Do you have room to host an international student? The number of international students in the United States is growing. In fact, 5% of students in the United States are international students. As an international student host family, you can provide a safe space for students to relax, feel at home, and thrive in their study abroad program.
At Ayusa, we believe that the most enriching high school exchange experience begins with an open and engaged host family. We've helped coordinate high school exchange programs for over 40 years. Through our program, we connect with students seeking the real American high school experience. We find a host family for the student, connect them with local coordinators and high schools, and ensure they're well cared for every step of the way.
In this article, we'll discuss the following:
- The top reasons to become a host family
- How to find an international exchange program
- Making the most of your experience
Top Reasons to Become a Host Family
Hosting an international student is an excellent way for families to learn about different cultures and build relationships with other countries worldwide. In addition, hosting programs allow young people to explore the world by living with an American family for one or two semesters during high school or college. They may be university students visiting as part of an academic program or high school students attending school in the United States under a student visa program.
Hosting an international student can:
- Expand your family's worldview
- Expose your family to other cultures
- Give a new perspective on American culture
- Provide tax benefits
- Connect you with families around the world
- Improve international diplomacy
- Improve communication skills
- Cultivate life-long friendships
- Help your children learn and grow
- Help you rediscover your city
Along the way, we'll provide tips on how to make the most of your experience and reap the benefits.
Hosting Expands Your Family's Worldview
Whether you live among corn fields in Indiana or in a high-rise in Atlanta, Georgia, welcoming a visiting student into your home can help you and your family expand your worldview. The world starts to feel smaller when getting to know an international student.
But don't take our word for it. One Nampa woman and family have hosted exchange students for 35 years and feel they have gotten the chance to experience the world from their own home.
"I thought, 'Well, I'll never be able to travel the world, my biggest goal is just going to be able 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," said Louise Lough.
Lough has hosted over 100 foreign exchange students for over 37+ years!
"I've learned more by hosting exchange students about what it's really like in some of the countries than I ever could have if I just listened to the news."
Living with someone from another culture requires an open mind since there will inevitably be differences between how you do things at home and how they do them elsewhere. But it's also an excellent opportunity to learn new things about yourself and others. You can identify similarities between your own life experiences and theirs.
Here's a tip: When getting to know your visiting exchange student, gather the family to compare notes. Point out traditions and daily life events from your own life that may align with your student's life back home. For example, we know everyone has to do laundry–how does the way you do laundry differ from theirs? How might their culture celebrate a holiday in similar and different ways? For example, the Christmas markets in the U.S. don't hold a candle to those in Germany.
Hosting Exposes Family to Other Cultures
Hosting an exchange student is a great way to broaden cultural awareness among families who may not otherwise have opportunities to do so. It also helps foster understanding between people of different countries, races, religions, and backgrounds.
An exchange student program can be a rewarding experience for both the student and the host family. The student will experience life in America, and the host family will learn more about other cultures and share their lifestyle with someone from a different country. You'll learn about different customs and traditions worldwide, from how teenagers spend their free time to how adults celebrate holidays and birthdays. Hosting a foreign exchange student provides valuable opportunities for self-reflection and personal growth. It forces you to consider other cultures, religions, and beliefs, which can open your mind to new ideas and ways of thinking.
You'll get to know another culture and language better than any textbook or website could ever teach you.
Here's a tip: Want to make your visiting student feel at home? Take time to learn about their culture. Try incorporating some of their traditions into your daily lives to make them feel at home. For example, if your student is from Pakistan, pick a day each week to get a taste of Pakistan by sharing culture through food. You can cook a meal together and bond over the flavors of their home country.
Hosting Gives Families a New Perspective on American Culture
Hosting a foreign exchange student not only expands your family's cultural horizons but also allows you to share your own culture with someone from another country. In addition to learning about their culture, you may also find your family learning more about American culture throughout the hosting experience.
By showing your new family member what the United States has to offer, you may find yourself rediscovering some of your favorite things about it!
A family from Salisbury, North Carolina, is the perfect example. This host family and German exchange student found 'a perfect fit' and explored the Northeast U.S. to help her experience areas they could easily travel to. They traveled to Washington, D.C., the mountains of Boone, Maine, Vermont, and Boston to broaden her experiences.
Here's a tip: Plan a weekend trip or vacation to a national landmark, national park, or one of your favorite museums once a month. This gives your visiting student a chance to see different places outside your hometown, learn about American history and culture, and let your children enjoy the great attractions of their own country.
Hosting Is Tax Deductible
This one's simple! Did you know that a student accommodation host family can get a tax deduction? Your family will receive a $50 tax deduction for each month you host. That could mean up to $600 to cover your expenses from hosting.
Hosting Can Connect You With Families Around the World
Hosting an international student means making a deep connection with another human being. It's an opportunity to share your home and culture with someone who may never have the chance otherwise.
Many of our host families become lifelong friends with their international students and even forge bonds with their families back home.
For example, Jamie and Jennifer Linn called their international daughter from Italy "another person to love". Since Guilia's stay at their home in Montana, the Linns have traveled to Europe several times to visit their students and their families. Their families were so appreciative and welcomed them into their homes as if they were their own families.
Here's a tip: If you have hosted multiple students from the same country over the years, plan a meet-up in their country so they can show you their culture!
Hosting International Students Improves Global Diplomacy
According to the Alliance for International Exchange, international exchange student programs engage future leaders worldwide and advance key U.S. Foreign Policy Priorities. That's why one of the most common recommendations for public diplomacy is to increase funding and opportunities to engage in high school exchange programs.
