From the outside looking in, a family’s decision to host an exchange student may seem like a logistical mystery. Most families in our culture would say they feel busy, or at the very least “full,” with their own schedules and their own children… so what on earth motivates them to add yet another person to the mix? Host families say “yes” to room and board, “yes” to extra trips in the car, “yes” to misunderstandings, homesickness, adjustment. They say “yes” to an extra teen who eats all the cereal, “yes” to a boy who forgets to take out the trash, “yes” to a girl taking an impossibly long time in the bathroom to primp for a dance.
Perhaps the answer lies in all the OTHER things a host family says “yes” to. All those “things” which aren’t things, but which are priceless none-the-less:
“Yes” to relationship
“Yes” to connection
“Yes” to purpose, meaning, and service
“Yes” to cultural awareness
“Yes” to inspiration for their children
“Yes” to broadening horizons
“Yes” to lifelong family in another country
“Yes” to an open door
“Yes” to seeing everything with fresh eyes
“Yes” to forever memories
“Yes” to hilarious moments
“Yes” to heartfelt gratitude
And the list could go on and on (and on…)
Every year, we hear stories of host families who feel they’ve gained the world by hosting.
Often, it’s the small, insignificant every-day details of daily life that grip them by the heart and won’t let go. Chuckling at his first English joke. Watching as proud parents at her first soccer game. Smiling in delight when he sees his first snow-fall. Teasing around the dinner table.
“We are better people because of the time with our student in our family. If you like kids, consider hosting. You’re making a difference in someone’s life. Just be warned – they’re going to get under your skin and attached to your heartstrings.” – Host Mom Kelly Feulner
These are the things that parents of our past students say will stay with them always.
These are the things that prompt so many to jump in and do it again.
And these are the things that you won’t possibly see from the outside looking in… but mark my words, they’re there, and they’re the unstoppable, powerful, life-changing force behind this work we do call student exchange.
If you’re considering hosting, I’d encourage you to look deep enough to see what’s really happening in these special relationships. I’d encourage you to ask yourself if you’re ready to say “yes” to that list above… and if so, I’d encourage you to JUMP IN. You’ll make an enormous difference in a student’s life, and you might just find YOUR life will never be the same again.
Ready for a story of your own? Join us at IE-USA.org.