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Welcoming Foreign Exchange Students into your Home

Updated on October 24, 2010

Becoming a Homestay Family to International Students - A great way to build new relationships!

If you have ever been curious about other cultures, an interesting way to learn about a particular country is to have someone who lives abroad come and stay with you for a while. Becoming a homestay family for foreign students is a wonderful experience that usually lasts anywhere from a few weeks to the entire school year and can develop into a lifelong friendship! My family and I really enjoyed welcoming students from around the world into our home and have a lot of lasting memories to share.


Foreign Student exchange- A great learning experience

As much as our students learned from us, we learned from them

Several years ago, my husband and I decided to welcome foreign students into our home so that our children would be exposed to different cultures. During a five year period, over 30 students and teachers from 7 different countries, namely Germany, China, Japan, Austria, Spain, Finland and Brazil lived in our home during the time they spent in Canada.

Our first guest, Nathalie, a 17 year old girl from Hamburg, Germany came to live with us for the entire school year. She was attending Alexander Von Humboldt, an international German school that is present not only in Canada, but in many other foreign countires around the world. At first,Nathalie was a bit shy with us due to her difficulty in speaking english. We made her feel at ease and before too long she was able to communicate with us very well. I remember the first time she took a shower, she kept turning it on and off. I asked her why she did that and she told me that in her country they were very conscious about water conservation. I told her that in here in Canada, rationing water was not a major concern. Thinking back about this now, I see that she had a point.

Another thing I learned is that we have certain things in which we take for granted. For example every time a new student would see me using a can opener, they would watch with such amazement. Some of them had never seen one before and were quite surprised that such a tool existed!


Cultural Exchanges - Many differences but many similarities

The language may be different but we all want the same thing

One of our most memorable experiences was the summer of 2004 when we welcomed 2 young teachers from Beijing China to live with us for 5 weeks. At the same time we received a Japanese boy and a girl from Germany. Every evening, when we all sat down together at the dinner table I used to make everyone recount the things they did that day. Some of them were of course, more intimidated than others depending on their fluency in english. Eventually, everyone felt more comfortable and had lots of interesting stories to share!

One night the two Chinese teachers, whose english names were Jackie and Lucky, decided that they were going to make dinner for all of us which meant a total of 15 people. With the help of two other male teachers, they prepared a feast of authentic Chinese food, everything from homemade dumplings to various stir fried vegetable dishes served with chicken, beef, pork and tofu. And of course what would a Chinese meal be without chopsticks! Over the years many of the other students, especially those from the Far East enjoyed turning the tables around and prepared their traditional dishes for us. Asian cuisine as we know it in North America is different from that served in the Far East. The vegetables and meat are sauteed in a little bit of oil and the meat is not breaded and deep fried like it is here. Almost everything is served with white rice or noodles with no fat added and little if any salt, making it much healthier.


Foreign Exchange Students have many hidden talents!

And they love to show them off!

The students from Japan would always put on a show for the homestay families at the end of their stay. The variety shows displayed everything from martial arts, to singing typical Japanese songs, to teaching Japanese calligraphy and origami. It was always a pleasure participating in these events as we learned so much!

Amazon has Great Kits on the Subject of Learning Origami - Impress your Japanese Homestay Students!

Origami is the art of paper folding. "ori" means folding and "gami" means paper. With a little practice you or your kids can become experts at this beautiful Japanese art.

How to Become a Homestay Family for Foreign Exchange Students

You can Host Students for Free or for a Weekly/Monthly Stipend

Since our children are older now, we no longer house students but would definitely recommend it to anyone . That is, if you don't mind the invasion of privacy for a little while and to having to prepare meals more often because these kids sure can eat! Listed below is some information if you are interested in applying to be a homestay family.

Start off by asking anyone you know if they have ever hosted a foreign student. The most obvious resources are family and friends. Check with your local school board. Many schools have student exchange programs for different lengths of time. You may want to start out with someone that is coming to study for only a couple of weeks. That will be a good way to test whether it is for you. Contact private language schools located in the downtown core of your city. They are always looking for host families. Another organization that has many exchange programs is EF Tours (which stands for Education First) You may have already seen students walking around your town wearing the blue and orange EF backpack.

Before the program organizers approve your application to become a host family, they will want to meet with you in your home to get acquainted and to do a background police check. In addition they will want to know a bit more about your interests so they can match you up with the right students.

Once the school board or organization approves your application they will contact you on a regular basis to place students in your home. Most programs do compensate the host families for room and board although some also look for volunteers.

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If you enjoy travelling, you now know someone who lives abroad. Your new found friends will be ecstatic to welcome you to their home if you decide to visit . In 2006 my family and I attended the World Cup Soccer tournament in Germany. We were well received by many of the families whose children had lived with us.

Or your city may be hosting a sporting and cultural event. Many times, the organizers look to place their participants into families who have similar interests. In our case we always accepted students who had a passion for sports especially soccer and tennis.


Friendship isn't a big thing - It's a million little things

Author Unknown

Participating in Student Exchange Programs - Is it for you?

Would you consider hosting a foreign exchange student?

Welcome to my home! - I would be happy to answer questions about becoming a homestay family

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    • sushilkin lm profile image

      sushilkin lm 

      7 years ago

      thanks for sharing

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      It's not serious, thank you all the same for the information, I would call up to inquire.

      Have a good day.

    • maplesyrup59 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      @anonymous: Hello Emeline, I don't know any families in London, but you can contact the local school board in that area and they may be able to help you!

    • profile image


      7 years ago


      I would like to know if you know host families in the center of London which foreign welcome of the students, in exchange for financial compensation, as well as for help to French?

      Because in May, I have a training course of planned has Camden center garden, but I do not still find an accommodation !

      Best regards

    • malloryjane profile image


      7 years ago

      This is a great lens, I love seeing & celebrating cultural differences and similarities! I'm just getting started out on Squidoo, but will be creating lenses on my current experience as an ESL teacher in China! I've also just got back from 10 months in Australia/NZ where I did some "help exchanges" - another GREAT way to host/stay with families! Take a look at my new lenses over the next week or so if you're interested!

    • PaulaMorgan profile image

      Paula Morgan 

      8 years ago from Sydney Australia

      It's good to let others know about hosting students.. an excellent way to break down cultural ignorance.. blessed by an angel

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      This is very nice. I like it!

    • VarietyWriter2 profile image


      8 years ago

      Thanks for sharing. Blessed by a SquidAngel :)


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