February 23, 2024
Activities and Tips

How to Celebrate International Student Holidays With Your Host Student

A sky at night with fireworks

In a world brimming with diverse cultures, our celebrations and traditions are vastly, beautifully different. For international students living with a host family, embracing holidays and traditions from their home country can evoke many different feelings, from excitement to nostalgia, and even homesickness. In this article, we’ll discuss how to navigate international student holidays with your host student. 

When you host an exchange student, you have a unique chance to partake in these rich cultural festivities, sharing the joy, customs, and stories that paint the global landscape of celebrations. To help you understand international student holidays, we’ll explain: 

  • The benefits of studying abroad 
  • Why you should host a student 
  • International student holidays around the world
  • How to celebrate international student holidays with your student
  • How to host an international student with AYUSA

AYUSA has been connecting international students with host families across the United States for more than four decades. Our programs give host families a unique opportunity to experience a different culture first-hand, create friends for life, and make some new family memories with an eager, grateful student who can’t wait to share their culture and soak up yours. 

If you’d like to learn more about the incredible experience of hosting a student with AYUSA, start an application here

In the meantime, join us as we explore international celebrations, discovering how to infuse your shared experiences with the warmth and vibrancy of festivities from around the world. 

What are the Benefits of Studying Abroad?

Joining a study abroad organization is an adventure that extends far beyond the classroom; it exposes young adults to diverse cultures, languages, and perspectives. Let’s explore four of the benefits that AYUSA students see from studying abroad: 

  1. Experiencing a new culture
  2. Learning a foreign language
  3. Making lifelong friends
  4. Adding to their resume

The journey of studying abroad is about personal growth, cultural exchange, and shaping young adults into globally-minded individuals.

Experiencing a New Culture

Being immersed in a new culture is a unique learning experience. It's an opportunity for an exchange student to explore customs, traditions, and societal norms that differ from their own, which can help students become more patient and empathetic. 

By navigating daily life in a foreign setting, exchange students gain insight into cultural nuances, values, and different ways of life, broadening their worldview in profound ways. The cultural immersion of a study abroad program often leads to increased adaptability, tolerance, and a deeper appreciation for diversity.

Learning a New Language

Language is the key to unlocking a culture's essence. Studying abroad provides an immersive environment to learn and practice a new language. Beyond the classroom, everyday interactions like ordering food, navigating public transport, or chatting with locals become valuable lessons. Mastering a new language not only enhances communication skills but also opens doors to connecting with people on a deeper level, bridging cultural divides.

Making Lifelong Friends

Building connections with people from diverse backgrounds fosters friendships that transcend borders. The best exchange programs for high schoolers introduce students to a global network of peers, creating opportunities for cross-cultural friendships and collaborations. These relationships often give students a broader perspective on global issues, creating a supportive international community.

Adding to Their Resume

Employers highly value the skills and experiences gained through studying abroad. Adaptability, cultural competence, and language proficiency are sought-after traits in today's interconnected world. Host students also showcase independence, problem-solving abilities, and a willingness to embrace new challenges, helping their resume stand out in what’s often a competitive job market. Also, the ability to navigate diverse environments demonstrates resilience and a global mindset, qualities that are increasingly valuable in a globalized workforce.

Become an Exchange Student With AYUSA

Whether you’re located in the U.S. or overseas, AYUSA has resources to help prospective exchange students find placements in other countries. We work with a huge network of overseas partners and offices to help bring foreign exchange students into the U.S. and find them schools, host families, and communities to grow into. If you’re interested in learning more about becoming an AYUSA exchange student in the U.S., complete this form to get started. 

Why Host a Foreign Exchange Student?

Becoming a host family for an international student is a journey that goes far beyond merely providing accommodation. It's an opportunity to welcome diversity into your home, community, and life, fostering cultural exchange and building bridges across continents. It helps you:

  1. Experience a different perspective
  2. Enhance your community
  3. Support an eager young student
  4. Gain new cultural understandings

Here’s why thousands of AYUSA host families find joy in hosting an exchange student, and why so many families return to hosting again and again. 

Experience a Different Perspective

Hosting a foreign exchange student with one of the best study abroad programs opens you and your family up to new perspectives and experiences, without even leaving your home! You’ll learn new customs and traditions, enriching your understanding of the world. With each passing day your student will teach you more about a different way of life, broadening your view of the world. 

Enhance Your Community

Welcoming an international student into your home contributes to a more culturally vibrant community. It provides an opportunity for others in your area to engage with different cultures, promoting cross-cultural understanding and appreciation. Sharing your experiences as a host family inspires others to embrace diversity, creating a more inclusive and welcoming environment for all.

