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My Hosting Horror Story

Updated on May 3, 2014


If you've ever had a thought on hosting an exchange student or ever thought of sending your teenager abroad then you've probably heard horror stories. If you read my hub Tips On Choosing An Exchange Student or 5 Reasons You Should Find the Money to Send Your Teenager to Study Abroad then you know I'm for hosting and sending teenagers abroad. Of course there are times when these things go wrong. To be honest when things went wrong with this program it didn't do well. I shall begin.

It Was My Idea

8th grade was ending and I knew I didn't want to go to high school alone at a "sort of" new school. (That's a long story. My family lived in the town when I was in 1st grade and since it's a small town I still knew a few people there but I had never been to the high school.) After thinking about long and hard, I thought of the idea of my family hosting an exchange student.

It could have worked. Sure, my sister was now back from graduating from college but my brother was now away so his room would be empty. He never had much stuff anyway so it would be easy for someone to "move in" for a school year.

The Program and The Local Coordinator

I was sure I found a good program. They bragged they placed 100,000 students a year in the USA (something I tell people to look out for in my tips). There were many people saying how much hosting a student influenced their lives and how much they loved it and how great it was for everyone. It sounded great.

Nicki, my then local coordinator, contacted me right away. I live sort of in the middle of Maine but she lived in northern New Hampshire (another thing I tell you to look out for in my tips). Local coordinators are supposed to be local not several hundred miles away. Over e-mail she seemed nice and eager to speak with my family. We never met in person but had an interview over Skype and communicated through e-mails and phone calls.

Choosing a Student Before We Signed Up

I was looking through their student profiles and I found the "perfect student" from Sweden (a country I love so much!) for my family. My parents agreed after reading her profile. Because we hadn't signed up yet when we chose her we couldn't see too much of her profile or any pictures.

Once I signed my family up, I saw her pictures. I thought for sure her punk rocker look with black spiky hair and black eye-liner wouldn't fit in well in my conservative family. I decided not to judge on looks since her profile personality fit in so well with my family (another thing I warn you about in my tips).

The House and Our Move

As I said I was going to a new high school, in a different state than what I was living in, in 8th grade. Long story short we were renting out our house in Maine but the tenants trashed it before they left. They stole the wifi connectivity, left trash everywhere, and put head sized holes through walls (in the room our exchange student was going to sleep in!). It was a mess.

It was too late now. We had already signed up. The student knew they were coming to live with us. It would have been cruel to back out right then.

Before she showed we cleaned up the house the best we could (which was a lot, even after all our copper pipes were stolen). The exchange student's room was painted and cleaned up first. There were still some problems but it looked like she could actually live in there without it looking like a dump.

Never a Smile to be Seen

It took a while to get our Internet and phone hooked up. She arrived while we were still doing that. Every day my dad was picking up trash in the yard and in the house and taking it to the dump. So if she noticed how gross it looked she saw us cleaning it up. She knew we didn't enjoy living like that.

She came on August 22nd (2012) and the whole month she was here she never really smiled or got excited about anything. She almost never talked to me in school, (me as a freshman and her as a junior was kind of hard to see each other) and I never saw her talking to anyone else. I just thought this was a "Swedish thing" since I have heard us Americans can be over expressive I thought maybe it was normal in other countries to not be excited about anything.

The Phone Call from Nicki

Nicki called and wanted to talk to our student one day. She just happened to be out on a walk (alone, without me) so I told her to call back later.

We arranged for Nicki to come up on September 20th (2012) to meet our student in person and talk to her about how things were going with my family, the school, so on. I didn't think this was too out of the ordinary since local coordinators are supposed to at least call once a month to talk to the student about how things are. Although remember, Nicki lives several hours away by car, about 3-4 to be exact.


When Nicki pulled into the driveway, my dad noticed how brand new the car was. It was a 2012 Volvo, expensive car. She also came in with an infant who stayed calm the whole time she was in my family's home. She had also bragged about living on a ranch and owning many horses and having lots of time to go skiing and snowmobiling frequently. She asked to speak with our student alone first, so my dad made everyone stand outside in the cold fall air.

Minutes later she talked to my dad alone. I snuck inside during this time and went upstairs to the student's room (I say snuck lightly as I told my dad later and he said he didn't hear me at all, and I know I was kind of loud). I knocked on the door and asked to come in while opening the door. Our student had her bag out on the floor and was putting things into it. She told me she wanted to be alone so I left, and felt a little weird knowing she still had many months of living with us before she was going to leave...

