July 30, 2023

Debunking 6 Misconceptions Around Hosting Foreign Exchange Students

A foreign exchange student smiles while hugging her host family as they greet her with signs at the airport.

Having been in the foreign exchange program business for more than 40 years, we’ve just about heard and seen it all. From amazing success stories—like Haya Al-Kubati’s Diana award-winning humanitarianism—to fun cross-cultural experiences, such as all the shared recipes between our hosts and their exchange students, we love seeing how hosting has changed so many lives for the better. However, we also know the flip side of hosting, specifically, all the misconceptions around hosting foreign exchange students

Here at Ayusa, we have proudly committed decades of time and effort to pairing the right host families with the ideal exchange students. That also includes debunking misconceptions around hosting, such as: 

  1. Only “ideal” families can host.
  2. Hosting is too costly.
  3. Inviting a foreign exchange student into your home is awkward. 
  4. Hosting is only for outgoing, activity-happy families. 
  5. Only exciting, populated areas can entertain host students.
  6. Hosting is the only way to support foreign exchange students.

Join us as we uncover the realities and rewards of hosting foreign exchange students, and discover ways you can become a key part of the foreign exchange hosting experience

Let’s debunk some misconceptions together! 

Misconception #1: Only “Normal” Families can Host Foreign Exchange Students

The misconception: The only way you will be approved for hosting is if you meet the basic definition of family, meaning a husband and wife, and no more than two children in the home.

The reality: We put “normal” in quotation marks because we aren’t quite sure what makes a family “normal” (ours sure aren’t). Whereas many advertisements pitch hosting foreign exchange students as an experience only available to nuclear families, Ayusa has a different approach: 

Do you want to host a foreign exchange student? Welcome aboard! 

Okay, so there are a few more requirements than that, such as:

  1. You must be at least 25 years old.
  2. You must be able to provide a safe place to live, sleep, and study for your exchange student’s stay.
  3. You must provide three meals a day to your exchange student.
  4. You must provide access to personal transportation, ride sharing, and/or public transport.
  5. You must have a desire to host, and share as much as possible with your exchange student!

And that’s it! Ayusa does not discriminate on any basis of age, race, sexual orientation, or gender. Happily married for decades and interested in opening your home to a bright foreign exchange student? Ayusa is the place for you! Single parent with a desire to provide a formative experience to another young adult? Start your application today!

Just like no two families are the same, no two hosts are the same, and we here at Ayusa prefer it that way! Providing everything your host student needs is the number one priority, and giving them a unique cultural experience is part of the fun. If you believe you or your family are right for hosting a foreign exchange student, call us today or request more information to learn everything you need to be the best host possible! 

Misconception #2: You Can’t Afford to Host a Foreign Exchange Student

The misconception: Hosting is expensive, and only families with money need apply.

The reality: Do you have the means to provide your foreign exchange student three meals a day, as well as basic expenses for room, board, and transportation? That’s about all the expenses you’re responsible for as a host family

To be eligible for the exchange program, students must be capable of paying their own way, meaning their natural parents or caregivers provide a monthly stipend toward essential and extracurricular expenses, covering:

  • travel costs
  • foreign exchange program fees
  • health insurance, including medical expenses
  • school fees
  • clothing and uniforms 
  • social and extracurricular expenditures

Not only is hosting relatively inexpensive, but, with Ayusa, we do everything we can to ensure you can provide your foreign exchange student with a great stay without worrying about money at all! Pretty good deal, right? It gets better: you’re able to claim a $50 tax deduction per each month you serve as a host family. 

If we had it our way, money wouldn’t be a factor at all in the hosting experience. That way, we could provide so many more deserving students with transformative exchange experiences. What we can provide is a little less worry about expenses, leaving you to focus on what really matters: providing a fun, engaging, and educational stay for both your exchange student and your family.

Misconception #3: You Won’t Have Anything in Common With Your Foreign Exchange Student

The misconception: Foreign exchange students come from all over the world, so the likelihood that you even speak the same language is slim, let alone share any common interests or cultural similarities. 

The reality: Do you speak English? Then you already have something in common with your foreign exchange student! 

