We live in a diverse, ever-changing world. And while technology has begun to make that world feel smaller and smaller, we’re also discovering that our cultures are more diverse and complex than ever. Each country has a distinct culture that can contribute to a unique, expansive worldview. Exploring these cultures is one of the many reasons why students study abroad in the USA.
High school is a pivotal time in a young person’s life. Students are exploring who they want to be and the role they want to play in their local community and the world. International exchange programs are the perfect way to allow students to explore all of their options in a safe, structured environment.
Each year, the U.S. State Department’s exchange student program brings 28 million nonimmigrants to the U.S. to study, conduct business, visit family, and tour the country. In 2021, international students came to the U.S. from 224 different countries.
For more than 40 years, Ayusa has been dedicated to developing the next generation of global leaders and world citizens. We connect extraordinary international students with host families in the U.S., cultivate leadership skills, develop intercultural awareness, and enhance global knowledge not only through education but through experience. Without the welcoming support of host families, none of this would be possible.
What impact do you and your family want to make on the world? In this article, we’ll discuss the following:
- The benefits of high school exchange programs
- Benefits of studying in the U.S.
- Benefits of hosting international students
- The impact a host family can make on a student’s experience
Benefits of U.S. Study Abroad Programs
The popularity of studying abroad in the USA has grown since Congress passed the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961, making foreign exchange programs an international priority.
Study abroad programs are life-changing experiences for both the student and the host family. It’s an immersive learning experience that nurture’s the student’s academic, personal, and professional growth. In addition, host families get an opportunity to teach students about daily life in the U.S., rediscover their hometown, and contribute to greater global understanding.
The Institute of International Education (IIE) conducted a 2017 study focused on the impact of study-abroad programs, and found that survey respondents reported positive skill gains spanning cognitive, interpersonal, and intrapersonal areas.
Respondents reported a significant increase in the:
- Intercultural skills (76%)
- Flexibility and adaptability (75%)
- Self-awareness (72%)
- Curiosity (75%)
- Confidence (74%)
- Problem Solving (53%)
- Interpersonal Skills (57%)
- Communication (54%)
In addition to the benefits students and host families glean from study abroad programs, U.S. study abroad programs also positively impact the country at large. International students:
- Stimulate the economy
- Enhance intellectual and cultural environment for American students
- Build long-lasting relationships that positively impact socioeconomic and political growth
Finally, the U.S. exchange programs support national security. The Department of State leverages visas to systematically approve and track all nonimmigrants traveling to the United States. The system is built to provide a layer of protection from those seeking to visit the United States with hostile intentions.
To sum things up, U.S. study abroad programs:
- Provide life-changing experiences to students and host families
- Improve the academics and employability of students
- Positively impact the United States economy and global diplomacy
- Supports national security
So what makes the United States a popular destination for international high school students? First, let’s take a look at the benefits of studying in the United States.
Benefits of Studying in the USA
Since its founding, the United States has welcomed millions of travelers and immigrants from all over the world. It’s one of the things that make the United States one of the richest countries in blended cultures.
Exchange students in the United States have the opportunity to master one of the most widely-used languages in the world, build a global network, improve their cultural understanding, engage in a diverse blend of lifestyles, and explore a country full of international landmarks.
According to Educations.com, the United States consistently ranks as one of the top ten destinations for study abroad programs–as it is one of the most multicultural countries in the world. This ranking is based on the country providing:
- High-quality teaching
- Achieving career goals
- Personal development
- Culture and lifestyle
- Opportunities to network and make new friends
- Learn a language
In 2022, the United States ranks #2 in the world for high-quality teaching and #5 in the world for culture and lifestyle. And here’s nobody better to show off the United States culture and lifestyle than a host family!
At Ayusa, we have heard incredible stories from international students that solidify the notion that the United States can provide a transformational learning experience.
Ni Komang Melya Lestar, YES Student from Indonesia, says, “It feels like a dream that I stepped foot in this great country…We’re sent here to make a better understanding about diversity, sharing our home country’s culture, learn new things, and a lot more.”
Then there’s Lena Okasha from Cairo, Egypt: “Everything new that I experienced opened my mind. The kind of change that has happened to me could never come from staying at home and watching television. I had to learn to find my own opinions about how Americans live instead of listening to other people’s ideas.”
Needless to say, student exchange programs in the USA change lives!
Benefits of Hosting International Students
When you open your home to an international exchange student, you gain a new member of the family. You can create meaningful memories together by sharing your home and day-to-day life. In addition, you can feel proud knowing that you’re giving students a safe, loving place to stay during their adventure abroad.
Some of the most significant benefits of hosting an exchange student include the following:
- Building lifelong friendships with a family from across the globe
- Introducing your family to a new language, new food, and new culture
- Seeing your world with a fresh perspective as you share experiences
- Support diversity and cultural awareness in your family and local community
Through this process, you’ll expand your family’s worldview by engaging in a genuine cultural exchange. You’ll taste the food of their home country and participate in their traditions as you share your own.
Programs like the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange & Study Program (YES) provide an opportunity to break down cultural barriers, misperceptions, and stereotypes between Muslim countries and the United States. For example, through the YES exchange student program, student Sumaiya Maqsood of Pakistan presented to almost 2,000 people about her country’s culture to overcome misconceptions about Pakistani culture.
