every question, concern, or emergency you might encounter along the way.
Your representative checks in with you and your student monthly, offering support and advice if needed. They also assist by checking in with schools and/or programs your student is enrolled in to ensure your student’s stay is a successful one.
Review Requirements for Hosting Students
We want families of all shapes and sizes to experience the fun and excitement of hosting a foreign exchange student. Still, we do have requirements to meet before the journey can begin. Basic requirements you should be able to provide for your student are:
- 3 meals per day
- Living accommodations for personal space, studying, and sleeping
- Reliable access to transportation
- A welcoming, safe, and supportive environment
Essentially, host families are responsible for room and board, and the rest is left up to the student’s family and Ayusa. All travel costs, health insurance, program fees, and spending money will be covered by your student’s natural parents or guardians.
As far as personal responsibilities—curfew, chores, and other household expectations—we leave those decisions to you. You have the freedom to set a strict curfew, or allow your student to keep to the same agenda they had back home. Setting guidelines can make it easier for your host student to acclimate to a new way of life, and we recommend making your expectations clear at the beginning of your time together.
Additional legal requirements of hosting a foreign exchange student include:
- Being 25 years of age or older
- Passing a background check
- Allowing and passing an in-home visit with an Ayusa representative
- Providing approved references
Complete the Application Process
The next step in becoming a host family for a foreign exchange student is the application process. Start your application online through Ayusa, and we will pair you with one of our experienced team members to walk you through the process.
Our application covers many basic and personal requirements to ensure you are a good fit for our students, as well as finding the right student to fit your household and community. Questions you can expect to answer on our application are:
- Are there household members under the age of 18 living in your home either full or part-time?
- In what type of community do you live?
- Do you expect the student to follow any dietary restrictions?
- Has your family ever hosted an international student?
- When do you wish to begin hosting?
Ayusa also requires a host family letter detailing your family unit, reasons and expectations of hosting a foreign exchange student, and highlights of your surrounding community. We hold ourselves to high standards for pairing the right family with the right student, ensuring everyone has a fun, valuable experience.
Get Paired with a Student
Once your application is approved, the next step is parking you with the right student. We want you and your student to both have a great experience, which is why we are thorough in our application review and pairing process to find the perfect fit. Home to multiple daughters, and think a girl would fit in seamlessly with your family? Feel free to clarify your gender preferences on your application. Considering hosting multiple foreign exchange students at once? We are more than happy to accommodate you! Just let us know on the application form, and we will get started pairing you with your host student.
Our students meet high standards to be eligible for our exchange programs. These include:
- Great character: Ayusa students must exhibit great character, including strong leadership skills, maturity, open-mindedness, and a willingness to learn and experience new cultures.
- Language proficiency: Ayusa exchange students must achieve an ELTiS English Proficiency score of at least 212, meaning they must be comfortable speaking and communicating in English
- Health assessment: Students must be healthy enough for travel, as well as have all required immunizations.
While we expect our students to arrive ready and willing to experience your home, community, and culture, there is still so much a host student can learn and enjoy. Take the time to meet our students, as well as explore the many cultural exchange ideas you can provide, before embarking on your hosting journey.
What Are the Ways You Can Get Involved Hosting Students?
Becoming a host family is a big responsibility. For many, the prospect of inviting a new member into the family is a large leap from their current situation. Don’t worry: there are plenty of other ways to get involved hosting foreign exchange students! They include:
- Becoming a community representative for host students and families
- Lobbying your local school to become a host school
- Promote the YES Student Exchange Program
Become a Community Representative for Host Students and Families
When we talk about our local representatives helping you through the application process, finding the right student for your family, and administering assistance throughout the entire hosting process, we are talking about our community representatives.
Ayusa community representatives are crucial to the success of our exchange programs. If you are passionate about becoming a host family but want to give it a test run first, join our program and gain firsthand experience in supporting host students and families.
Our community representatives provide vital assistance to Ayusa students and families, including:
- Connecting international students with the right family through community outreach
- Providing ongoing support to build and maintain relationships between student, family, and school or program
- Becoming part of a global community of like-minded individuals all across the globe
Discover all the details you need for the role of Community Representative, and become a core member of a life-changing community!
Lobby Your Local School to Host Foreign Exchange Students
Many schools welcome exchange students into their doors; it’s a great way to provide valuable experiences for a host student and expose your student body to impactful cultural awareness. Lobbying your local school to host foreign exchange students is a big step in promoting cultural exchange, and can introduce a new community to the benefits and excitement of hosting!
Just as with hosting as a family, it is important to be aware of rules and regulations for hosting before contacting your local school. Per government regulations, J-1 visa host schools must abide by strict rules, such as:
- Host schools are only able to place five students by one organization in a single school at a time
- A host school can place more than five host students if a special request is made.
- Host schools must receive written permission from a school official before placing a student.
Once these regulations are met, host schools are able to begin hosting exchange students. A host school can meet the Model School Policy best practices for hosting J-1 visa exchange students by:
- Waiving tuition for sponsored exchange students
- Setting an exchange student enrollment goal of at least 1% of the total student body
- Adding flexibility to maximize the number of enrolled exchange students
In return, as a host school your administration can expect high standards from J-1 organizations, including:
- Certification by CSIET: The Council on Standards for International Educational Travel, or CSIET, ensures student exchange programs, such as the J-1 program, are fully compliant with international travel standards for the advancement of education.