Help an Eager Young Student

For a young student, experiencing an academic year in America is a life-changing opportunity. By hosting an international student, you become a crucial part of their journey. You offer support, guidance, and a nurturing environment that enables them to navigate a new country and educational system. Watching them learn and grow under your roof is extremely rewarding!

Gain New Cultural Understandings

By being an international student host family, you have the chance to learn about different traditions, languages, and cuisines firsthand. As we’ll discuss next, it’s also a great opportunity to learn (and celebrate) different holidays with your student. This deepens your understanding of different cultures, fostering a sense of interconnectedness and turning your household into a cultural melting pot. 

International Student Holidays Around the World

While your exchange student will likely be focused on immersing themselves in your family’s culture and traditions, it’s important to respect and learn about their own habits and ways of life. One of the best ways to do this is by celebrating their traditional holidays and learning about the history and customs of each special event. 

Some of the holidays you might be able to celebrate with your exchange student include: 

  1. Lunar New Year 
  2. Diwali 
  3. Songkran 
  4. Hanami 
  5. Carnival 
  6. Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr
  7. Bastille Day
  8. Hanukkah

Here’s a glimpse into the history and traditions associated with each of these holidays.

Lunar New Year

Lunar New Year, recognized across East and Southeast Asia, celebrates the arrival of a new year based on the lunar calendar. From China's Spring Festival to Vietnam's Tet, this vibrant celebration involves dragon dances, lantern festivals, family gatherings, and feasting. For international students in study abroad programs, it's a chance to showcase their cultural heritage, sharing traditions like giving red envelopes (hongbao) and enjoying delicious Lunar New Year dishes.


Diwali, known as the Festival of Lights, holds immense significance in Hinduism, Jainism, and Sikhism. This exuberant celebration, observed in India and various other countries, illuminates homes with lamps, fireworks, and colorful decorations. For international students, Diwali signifies the triumph of light over darkness and serves as a time to come together, exchange sweets, and share their traditions with a new community.


Songkran marks the Thai New Year and is celebrated with the famous water festival. Taking place in mid-April, this joyous occasion involves splashing water on friends and strangers alike to wash away misfortunes and start anew. International exchange students can enjoy spirited water fights and show you their traditional ceremonies, giving you a taste of Thai culture in your own home. 


In Japan, Hanami translates to "flower viewing," specifically referring to the celebration of cherry blossom season. As stunning cherry blossoms bloom across the country, people gather in parks for picnics. Even if your neighborhood doesn’t have any cherry blossoms, your exchange student can show you the traditional music and food that come with this holiday, or take you on an authentic Hanami picnic at a local park. 


In Brazil, there’s no event bigger than Carnival. It’s a dazzling extravaganza of music, dance, and elaborate costumes. This vibrant festival precedes Lent and brings communities together in a riot of colors, samba rhythms, and parades. For an exchange student studying abroad in the USA, celebrating Carnival from afar may mean creating an elaborate costume, playing some traditional music, and creating a party atmosphere for your whole household to enjoy!

Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr

Ramadan, the holy month of fasting in Islam, culminates in Eid al-Fitr, a joyous festival of breaking the fast with communal iftars, special prayers, feasting, and sharing of food. If your exchange student is fasting during Ramadan, they’ll likely be looking forward to Eid al-Fitr, and may have their own family traditions they would like to introduce you to. 

Bastille Day

Bastille Day, celebrated in France on July 14th, commemorates the French Revolution and the unity of the French people. The day is marked by parades, fireworks, and communal gatherings. If you host a high school exchange student from France over Bastille Day, it’s a great opportunity for you to experience French culture firsthand and get a taste of their traditions. 


Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. Lasting eight nights, it involves lighting the menorah, playing dreidel games, and enjoying traditional foods like latkes and sufganiyot. It’s a great opportunity to learn about Jewish culture and traditions while connecting with your exchange student.

How to Celebrate International Student Holidays With Your Exchange Student

Celebrating international student holidays when hosting a foreign exchange student is a great opportunity to forge connections, share experiences, and create lasting memories. By embracing these celebrations together, you embark on a journey of cultural exchange that enriches both your lives.

It’s also important to understand that holidays can be a complicated experience for your exchange student. It may be their first time celebrating a big holiday away from their family, and could leave them feeling isolated and homesick. They may also feel shy about involving you in the celebrations. 

To help you and your family navigate international student holidays, try these tips: 

  • Ask your exchange student about their traditions
  • Involve their natural family
  • Add your own twist on their holiday
  • Capture the moment with plenty of photos!

Here’s how you can use these pointers to celebrate international student holidays when you host an exchange student

Ask About Their Traditions

Many exchange students can be shy talking about their culture and traditions with their host family, especially to begin with. Don’t expect your student to open up to you right away, and don’t be frustrated if they don’t share with you that a holiday is coming up. Instead, initiate the conversation yourself. Ask your student about their favorite holidays or traditions, or find a list of holidays usually celebrated in their country.