All students participating in Ayusa’s foreign exchange program must achieve proficiency in English before approval for travel. Students will vary in fluency—from the completely fluent to the fast learning—but all will be able to converse comfortably in English. Plus, you might be surprised how quickly your host student picks up new words and phrases in a very short time! Still, sharing a language isn’t the only common ground you’ll find.

Do you enjoy attending sporting events? Or maybe your family has a few foodies among you? What about hiking, reading, road tripping, or just enjoying a nice walk in the park? Chances are, you’ll discover shared interests between you and your foreign exchange student. Ayusa’s foreign exchange students are go-getters, high-achieving learners, and active participants in extracurricular clubs and sports. Will some of our exchange students prefer cricket over football? Very likely, but—and here’s the best part about hosting—sharing new experiences is fun for everyone

Finding common ground with your foreign exchange student is a good start, but introducing them to new cultures, customs, and ways of life is a vital piece of the exchange program puzzle. Get to know your host student’s interests and traditions, and you might just discover a few new hobbies and interests of your own.

Misconception #4: You Aren’t Capable of Keeping a Foreign Exchange Student Entertained Their Whole Stay

The misconception: Being a host family requires big cities, populated areas, large school districts, and an excess of local events; otherwise, the student will just get bored of small town living. 

The reality: Let’s hear what Italian exchange student Silvia Rezzonico had to say about her time with the Reed family of Lewiston, Maine (pop. 36,000): 

"All of the decisions I've made afterwards have been influenced by the fact that I was here. I really think the experience is not just the one year that you spend, but it continues and you keep it for the rest of your life."

Sounds like Silvia had a pretty good time in a city just a bit smaller than NYC or LA, no? 

Is there a chance that your foreign exchange student hails from a city or town larger than yours? It’s certainly possible. But, remember: students join the Ayusa exchange program for the quintessential American experience. That could mean the coastline of Maine, the beaches of California, the Appalachian trails in Tennessee, or the big skies of Texas. The quintessential American experience varies across this great country, and Ayusa is only able to provide that to our exchange students thanks to host families like yours. 

Still looking for ways to entertain your host student during their stay. We’ve got you covered. Some potential activities to do with your exchange student include: 

  1. Visit your local landmarks. They may be just another building or statue on your daily commute by now, but, for visitors, they could unlock some rich history for their stay. 
  2. Attend local arts and crafts fairs. A great—and inexpensive—way to entertain is to check local listings for arts and crafts fairs, street fairs, ren faires, and music festivals. 
  3. Enjoy a baseball game. Get some fresh air with a local baseball game, and introduce your exchange student to a new sport (or, at least, a new team)! 
  4. Throw a backyard barbecue. Something as simple as a weekend cookout could be a whole new cultural event for your exchange student; be sure to include them in the cooking and cleanup to get the full experience.
  5. Enjoy local cuisine. Introduce your exchange student to your local hot spot, and showcase the best kept secrets of locally-sourced seafood, homegrown veggies, or the best burger in town!

Misconception #5: Your Community Isn’t Equipped to Meet the Demands of Foreign Exchange Programs

The misconception: Small communities and towns just don’t have the resources to support foreign exchange programs.

The reality: You may be uncertain about your local high school’s ability to accommodate foreign exchange students, or you may not know if surrounding communities will welcome exchange students into their public programs. Rest assured: we here at Ayusa know your community has the necessary resources. How do we know? We provide them! 

Ayusa offers support to our host families beyond the application and approval process. Our Community Representatives work directly with your family, host student, and surrounding community and schools to enhance the exchange experience for everyone. Our CRs provide:

  • Connections between host families and exchange students. CRs are instrumental in pairing the right families with the ideal student, fostering great experiences right from the start.
  • Ongoing support to host families, exchange students, and schools. CRs are involved in communications with all parties involved in the exchange program, staying up to date and on top of issues throughout the entire stay.
  • Intercommunications between a global community. No problem has arisen that our CRs haven’t already encountered, because they are in touch with all other CRs across the globe, assisting each other to improve your hosting experience! 

