Why host an exchange student? Our tight-knit band of cultural adventurers agree – when they opened their homes to host, they GAINED so much more than they gave.
Are you ready for a life-changing adventure, right in your own living room? Consider these 10 reasons why hosting an exchange student may just be the very best decision you ever make:
1) Gain a new family member
Sound too good to be true? It isn’t! So many of our host parents say they truly feel like they have a new son or daughter, and a bond that will last a lifetime. For many, it’s like adopting an international teen for a year… then enjoying a close connection with their “international in-laws” ever after.
“From the day Javier arrived, it has been an amazing experience! Our relationship has grown so close, it does seem like he is a member of our family. We have shared so many experiences, some wonderfully positive and some that have been learning experiences. Every experience has made the bond between us stronger. His mother has told us on several occasions that we have a Spanish son for the rest of our lives, and we expect that to be true.” – Lynn from Michigan
2) Cultivate life-long friendships
Exchange is an open door to a lifetime of connection… with your student, their family, and their world across the sea. When you open that door you just may find friendships taking you places you never imagined.
“We’ve visited several of our students in their home countries. But to me those trips aren’t about just being a tourist. It’s more like going to see a family member.” – Ranelle from Colorado
3) Learn about the world from a new perspective
Have you ever thought about how much our own cultural perspective shapes our view of the world? Exchange students help us see through new eyes. What an extra special gift to children, who are just learning how to make sense of the world around them. When they learn to love someone different from themselves and to see through their eyes, they become empowered to see the world in a new way.
“Through my education and teaching people with different cultures and ways of thinking, I saw the influence of my own culture for the first time. I realized experiencing ‘differences’ were opportunities to learn and I wanted to surround myself with them.” – Susan from Indiana
4) Energize your daily routine
Want laughs? Host an exchange student. Want to find adventures in the small things? Host an exchange student. Want to see your mundane “normal” through fresh eyes, to celebrate the mediocre, to engage your life in a new way? HOST AN EXCHANGE STUDENT!
“We were surprised to find how much we loved sharing our daily lives with a student, and it made us appreciate the little things so much more!” – Dan from Michigan
5) Give a gift to your family, community, and the world
Consider this. An exchange student who spends a school year in the United States is going to be changed forever. They will grow in confidence, resilience, social and emotional empathy, and communication, just to name a few. When you host, the gift you give that one curious international teen is beyond priceless. It will literally change the course of their future.
But what about the course of your family’s future? What about your community? What about this giant world we share? Hosting an exchange student is one of those grass-roots endeavors that fosters connection and understanding that can create a ripple-effect of good in the world. It brings people together. It closes the cultural gap. It creates an environment in which our children, teachers, classmates, and neighbors learn to see differently. And when we truly see one another, amazing things can happen. And it happens brick-by-brick, one meaningful relationship at at time.
“Bringing exchange students into the school adds perspective to the classroom. I wish more of our kids could go on exchange themselves, but for most that’s just not an option right now. The only way they can get exposure to the world and develop global awareness is to have people from different countries come to them. In my classroom, we talk about global issues, like global warming. I tell my students that these issues effect the whole world, so they require a different perspective. And when students learn alongside international students, they start thinking about the world differently.” – Texas Dean of Students Erik Ostergren
6) Improve your communication skills & learn a new language
How do you say “thank you very much” in Thai? What’s the best way to give a compliment in German? Find out, and have so much fun doing it!
“We often compared our different cultures and continents. We would pick a word and learn it in German, Chinese, Spanish & French. We all cooked for each other, learning about the different foods.” – Kreena from Illinois
7) Connect with people in your community
Your local exchange coordinator. Other host families. Your student’s choir teacher, school friends, soccer coach. The great thing about hosting an exchange student is “it takes a village,” and so many families love finding new friendships in the process.
“We knew we’d have fun with our exchange student, but we didn’t expect to have so much fun getting to know the other host families! What a blast!” – Jennifer from Georgia
8) Rediscover local attractions
If you had a visitor from Germany coming next week to enjoy YOUR town, what would you want to show them? Many host families find that they relish the opportunity to show off local culture and history, from picking apples to ice skating to civic theater in the park… their “sleepy normal life” takes on new excitement when an exchange student is in the mix!
“We loved showing our students around. Even “normal” places like Taco Bell were exciting to them, and they would say “cool, that’s just so American!” It was hilarious, and made us all realize we really are sitting amidst a million fun things to do, if we put on new eyes to see them!” – Ann from Indiana
9) Develop & understand international perspectives
What better way to learn to see differently than by engaging with someone who SEES DIFFERENTLY. When we turn off the news, put away our Facebook feeds, and sit across the table from someone who’s lived a whole life in a culture different from ours, amazing things can happen.
“We learn the most when we experience things out of our comfort zone,” shares Susan. “Taking risks to help others experience their dreams is a rewarding experience. Go for it! You’ve really got nothing to lose and you have everything to gain!” – Susan from Indiana
10) Give your younger kids an instant BEST show and tell ever
Did you know your younger kids may be the BEST reason to host an exchange student? Elementary age children adore their international “big brother” or “big sister,” and they will carry the lessons learned in empathy and understanding with them throughout their lifetime.
“I thought it would feel a little weird having someone other than family in our house all of the time, but it’s not weird at all. She feels like she really is part of our family.” – Emily, age 11
Are you ready to jump in? Check out iE-USA.org to connect and learn more.