Hosting a foreign exchange student is an excellent opportunity to learn from another culture in your own home. In other words, you will receive someone from another country for a specific period of time to show him/her more about the US.
There are many agencies across the country in which you can apply to be a host family; also, many colleges and universities have these kinds of exchange programs too. However, you must consider a few things before doing it.
In this article, we will tell you more about the requirements and tips you should know when hosting an international student.
What is a foreign exchange student program?
According to The Power of International Education website, in the 2018/19 academic year, the United States received 1,095,299 foreign exchange students; this represents an increase of 0.05% compared to last year.
It is well known that this country is a very requested destination for international students, due to the education quality, diverse culture, and labor market.
They come here through exchange programs, and their stay will depend on the purpose of it; it could be a week course, a semester, a year, or even 4-5 years until graduation.
Also, some of the students can live by themselves, some live on university campuses, and others stay with host families.
If you are interested in being a host, keep reading.
Requirements to host an exchange student
For people abroad, the idea of a traditional American family is: one husband, one wife, two children, and a dog. However, we all know that is not the case.
In most exchange programs, there is not a specific model of family to host a student, so do not worry about that. They will mainly focus on your capability to provide a safe environment (in all senses).
Requirements may vary depending on the program, but the basic things you need to provide are:
- A private bedroom (including a bed, a closet, and a desk).
- A bathroom (which can be private or shared).
- If you have an internet connection, that is a plus!
- Transportation (to school and other places in your city. In case there is public transportation, you must teach him/her how to use it).
- 2-3 meals per day.
- A laundry facility.
Another thing regarding the members of the family is that all adults will have to provide a background criminal check.
How to become a host family
There are some things you should consider before deciding to be a host family, such as:
- How long are you capable of hosting a student? The duration may vary depending on the program; as we said before, it can be from one week up to 4 years.
- What type of student do you want to host? Female or male, attending high school or university? Choose what is best for other members of the family too, so that everyone can be involved in the experience.
- Check the family routine. All of you will spend time with the student, so make sure that you can make some space.
Find an agency
Many agencies across the country are constantly receiving exchange students (from the government, private, nonprofit, etc.). Some of the most reputable are:
- Youth Exchange Programs (from the US Department of State): https://eca.state.gov/youth-programs.
- ASSE International Student Exchange Programs: https://asse.com/home.
- AmeriStudent: https://ameristudent.com/host-families.
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Apply to a program
On the other hand, after you select the agency, you also need to choose the type of program. The two most common are:
- Exchange program: Students focus on learning about the American culture more than studying. They receive a J-1 visa, and the duration is from one week up to 12 months (maximum). Generally, the family does not get paid for the hosting.
- Study Abroad Program: Students focus on their studies, whether it is for high school, college, university, etc. They receive an F-1 visa, and the duration is based on the length of the study course. In this type of program, the agency might provide a monthly stipend to the family to help with the student’s expenses.
Note that the application process (including the documentation, interviews, and induction programs) is different in every agency.
Pros and cons of being a host family
- New culture: You will get to know someone new with a different lifestyle; it is a refreshing way to learn another culture without leaving the country.
- Networking: When the student returns to his/her country, you will have a close friend abroad, and maybe you can travel there one day.
- Family bond: Your family will get more united when showing your lifestyle –and the American culture- to the student, and of course, you will create amazing memories together.
- Expenses: Having another member in your family involves more money. Some programs will cover the student’s expenses, but some others will not give anything. You need to make sure about this topic with the institution in which you are applying; then, check your budget and see if you are capable of receiving someone else in your home.
- Cultural shock: Some students get a cultural shock when they arrive. This can happen because they miss their families and friends; they do not understand the language; their routine is way too different, among other things. So you have to be prepared to understand and be empathic in a situation like this.
- Relationship: Getting to know another person is easy most of the time, but with such different cultures, it can be difficult to understand things about the student’s personality and way of living. This experience requires patience and an open mind.