Top 10 Questions About Hosting

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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
  10. Where do I sign up?

For additional information, please contact

To become a host family today, complete our free application here:

To meet our 2020-21 students, visit our photo listing site here:

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Top 8 Foods for a Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving is a special day to spend time with family, and to remember to be thankful for what we have. But Thanksgiving is also a time to eat… a lot!

A great way for international exchange students to experience American culture is through eating! Let’s keep things traditional with our top 8 food for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

1. Turkey

2. Stuffing/Dressing

3. Cranberry Sauce

4. Mashed Potatoes

5. Green Bean Casserole

6. Candied Yams

7. Pecan Pie

8. Pumpkin Pie

We encourage all of our students to try some new foods this holiday season!


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A Time to be Thankful!

The Best Ways to Spend November as a Host Family

With the holiday season around the corner, many of us have a big turkey dinner and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on our minds. Because Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday, I encourage those hosting an international student to take the opportunity to share some of your own traditions!

Here are some fun and uniquely American activities and events to participate in as a family this November:

1. Participate in a Turkey Trot.

The average American consumes between 3000 and 4500 calories during their family thanksgiving meal gatherings. Therefore, in preparation for the big day, many people participate in the tradition of running a turkey trot race. This race takes place in various locations all over America and range in distance from a 5k race to a full marathon. While some take place the day before or the morning of Thanksgiving, many take place a few days before and function as charities to help feed families in need. Beloved turkey mascot costumes are not required, but are often encouraged to be worn while running the festive race!

2. Take a Brisk Autumn Hike.

Nothing beats hiking on a trail in the woods with the crisp air surrounding you and the leaves crunching under your shoes. Enjoy some outdoor time with the family.

3. Volunteer in Your Community.

While November is a time of giving thanks, many Americans see this season as an opportunity to give back. Whether it’s serving food at a soup kitchen, volunteering at a food bank, walking dogs at an animal shelter or participating in a trash pick up in your town, this is an amazing way to lend a helping hand and gain a sense of community.

4. Go to a College Football Game.

The game, the screaming fans and the fall breeze make for a fun time to bond over your favorite team!

5. Create a “Things to be Thankful for” Chalk Board:

Hang a chalk board in your kitchen or living room. Everyday in November write a new thing you are thankful for!

6. Celebrate Native American Heritage month.

In 1990, November was declared National Native American Heritage Month. Learn a little more about American history by visiting a local museum! Visit the official Native American Heritage Month website to find exhibitions in your area that pay tribute to the history and culture of Native Americans.

7. Roast Marshmallows.

Get out those old wire hangers and have some friends over to roast marshmallows over a fire and argue about if the burnt marshmallows are the best or worst thing in the world. Oh and don’t forget the chocolate and graham crackers.

8. Eat and be Thankful!

Last but not least, enjoy thanksgiving day with your family and close friends, stuff your face with dressing, cranberry sauce and pie and share what you are thankful for!

We wish all of our Children of All Nations/ Student Ambassador Exchange family a very happy Thanksgiving! If you would like to share your stories, experiences and photos with us from the fall season, please send them to

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