Many hosts share that they witnessed positive change in themselves and their families from the hosting experience.
Host Families Play a Critical Role
Host families play a critical role in the success of international exchange programs. International students are often hesitant to travel abroad because they are unsure of how they will manage to live in a foreign country without their parents or guardians. Host families give them a safe space to explore a new country while still feeling at home.
“My host family has made me feel right at home from the first day. They’ve hosted many students from different countries and show a house full of all these memories and cultures. I’ve enjoyed my time here in America very much and know this will continue. Every new discovery is an awesome experience!” says Giulia, an Italian student staying with the Linn family in Montana. The Linns treated Giulia as just another person to love.
Host families provide an environment for students to practice English and learn about American culture. They also give students a home away from home and are a strong support system for their needs. In addition, they’ll serve as surrogate parents, offering guidance and support that helps students adapt to their new surroundings.
“We volunteer because Ayusa brings culture to our doorstep! As a parent, I focus on quality experiences that enrich the lives of my children,” says Colorado host mom Adrienna Bivens. “Hosting an exchange student encourages international friendships and allows the opportunity to learn beyond what’s taught in the classroom. It’s simple; we welcome talented students into our home and share with them our American culture and language. In return, the benefits are unlimited!”
Students who live with host families are much more likely to feel connected to their new community. This sense of connection benefits all aspects of student life—not only does it help them adjust better socially, but it also helps them academically. Students who live with host families are more likely to feel welcome at school and less anxious about being away from home; this leads them to perform better academically.
Responsibilities of Host Families
So what does it take to be an Ayusa host family? Every Ayusa host family is unique. From newlyweds with no children to empty nesters - what matters is that each of these hosts are dedicated to learning, teaching, loving, and growing through their host experience.
As an Ayusa host, you will be expected to provide for your exchange students in 4 main areas:
- A safe home environment for students to sleep, study, and thrive
- Three meals a day
- Reliable transportation
- Time and enthusiasm
Host families are expected to provide students with a safe and comfortable place for foreign exchange students to thrive. They should show a keen interest in their student’s culture and way of life, while showing them what life is like in America from your family’s perspective.
Make Study Abroad in the USA Simple with AYUSA
At Ayusa, we strive to make the process of becoming a host for an international exchange student simple. So, if you’re ready to make a lasting difference in the life of an exchange student, you’ve come to the right place!
For the past 40+ years, Ayusa has been helping families build lifelong connections for international students seeking life-changing experiences. As a non-profit high school exchange organization certified by the U.S. Department of State, we’re dedicated to developing the next generation of global leaders and world citizens.
About Our Students
Ayusa is dedicated to pairing exceptional international students from over 60 countries with extraordinary families for 5 or 10-month periods. These students seek to develop leadership skills, build intercultural awareness, and expand global knowledge through international education and experience.
So what does it take to be an Ayusa student?
We look for students who demonstrate strong leadership skills and great character. They are seen as mature, open-minded, well-rounded, and prepared to be strong academic performers. Specifically, they must meet the following academic criteria:
- Between the ages of 15 and 18
- Are in good academic standing
- Have an ELTiS English proficiency score of 212 or higher
- Are active participants in extracurricular activities
- Have all required immunizations
Take Julia, for example. Julia is an 18-year-old female from the Netherlands who has been speaking English for 5 years. Going to America as an exchange student had been a long-time dream of hers because of the opportunity it presents to learn more about herself and others.
“Julia is a great example of a mature Ayusa exchange student who is adaptable, has bonded with her host family, and is making the most of her year in the USA. We are so thankful for the Ayusa experience and for the special moments we continue to share with her,” says the Struble family.
Then there’s Jun, a 15-year-old male from Japan. Jun dreams of an international career as an interpreter and sees his study abroad visit to America as an opportunity to nurture his English skills and gain a broader cultural perspective.
These are just two of many incredible international high school students you can connect with through Ayusa. You can meet more of our students on our website!
About Our Services
As a founding member of the Council on Standards for International Educational Travel (CSIET), we are dedicated to developing the next generation of global leaders and world citizens. Through quality exchange programs for high school students from around the world, we can build a better future for our world through intercultural exchange and global understanding.
You can give your teenager an international exchange experience of a lifetime! Ayusa offers study abroad programs for American teenagers ages 14-17. Families who host with us will also receive a discount on fees for their children’s program.
In addition to connecting exceptional students with extraordinary families, we also connect trained community representatives who can provide 24/7 support to families and students. They work closely with students, families, high schools, and community members throughout the entire process to foster community-wide international understanding. In addition, your local coordinator will ensure your student is enrolled in a local school and has healthcare coverage during their stay.
Ready to take the next step?
If you’re interested in learning more about hosting, taking the next step is easy.
Step 1: Indicate Your Interest
Please fill out our short interest form to receive more information and get connected with your local Ayusa representative. They can help answer any questions you may have, help you weigh the pros and cons of hosting, and determine if your family is the right fit for hosting.
Step 2: Complete Your Application
Your Ayusa representative will help you complete the application. Your representative can also connect you with other host families in your community to begin to build a network of host families like you.
Step 3: Choose Your Student
Once your application is approved, your Ayusa representative will work with you to find a student to match your family’s interests and activities.
Questions? Contact Us! We’re happy to help answer any questions you may have! You can reach us at 888.552.9872 or email us directly, and we will respond promptly.