- Maintaining trained and qualified community representatives.
- Interviewing and screening potential host families: By meeting with and screening potential host families, J-1 organizations can guarantee appropriate matches between families and students, as well as provide ongoing support for both.
- Preparing and monitoring exchange students: Part of the process of exchange programs is monitoring their success, which includes oversight and assistance for exchange students.
- Ensuring medical compliance for exchange students: Health is of the utmost importance during educational travel—now more than ever—and guaranteeing exchange students have necessary documentation, immunizations, and guidance is paramount to health safety.
- Providing national representation: Exchange students need the support of their home nations, host nations, and host families; J-1 organizations work to ensure they have the commitments they need from all three.
- Securing school enrollment and host family placement authorizations.
- Assuring unbiased placement of exchange students based on academic, athletic, or other advanced abilities.
- Arranging for added and extracurricular assistance for exchange students: J-1 organizations procure tutoring or English as a Second Language (ESL) assistance for exchange students
Schools are instrumental in exchange programs, providing our host students with experiences and education often vastly different from their home countries. Promote cultural awareness and exciting, new experiences in your community by becoming an exchange program host school!
Promote the YES Program
The Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange & Study (YES) Program was established in 2002 to foster relations between Muslim-populous nations and the United States. After the tragic events of 9/11, Muslim populations became the targets of mounting hate crimes and animosity across the U.S. The YES Program sought to push back against harmful stereotypes and misconceptions of the Muslim community, partnering with the Department of State to provide grants to foreign exchange students.
YES Program students serve as ambassadors to their home countries, exhibiting the same high standards as Ayusa students. YES exchange students are:
- High-achieving students: The YES program application is based on merit, meaning grants are given to students exhibiting proficiency in English, advanced interview and communication skills, and excellent academic performance.
- Leaders: Ayusa YES students are leaders in their home communities, serving as prime ambassadors while studying abroad, promoting the best their home countries have to offer.
- Community-minded individuals: The YES Program requires 30 hours of community service, but many YES exchange students go above and beyond, getting involved in after-school activities and community programs to foster lifelong relationships.
You can get involved by spreading the word about the YES Program, as well as lobbying your local schools, exchange programs, and host families to become YES Program sponsors.
What Activities Can You Share with Your Host Student?
One of the items we request in our application form is the highlights of your area. Why? We want to assist you in sharing fun, local adventures with your host student!
Possibilities are endless when searching for activities to share with your host student. Remember: many of your daily activities may be entirely new to your host student. Your morning walk could be eye-opening to an exchange student from an inner city or desert climate, and sharing such simple activities could provide new cultural experiences for the both of you!
More activities you can share with your host student include:
- Running errands, such as grocery shopping
- Enjoying your local zoo, theme park, or music festival
- Taking them to an American football game, and then debate “real football”
- Introducing them to your favorite restaurant, or cook your best dish at home
- Visiting local, notable sites and monuments
- Planning a family game night
Cultural exchange can be as engaging as you make it. A simple day at the park might be the memory your exchange student keeps with them for the rest of their life. All you have to do is take the time to share your community with your host student.
What Do Host Families Have to Say About Their Experiences?
Over the past forty years, Ayusa has had the privilege of connecting families with host students. While we aim to provide the same positive experience for all of our clients, no two situations are alike.
One of the most rewarding aspects of connecting host families with students is the testimonials. Our host families have shared all kinds of stories with us, from the funny coincidences to the heartwarming learning experiences. Take Jeff Hunt for example, host dad to German exchange student Ole Winkler:
We do feel fortunate to have had a kid who made an effort to get out and meet people, ask for rides, but was conscientious in who he hung out with. Our 3 kids did not meet any high school foreign exchange students that were as well known in the school or as well-liked and accepted as Ole had been. That sentiment has been repeated to us by other kids still in or just out of school. He was lucky enough to tag along with a couple of his friends' family Florida vacations at spring break. He was able to experience a fairly unique American situation.
Or Louise Lough and her host family, opening their home to more than 100 exchange students over the past 40 years:
I thought, ‘Well, if I'll never be able to travel the world, my biggest goal is just going to be to see the U.S.’ So, I just thought we would start hosting exchange students so we could experience the world through the eyes of others.
Many host families understand the benefits of hosting an exchange student, not just for themselves and their host students, but for their children as well. Jennifer and Jamie Linn shared with us the “gifts” hosting can offer, as Jennifer puts it:
Our children have been given a gift. They've had an opportunity to learn firsthand about different cultures—from language, food, and traditions.
Hosting exchange students can provide endless benefits as much as endless opportunities. Contact Ayusa today to begin your own hosting journey, and discover the rewards of hosting a foreign exchange student.
Host an Exchange Student Through Ayusa Today
Hosting a student through Ayusa impacts more than just your family and host student; it can have a lifelong impact on your—and your host student’s—community, as well as many more! Hosting is a big responsibility, one that requires enthusiasm, cultural awareness, and commitment. If you feel ready to provide a life-changing experience to a host student, you have come to the right place!
At AYUSA, we aim to pair host families with the right host student. We are passionate about helping students and families have the best exchange experience ever! That’s why we guide you through the application process, answer all of your questions, and provide ongoing support every step of the way.
To start your hosting journey today, request more information, or begin your application. Still have questions? Reach out by email, or call us at 888.552.9872. We can’t wait to join you on your exchange student hosting adventure!