Study Abroad

Hosting an Exchange Student: The Basics

You don’t have necessarily travel out of the country to have an international experience for you and your family and learn more about the world and other cultures. Hosting an exchange student is a great way to bring another country and culture into your home, and there are many benefits to doing so.

Many people have thought about hosting an exchange student, but may not follow through with it for a variety of reasons. Perhaps they weren’t sure if it was right for them, or maybe they weren’t sure if they had the time or would be able to provide for another temporary member of the family.

If you can relate to any of these uncertainties, here’s a look at a few reasons why hosting a student is beneficial, as well as some of the typical hosting requirements to help you determine if it is right for you.

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Hosting an exchange student is beneficial

Why host an exchange student? If you know someone who’s hosted an exchange student before, you probably know it can be a positive and rewarding experience for members of a host family. In fact, many families end up hosting more than one exchange student over the years. Here are just a few of the many benefits of hosting:

Connecting your family to another culture – Having an exchange student live with your family is a great way to learn about the cultural practices and norms of another country and to broaden your cultural horizon. If you have children, this will give them a first-hand educational source when it comes to learning about another part of the world.

The chance to share your own culture – While hosting an exchange student, you’re providing an opportunity for a student from overseas to learn about American life and culture.

Create a lifelong international relationship – After having an exchange student live with and become a part of your family, it can be very rewarding to remain in contact over the years. You might even visit your former exchange student in his or her home country!

Help improve international relations – Hosting an exchange student is a great way to promote and increase cross-cultural understanding in your family, social circles, and community. Likewise, it’s a chance to impact positive perceptions and impressions of your own country abroad when your student returns home and shares their positive experience with friends and family.

What you’re required to provide

Many people who are interested in potentially hosting an exchange student aren’t sure about what exactly they need to be able to provide for the student in order to be an eligible host. So what’s required after all?

As a host family, you are typically required to provide for the exchange student:

  • A bed
  • A suitable area to study
  • Three meals per day
  • Transportation – It is ultimately the host family’s responsibility to make sure the student has a way to get to school and daily activities.
  • The chance to participate in family life and outings/events
  • Care and support for the student throughout their adjustment process and stay
  • A safe and secure home environment

What you’re not required to provide

One common misconception about hosting an exchange student is that as a host you are required to pay for everything. While you are required to provide for the student in ways listed above, here are a few financial aspects of the student’s expenses you are not required to fulfill:

  • Spending money or allowance – While families are required to provide three meals a day, exchange students come with their own spending money for outings, events, and personal expenses.
  • Exchange program fees and travel costs (to and from host country)
  • Medical insurance

You’ll be in good hands

When exchange students come to the U.S., they do so through one of the many international exchange organizations under direct compliance of the U.S. Department of State. These organizations go to great lengths to find good fits between students and host families, as well as provide support for host families prior to and throughout the duration of the student’s stay. Should any issue arise, you will have a go-to point of contact to help resolve the issue and find a solution.

Do you have additional questions about hosting an exchange student, or a personal experience with hosting you’d like to share with others? Feel free to post a comment below!

Photo credit: carolineCCB/Flickr

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The Author

Dave Harriman

Dave Harriman

Dave Harriman, SHRM-CP, has a background in human resources, anthropology, and international education. His experience teaching English abroad during a gap year as an undergraduate student in Spain ignited his passion and advocacy for student travel. As a human resources professional, Dave is interested in helping students prepare for future career growth, and for helping facilitate social & cultural inclusion in the workplace.

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