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7 top reasons to host an international exchange student

Updated on April 21, 2013
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Host An International Student!

Inviting a foreign exchange student to spend the year with your family is quite a large decision to make. Of course, there are experiences that produce good and bad stories, however most families have experienced good times during hosting an international student. It's not all fun times: after all, you are inviting another child to join your family for the year, however often families find the benefits outweigh some of the misgivings of hosting. I remember the first time my family hosted a foreign exchange student, I was in high school and I was so excited standing at the airport arrivals gate with my homemade sign that stated the students name and the word “welcome” in big sparkly letters.

Beneficial Reasons To Host

The following is a list of the most beneficial reasons to explore the possibility of hosting an international student.

  1. Learning about a different culture- all the students that come to the United States are hoping not just to learn about the American culture but also to share their culture. Everything from how the student and their family celebrates holidays to the kinds of foods they eat the student is ready and excited to share the traditional and modern points of their culture. They often bring books and brochures about the city that they live in and feel very proud to share their culture.
  2. Sharing the American culture- As host parents or siblings, sharing the American culture is an important part of the international students’ stay in the United States. For me, my favorite part is sharing all the traditions around the various American holidays. During Christmas one year one of the students dumped all of the candy out of her stocking and stuck the stocking on her foot. We all had a good laugh and made a memory that neither of us would forget! For a lot of international students the American high school experience is quite different and sharing little nuances around what to do in school and what not to do it is another part of sharing the American culture.
  3. Connecting your children with another child from a different country- one of the largest reasons that most families host is to connect their children with another child from a different country. This is a great way for your child to learn about different cultures firsthand without having to travel the world. It also makes for long lasting relationships and connections to other countries. I also believe that having your own children around the foreign exchange student that you are hosting makes adjusting to the American culture a little easier for that student.
  4. Re-experiencing local attractions- part of hosting a student is introducing them to your state’s attractions and sightseeing spots. With the invention of Facebook, the students like to take pictures of places that they have been and share it with their friends back home. This is a great opportunity to revisit places of interest that maybe you have visited before, but have not in a while or that you have never visited because you have not had the time.
  5. Befriending like-minded individuals- for host parents, one of the benefits of hosting an international student is making connections and befriending other adults (host parents) that share the same interests as you. This is a great way to make friends and share experiences of hosting and another opportunity to connect your children with possible new friends.
  6. Tax credit- although all hosts families are volunteer and the families are not paid for hosting international students, there is a tax credit available for families of host students. Typically, families are able to claim $50 per student per month that they are living with you.
  7. Creating memories- one of the best parts about hosting an international student is creating memories that will last a lifetime. I have so good many memories of hosting students. It is sad when you have to put them back on the plane and send them home. I would guess having been both a host sibling and parent that fond memories are shared between all hosts families and their students.

It is important to go into hosting with an open mind and a flexible attitude. Be sure to explore many agencies before choosing the one your family wants to work with. The US government regulates international student programs much better than they used to, however it is important to feel secure and comfortable with the agency that your family selects. Having good access to support from the agency is key. With the benefits list above in mind, hosting an international student can be an experience that families will always remember and your children will make connections/friends for a lifetime.

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