If there is a holiday coming up, ask your host student how they normally celebrate. Learn why certain rituals or traditions are significant, discover the stories behind their customs, and hear about the foods typically prepared during these celebrations. This will open your eyes to some fun new customs, and the fact that you’re taking an interest helps your exchange student feel welcome and appreciated. 

Once you have an idea of what’s traditionally involved, you can ask the student how they would like to celebrate. If they’re missing their friends and family, or don’t feel fully comfortable in their new surroundings yet, they may want a low-key celebration, or even none at all. Some students, on the other hand, may want to go all out. The most important thing is to let your exchange student decide, and then celebrate accordingly.

Involve Their Family

If possible, encourage your exchange student to involve their family in the celebrations, whether through video calls, sharing stories, or even preparing traditional dishes together. Family plays a significant role in many international holidays, and involving them, even remotely, can help your student feel closer to home. It's a chance for them to feel connected to their roots while being abroad, and remember, it could be the first time they’re celebrating in unfamiliar surroundings without their family.

Add Your Own Twist

While it’s important that your student can celebrate their holiday with some traditional customs, don’t be afraid to add your own twist to things when you host an international student! This version of their holiday will already feel quite different, given that they are overseas with many new faces. By blending your own cultural elements with your student’s traditional customs, you can create a fun new version of international student holidays that you can all enjoy together. 

Whether it’s a favorite dish, a game, or an activity that you and your family enjoy, sharing cultures with your exchange student is what the study abroad experience is all about. Plus, when they’re next celebrating their holiday at home, they can incorporate your additions, creating a fun, new experience for their natural family. 

Take Plenty of Photos!

Live in the moment and not through a phone screen, but don’t forget to capture some photos and videos. They’re great for you and your exchange student to look back on in the months and years that follow the exchange student program, and an easy way for your exchange student to share what they’ve been up to with their family. Designate someone to be the family photographer so you don’t have to worry about who’s in charge of snapping the memories! 

How to Host an International Student with AYUSA

Opening your door to an exchange student is one of the most valuable experiences you and your family can share. At AYUSA, we specialize in bringing these experiences to your doorstep, by connecting eager international students with caring hosts like you. Let’s take a look at some of the keys to hosting a student through AYUSA, including: 

  1. What makes a good host family?
  2. What are the AYUSA hosting requirements?
  3. How to start your application

Here’s how you and your family can start your own hosting adventure with AYUSA. 

What Makes a Good Host Family?

Over the years, we’ve found that host families come in all shapes and sizes. The perfect host family doesn’t need to have a big house or other school-aged children; it’s all about your mindset and mentality. If you’re open to new experiences and have a desire to learn about a foreign student’s culture and heritage, you’ll probably make a great host!

What Are the AYUSA Hosting Requirements?

We accept hosts who live in cities, rural areas, and everything in between. Our vast student network means that there’s a student out there for every host family, and we do whatever we can to pair students with their ideal host family. Just about anyone can apply to host with AYUSA, as long as you: 

  • Are at least 25 years old 
  • Can provide students with a safe, comfortable place to live 
  • Are willing to open your home to a student for 5-10 months
  • Will provide the student with three healthy meals a day
  • Can welcome and support your new family member 

AYUSA hosts aren’t required to organize transport for their students (but can of course drive them to school or events if it’s convenient) or provide an allowance, as all extra expenses will be covered by the student’s natural family. As long as you can meet these requirements of hosting a foreign exchange student, we’d love to have you on board! 

Start Your AYUSA Application Here

If you’re interested in joining one of the best foreign exchange programs out there, here’s what you need to know. First of all, indicate your interest in joining AYUSA here. By filling out this short questionnaire, we can send you some more information and connect you with a local AYUSA Community Representative

Your AYUSA Community Representative will help you complete your application and can answer any questions you have about what it’s like to host an exchange student. If you like, your rep can also connect you with nearby AYUSA host families so that you can better understand the process and the journey from someone who’s experienced the magic of hosting a student. 

Once your application is approved, you can work with your AYUSA Community Representative to find a student with similar interests and values. Once we’ve found the right student for you, it’s time to start your hosting adventure! 

Celebrate International Student Holidays by Joining AYUSA!

Celebrating international student holidays with your exchange student is an important way of welcoming them into your home and your life. It’s also a unique chance for you to learn all about the customs and cultures of different holidays around the world, and create some long-lasting memories for your family and exchange student to savor. 

If you’re ready to embark on this life-changing journey, submit your AYUSA application here. We’d love to have you join the AYUSA family and help a young student bring their dream to life!

Sharing cultures and building communities with high school exchange.

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