My dad came out on the porch to get me and said our student was leaving right then and there. Apparently she had been having some problems here and Nicki was going to take her home for a while and figure out what the problems were. She said she would call maybe next Monday or Tuesday to tell us if she was going to come back. That call never came.

What went wrong?

For days I wondered what went wrong. Was it the house? That would have been a good reason. I would understand why no one would want to live in a home where we were still picking up trash from the previous tenants. Was it the school? She did live in a larger town with a bigger school, maybe it was too small or not challenging enough.

My dad discovered she left her journal behind. And a week after she left we still had no answers, no reasons for why she left. Yes I understand what I'm about to write isn't very moral or right at all. We read it. I wouldn't suggest anyone else do this but again we had no answers. What if we wanted to host again someday? We had no idea what we did wrong in order for our student to feel uncomfortable enough to leave without saying goodbye.

It was in Swedish. I didn't and still don't know enough to have read it completely and understood it. Thanks to google translate we found out. It was my parents drinking. They drink alcohol quite frequently, but nothing bad happens when this happens. They don't party out of control. They don't drive. They don't stay up all night and keep everyone up. They just drink, and then go to bed at reasonable hour.

Another thing she did wrong...

She stole the school's laptop that was assigned to her. She took it to New Hampshire with her when she left which isn't allowed in the school's policy.

We mailed her journal back. There was no need to keep it so why bother? We did get a call from Nicki demanding it, and the 250 dollars our student put in the bank up here. The school eventually got their laptop back (thank goodness too because we were not paying the 1,200 bucks for it to get replaced!).

Ending Statements

Don't let my family's bad experience stop you from hosting. Learn from it. What did we do wrong? What didn't we research? How could we have picked a different student? Try to keep these and my other tips in mind when choosing an exchange student and program.


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    • Katiadejuan profile image

      Katia De Juan 3 years ago from London, UK

      I'm sorry to hear you experience went bad. You are right it is very important to research a bit more about the student you are hosting, but even after having don your research correctly, the things can't be perfect. A friend of mine also hosted a French student for 2 weeks, and the girl never talked to anyone while she was there. They live in norther Spain, near a natural reserve, so they went with her for an excursion to the mountains, they took her to the cinema... to many places, and the only words that the girl say during her stay were "good morning", and "good night", and all she did at school was to take pictures of her with thee rest of the boys and not to talk never with my daughter's friend. I have always read wonderful stories about people hosting foreign students, so I guess that their and your bad experiences are not the rule. Hope next time you host a new student you can enjoy it. :)

    • CyberShelley profile image

      Shelley Watson 3 years ago

      I too am sorry about your bad experience - wow, she was really just plain rude and ungracious. Up, interesting and useful

    • profile image

      Alexander 2 years ago

      How wonderful that you are coiidnersng opening your home to someone! I am a 5-time host mom and volunteer with Youth For Understanding (YFU). I will not pretend that YFU is the only good exchange program around, but we have had a very good experience with it. The first student we hosted was with another program (that no longer exists) and we learned a few things during that time. We then moved out of State (twice) and so had a decade gap in hosting. After we got into the position to host again, we called our school to see if they had any recommendations they didn't and then did a little research. We started by calling agencies listed with the Council for Standards on International Educational Travel ( They routinely audit programs for quality. One of the most important parts of an exchange organization is their local representative. As we live in Wyoming, many did not have one (nor seemed to care that one was needed). In the end, we ended up with YFU. I would highly recommend them. Yes, I am a volunteer for them, but I only became a volunteer after we'd hosted for 3 years. My time is very precious to me and so I won't waste it on things I don't feel passionately about. (Full disclosure: in the little over 1 year that I've been a volunteer, I've gotten a $15 gift card to a local restaurant, a YFU Tshirt, and a YFU sweatshirt. So I have gotten things of financial value, but I am certainly not paid.)I've put links below that you can use to get more information. You can also email me.Financially speaking, all the host families are required to provide are room (a bed to sleep in (either in a personal room or a shared room with a host sibling of the same sex), a place to put some personal belongings (clothes ), and (of course) access to a bathroom (can be shared)) and board (3 meals a day (our kids are accustomed to making their own breakfast, getting cash in the amount of slightly more than school lunch, and then eating whatever my husband and I eat for supper), basic utilities (hot water, electricity)). The student must also have a way to get to school if you are reasonably close to school, they can walk, bicycle, rollerblade, whatever. If you're not, they can ride the school bus, ride with you on your way to work (what our kids do the school is literally on my way), ride with friends, etc. Many kids in our region take the school bus until they find friends to ride with. The rule of thumb' when deciding who pays for what is: if it's a family activity, the family pays (for example, if the family decide to go to a movie, they pay); if it's something the student wants to do, the student pays (examples: if the student wants a new pair of jeans, if the student wants a haircut, if the student needs soccer shoes in order to join the school team, etc.).I hope this information helps. Feel free to email me. I hope you find a program that works for you!