In addition, international exchange:
- Supports U.S. security
- Strengthens the U.S. economy
- Increases mutual understanding
Hosting international students helps improve global diplomacy by bringing together people from different cultures who would never interact with each other otherwise. In the same way, hosting improves your family's worldview. It also expands that of the visiting student.
Furthermore, these opportunities for cultural exchange help create a greater understanding of different cultures around the world, which in turn will help ease global tensions in the future by creating more mutual understanding between people from other parts of the world.
Here's a tip: Take the time to have unbiased conversations about world events and politics. Exchange ideas open-mindedly and hear what your visiting students have to say. They may provide a new perspective you've never considered!
Hosting Improves Your Communication Skills
Hosting an international student helps you improve your communication skills, because you need to understand each other to communicate effectively.
You'll need to communicate with them daily on topics like homework, chores, and the weather. If you don't speak the same language, it can be challenging at first, but with time and practice, it gets easier every day.
Having engaging conversations with your foreign exchange student will allow you to practice English with someone who speaks it as their second language.
You can even improve your own English in the process. When there's a language barrier, you will become more mindful of your words and phrases, so the visiting student can understand your meaning. You may also find yourself listening more closely to others.
Here's a tip: When talking about everyday topics, like their homework or what's on the agenda for the weekend, take the time to try their language. Ask them about specific terms or phrases you can use to help them understand you better.
Hosting Cultivates Life-Long Friendships
Hosting allows you to make new friends, mainly if your student is from another part of the world that you have never visited before.
Many international students become pen pals with your children. Others may invite you to their wedding or college graduation. For one family, all it took was one little "yes" to open their lives up to a world of experience and life-long bonds. In a letter to Ayusa, the family wrote about their experience meeting up with five different international students in Marburg, Germany:
"Within minutes, all of them were talking and swapping stories as if they were old friends. It was so interesting that although they had different personalities and interests, they were bonded through the fact that they were all our 'kids' and had shared a common life with the Germans in Springfield, Illinois for 10 months."
Even the German's son was inspired to spend a year abroad in Germany!
Hosting Helps Your Children Learn and Grow
No matter what age your children are, exposure to international students, their language, and their culture can help them learn and grow.
Hosting a foreign exchange student exposes your children to different points of view. It helps them learn to understand and appreciate other cultures, traditions, and values (which can only help them become more well-rounded adults).
During this period of their lives, they're forming opinions about themselves and the people around them. Studies show that encouraging diversity and acceptance early on can:
- Increase their overall learning capacity
- Help them learn to identify with individuals who are different from them
- Teach empathy and compassion for others
Here's a tip: Your children can begin to learn a new language by engaging with your international student! Challenge them to only communicate in their native language for one hour per day, and see how much your kids pick up!
Hosting Helps You Rediscover The Joys of Your Own City
Hosting international students helps you rediscover the joys of your city. You can show off everything that makes your city unique and special. Your student may even introduce you to new aspects of your city that you never knew existed! You may discover hidden gems or rediscover long-lost favorites along the way.
Here's a tip: Need to get outside more often? Take them to a local greenway for an afternoon stroll. Haven't taken the kids to the science museum in years? It sounds like the perfect family outing! Use your local visitor center as a way to discover different attractions in your hometown.
Here are a few other fun ideas:
- Visit your favorite restaurants in town
- Hit local shopping centers
- Take them to a school sports event
- Go see a new movie in theaters
- Visit a zoo or museum.
Finding International Student Host Family Services
Foreign exchange programs like Ayusa bring high school students from all over the world to study in the United States. In partnership with the U.S. Department of State, we bring motivated students from more than 60 countries to exchange to an American high school for 5 to 10 months.
Not all high school exchange programs are the same. You'll want to work with a program that provides the right support to your family and treats international students fairly.
Services to Look For
Hosting an international student is a complex task. You'll likely have many questions about how to connect and take care of your visiting students. In addition, you may have concerns about housing and health insurance requirements.
A quality exchange program partner will be able to provide certain services that make the process easier. The best foreign exchange student programs offer:
- Department of State designation
- CSIET certification
- Ongoing support throughout the program
- Non-profit status
- Paperwork and processing
- High standards
- Local help from community representatives
At Ayusa, we want every exchange experience to be a meaningful success. We ensure that our families and students always get the support they need from our central offices and through local coordinators.
Host families meet with their local coordinator at the beginning of a program. They will have ongoing communication and support throughout the process. We also take care of the student's visa and health insurance paperwork!
Quality programs also adhere to a series of requirements the U.S. Department of State sets to become a visa sponsor. In addition to this designation, Ayusa is also a certified member of the Council of Standards for International Educational Travel (CSIET).
Ayusa Can Help
Ayusa has been bringing host families and international students together since 1981. And we're ready to introduce your family to a new world of cultural exchange! We also offer the following programs:
- Student ambassador programs
- Study abroad programs in Germany
- Study abroad programs in Japan
- Kennedy Lugar Youth Exchange and Study Program (YES Exchange Student Program)
- CBYX Abroad
If you’re ready to connect with a student looking for a host family, you came to the right place.
Our supportive team of tenured experts at Ayusa is ready to help you start changing the world. If you're ready to get started, start a hosting application today! If you still need to decide if this is the right program for you, feel free to request more information.
We're happy to answer any questions and provide greater insight into the hosting journey. In the meantime, we invite you to learn more about us or read stories from our Ayusa host families to discover how these high school exchange students can change your life.
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