Still uncertain if your community is the right fit for a foreign exchange student? Get more info to guarantee your local schools and programs are suited for hosting, and rest assured that Ayusa will be there every step of the way! 

Interested in becoming an Ayusa Community Representative? Apply today

Misconception #6: Hosting is the Only Way to Get Involved With Foreign Exchange Programs

The misconception: The only way to get involved in hosting foreign exchange programs means hosting students and I’m not ready yet, so I guess I’m out of luck.

The reality: Did you miss the section about Community Representatives? No worries! We don’t mind sharing it again.

Not only are our CRs just as necessary to Ayusa’s foreign exchange program as host families, they also are able to receive up to $1,030 per student placed and supervised, plus travel and other financial incentives. Already busy with full-time employment, family life, or even hosting at this very moment? There’s even more ways to assist the Ayusa exchange student program! These include:

  • Refer a host.
  • Lobby your local schools.
  • Work for Ayusa.
  • Spread the word.

Refer a Host to Ayusa

Know a family that has been adamant about hosting foreign exchange students but aren’t quite sure who to talk to? Refer a host, and get them started on a life-changing journey they’ll never forget. Plus, as a little thank you for doing the work for us, we provide $200 for every approved host family once they begin! 

Lobby Your Local Schools

Reaching out to your local school to launch a foreign exchange program is a great start to welcoming more culture and inclusion into your community. Developing good relations through foreign exchange programs has long proven impactful for both schools themselves, as well as the economies of the surrounding community

Ayusa’s schools add so much more to their curriculum and student body through student exchange programs. Unique perspectives, exposure to new languages, and increased diversity are just a few of the crucial learning opportunities exchange programs offer to participating schools. Lobby your local school to partner with Ayusa today, and bring cultural diversity to class! 

Work for Ayusa

Do you have a desire to help international students before, during, and after their trip to the U.S.? Maybe you want to work closely with host families and schools to showcase just how important cultural inclusion and diversity is to a well-rounded education. You might have what it takes to work with Ayusa! We’re always looking for outgoing and supportive individuals to act as Community Representatives for our team. Qualifying applicants should have: 

  • Sales, networking, or community outreach experience
  • Knowledge of local school systems
  • Strong communication skills
  • Ability to work independently and complete tasks with deadlines

Sound like someone you know? Apply today, and let’s get started changing the world for our host families and students! 

Spread the Word

We understand; sometimes hosting just isn’t in the cards yet for you or your family. And maybe your work schedule prevents you from devoting time to applying to our Community Representative. And you already checked with your local school, and they’re all set up with a bustling foreign exchange program. Is there anything more you can do?

Absolutely! You can spread the word about Ayusa! 

Spreading the word is about more than referring hosts and lobbying schools (although, we can’t thank you enough for doing either of those)! Reading our stories, sharing our mission, and engaging with us on social media are all valuable ways to promote Ayusa and foreign exchange programs at large.

To paraphrase an old quote, it takes a community to raise a foreign exchange program, and everyone involved is essential to the experience.

Begin Your Foreign Exchange Hosting Experience Today With Ayusa

All your worries are alleviated, right? We hope so! If not, feel free to check our FAQs for more common concerns, and reach out to our Ayusa representatives to gather even more information. Ready to become an Ayusa Host Family? We can’t wait for you to join us on this life-changing adventure! To get started:

  1. Let us know you’re interested! Complete our short interest form to receive more information and get connected with your local Ayusa representative.
  2. Complete your application. Your Ayusa representative will help you complete the application and answer any questions you may have about the hosting experience, as well as get you in touch with other host families in your area!
  3. Choose your student. Once approved for hosting, your next step is to work with your Ayusa representative to find a student to match your family’s interests and activities.

Ayusa is here for everything you need to become a Host Family to a promising and excited foreign exchange student. We can’t wait to share this journey with you, and look forward to working together to create the best possible hosting experience for everyone! 

Get started today! Reach us at 888.552.9872, or email us directly at HFApplications@ayusa.org, and we will get back to you promptly.

Sharing cultures and building communities with high school exchange.

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