    • profile image

      Visual 2 years ago

      we just hosted a student from Germany. It was a learning experience. He is staying with another family. We really tried to work it out! Sure is a eye opener. My son lost some really good friends during the 9 wks he stayed with us. It's hard for these students to live in the American culture. They are more free in their own country, do what they want. These students want to be wined and dined. He didn't want to have a American education but be on a permanent vacation!

    • profile image

      In the Middle now 6 months ago

      I had two exchange students like Visual's German student. They only wanted expensive food, and could not believe we ate at home for every meal. On top of that, after criticizing American schools they both were failing. After laughing in my face when enforcing a grounding, I decided I had had enough. Both are now on their way to another home locally. Unfortunately, even though there are rules for the kids to follow, there are not true consequences. And unfortunately they can deny all of their bad behavior, even though much was described by multiple people and all consistent.

      The program I was involved in caters to well off families because it costs so much to get into the program. This saddens me, as these families can buy their children into the program, and bail them out whenever they get into trouble.

    • greeneyedblondie profile image

      greeneyedblondie 6 months ago

      I definitely thought that my first time hosting an exchange student. I was like, "This program costs so much money, only the wealthy can afford it and these kids aren't well disciplined and don't want to live my middle-class life."

      I suggest getting a grant student, YES and FLEX tend to do that, those kids are grateful to be an exchange student because without those grants they'd still be in their own country!

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      windsantz 5 months ago

      We hosted our first exchange student for the 2014-2015 exchange year. I could not have asked for a better student. She was a dream student. She did come from a very well to do family. But, she and her family are very grounded. We had the chance to meet her family when they came at the end of her stay to take her to Mexico before returning home. She will be coming to visit us next year when she graduates. So we decided to host again for the 2015-2016 school year. Boy was it a nightmare. Within the 2nd week with us she did not want to obey rules and would argue every time she did not get her way. She could not understand why we are so strict about what our kids do and where and who with. The arguing took a toll on our family. Even with this going on, one of the other exchange students in our area with the same foundation was removed from her host family and we agreed to take her in. This just added to the stress in the house as they started ended up not getting along very well. The first student continued to argue with me and break rules, I was reporting this to our Regional Coordinator who was different than the one we had the first time hosting and nothing ever came of it. The second student did not want to come out of her room if the first student was around. After months of trying to make it work, we find out that our Regional Coordinator was helping our first student break a rule and told her not to tell us so we didn't get mad. This was the last straw, while talking about this with my student she just rolled her eyes and said what ever. We had her removed from our house that weekend. The Exchange company decided to take the other student out of our house also. This turned out to be a good thing because we needed to get calm back in our family and life.

      We are taking this school year off to decide if we want to do this again, as we know it can be a wonderful experience. We will be with a new company. I have already reviewed one and read lots of comments about them and explained to them what happened previously.

      We still are in the talking it out phase, excited that we will be able to have another chance at making a kids dream come true, and scared at the same time that we will have another nightmare in our home.

      If any of you have had a bad experience but continued to host. I would love to hear why you continued to host.

    • greeneyedblondie profile image

      greeneyedblondie 5 months ago

      Yeah, so like your family we took a year off too. I wanted to host again but my parents weren't having it. Then I found a completely different organization where the coordinator lived in the same town rather than the next state over. It took some talking to but my parents finally agreed to try again.

      We hosted 8 more exchange students after that (6 who were here for a few weeks and 2 year long). My reason for hosting never changed, to learn about a culture and teach my own at the same time.

      Try a student from another part of the world as well. I lived in the middle of nowhere at the time this was taking place so we noticed the girls we hosted didn't really like the woods that much. We hosted a boy instead and he loved living with us. Your story might be different. Taking 2 year long students at the same time might be a bit too much for trying out--warn the company with that. Good luck.

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      lillethcent 2 months ago

      I am currently hosting a student who's family is loaded. I have a modest 2 bedroom home which I proudly own outright. She hates it here. She has hated it since day one. She has made it miserable for me to be in my home. I would not recommend hosting to anyone. I went into it with the best intentions and even took her on an expensive vacation but there is nothing I can do to make her happy. best of luck

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