Top 10 Questions About Hosting Exchange Students
I get quite a few questions at this time of year about what are the expectations for a family looking to host a high school exchange student. This blog discusses our top ten most asked questions.
- How long is the typical exchange experience for students?
High school students coming to the U.S. to study come for one or two semesters; students generally arrive in August in time for school to start, and leave at the end of the semester (either at the end of the calendar year or towards the end of January, depending on the location) or at the end of the school year in May or June. Some students come for the second semester only.
- What makes a good host family? Host families are volunteers and represent the diversity of American culture with varied economic, religious and racial backgrounds. Many host families do not have children, while others have adult children who no longer live at home. Some have teens, some have young children. Host families undergo a screening process to make sure that they are suited for an exchange experience. To become a host family, one adult in the household must be at least 25 years old.
- What are the expectations for a host family?
Host families provide room, board, and a family environment. “Room” requires a bed, storage space, and a place somewhere in the home to study, but does not necessarily require a separate bedroom. “Board” requires three meals/day and reasonable snacks. “Family environment” means the student is a member of your family, not a guest! They go shopping with the family, they go to the farmers’ market with the family, and they go to Grandma’s for Thanksgiving with the family. And if they stay out past curfew, they can be grounded like any other teen member of the family.
- Are host families paid?
The U.S. government does not allow payments to host families. Host families are eligible to receive a charitable tax deduction on their U.S. federal tax return of $50/month for each month the student lives in the home.
- How expensive is it to host a student?
Host families are required to cover costs associated with at-home meals, any packed school lunches, transportation to reasonable social and extra-curricular activities, and shelter. Students bring their own pocket money to cover routine expenses including cell phone bills, school expenses, clothing and recreation such as trips to the movies. If the student travels with the host family, the student is expected to pay for any airfare or additional hotel costs, etc. Students are required to have their own medical insurance and pay for any medical expenses and insurance copayments.
- How are students selected?
Students must go through a screening process for motivation, character, grades, and proficiency in written and spoken English language skills. Student applications include a letter of recommendation, academic transcripts, an essay written in English, and short-answer questions about the student’s family life. Per U.S. Department of State regulations, students must be between the ages of 15 to 18 to take part in the one-semester or academic year program.
- How are students prepared for life in an American home?
Before traveling to the United States, students will attend orientation meetings to learn about living with a host family, cultural aspects of American life and practical advice and tips related to travel logistics. The exchange program will probably also provide students and their families with information on American customs and traditions. Another orientation occurs shortly after students arrive in the country. These connections help get your relationship started and help prepare the student for the lifestyle of his or her host family.
- Are families allowed to contact students before they arrive?
Once a placement has been finalized with all host family, student, and school authorizations signed and filed, the host family and student can contact one another so that they can establish a relationship before the student arrives in the United States. Contact can be occasional emails, telephone calls, or (more common in today’s world) by Skype or other online connections.
- What if it does not work out?
All approved exchange programs are required to have a support system for counseling and advice. As a host family, you should choose your program carefully; make sure you feel comfortable with the local coordinator or liaison, since it is likely that this is the person who will continue to be your primary advisor and contact point. If problems arise between the host family and student, the local coordinator should be available to provide support, with guidance from the program’s national office. Ask your coordinator tough questions: are they available evenings and weekends if you have a problem? What happens if the student or host family needs to call late at night with a significant problem? If it turns out that differences cannot be resolved, the coordinator should be able to help the student transition to a new home – not something people want to think about, but it’s important to know that help is available
- Where do I sign up?
For additional information, please contact email@example.com.
To become a host family today, complete our free application here:
To meet our 2020-21 students, visit our photo listing site here:
Keep your student engaged with these family-friendly activities.
1. Break out the board games or Make Your Own!
Scrabble, Monopoly, Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders…
2. E-visit the Louvre
Transport you and your family to Paris, France by taking a digital tour of one of the most famous international museums, the Louvre.
3. Take a virtual field trip to Yellowstone National Park
Virtually visit the Mud Volcano, Mammoth Hot Springs, and so much more with a digital field trip to Yellowstone.
4. Bake together
Cookies, cakes, brownies. Anything! Baking is a great lesson in measuring, ingredients, and of course, making delicious goodies.
5. Watch the beluga whales at the Georgia Aquarium
There’s a beluga whale webcam set up at the Georgia Aquarium, so you can see what your whale friends are up to at anytime.
6. For the comic lovers, introduce your student to the great American classic comic strip Little Nemo
7. The 7 Minute Workout app
Get some exercise with your student buy utilizing free online workouts
8. Broadway shows, 7-day free trial
9. Free classes in Art and Art History
10. 450 Ivy League free online classes
11. Free Art streaming till the end of April
12. Watch movies with other families and students virtually
Letsgaze.com and kast.gg let you watch movies together onlineRead More
Life changing experiences deserve a little acknowledgment and processing–and an exchange year is a life changing experience for everyone involved! As this year wraps up, set aside some time to talk with your student and family about the experience you’ve shared together. Steer away from focusing on the student leaving, which puts additional stress on the student; instead, focus on all the positive experiences you’ve shared this year. What a special and wonderful thing it is that you’ve developed a meaningful relationship that will last a lifetime.
Goodbye Advice from Experienced Host Families
- Help prepare the student for departure by assuring them that they will always have a home with them.
- Talk to them about their friends and family back in their home country and how great it will be to see them again.
- If you are having a “going away” party, do not plan until right before they leave. Otherwise you will spend weeks saying goodbye.
- Write a note to your student and give it to them when they leave for them to read when they get home. You can also make a scrapbook as a gift to remember all the fun experiences they had.
- Take a family picture on a special day, like prom day! Make a nice print; give one to the student and frame one for your home.
- Decide a simple family project, like making bracelets together. This will create a special memory and you will all have something to keep to remember.
- Plant a tree or flowering bush together. Take a picture and tell them when it blooms you will send them an update. It’s a great way to feel connected to each other.
Family Wrap Up Activities
- Rose, Thorn, Bud: Easy and quick- good for the dinner table or a car ride!As a group, go around and have each person identify and share their rose, bud, and thorn from the program.Rose: The highlight or best part of the program i.e. creating lifelong friendships, new activities, growth.Thorn: A challenge or something they struggled with i.e. the language barrier, the food, missing mom.Bud: Something to look forward to in the future! i.e. working on a new skill, reunions, next life step.
- Commendation Sheets: Medium effort, timeline depends on how many people are participating. Better with big group and room to move around!Materials Needed: Printer paper, writing utensils (markers are better), and a piece of tape for everyone participating.Everyone starts off with a writing utensil and a blank piece of paper taped to their back. As a group move around the room writing a commendation or something you admire about that person on each paper. At the end of the activity everyone should have written on everyone else’s paper, ending up with a full page of compliments from the group. These pages become keepsakes and reminders of what we are capable of!