When students and host families think of studying abroad with ISE, thoughts of big cities, notable landmarks, and cultural icons often come to mind. New York City, the Grand Canyon, the “Hollywood” sign— people who live outside America expect to see the things that they have seen time and time again in movies and on television. The truth is that the majority of Americans do not live near places like this. At first, this might seem like an issue to families interested in hosting exchange students.
“Will there be enough to do?”
“Does my town have something special to offer?”
“Will an exchange student get the full American experience?”
These are common concerns held by potential host families living in small towns and rural areas across the country. The short answer is a resounding yes! Here are a few reasons why small towns are perfect for hosting exchange students.
Smaller classes, bigger education
Small or rural towns obviously have smaller populations. This means that there will be fewer students attending schools in the area. Fewer students mean teachers are not stretched as thin as they might be in a larger city. This is great news for exchange students, who are in a new place, learning in a language that they do not speak natively. Small town teachers are usually able to give specialized attention to the students who need it the most, resulting in improved academic performance.
Less competition, more playtime
Many exchange students come to the US with hopes of joining high school athletics. With fewer students, the opportunity to play sports also broadens. With less competition, the odds of making the cut as a newcomer are greater. Baseball and football are just two of the sports that are not extremely common outside of America, and the chance to be a part of a team is something exchange students will always remember.
Friends from the start
Adjusting to a new school in a new country can be intimidating for an exchange student. The transitional period is often much less overwhelming when entering a smaller school. It’s much easier to meet people, adjust, and make friends when the pond is a bit smaller. And the faster an exchange student feels at home in his or her new school, the better. Our exchange program is not just about witnessing a different culture, it’s about experiencing it firsthand!
A community close-up
As a part of ISE’s Project Help initiative, exchange students will participate in community service during their stay. This is always a fun and rewarding experience, but the effects of these services are often more easily felt and seen in smaller communities. The work that exchange students put into these projects often plays a direct role in improving some aspect of local life. This can give those involved a special sense of accomplishment!
Any family who has thought about these aspects of hosting an exchange student is already on the right track. It’s always important to take the exchange student’s experience into consideration. With that said, a small town is never a problem. In fact, in many cases, it is the best possible placement. Students placed in smaller communities come away with a unique, enriching experience that is not possible anywhere else. We hear time and time again that they would not have wanted to live anywhere else!