Host Family Testimonials
Curious to learn more about what being a host family with ISE is like? Read International Student Exchange host family testimonials and reviews below.
Have you hosted an international student with ISE?
We would love for you to submit your own testimonial and share how our cultural exchange program impacted your life, family, and community!
Hosting a Student Will Change Your Life
“What an amazing experience we had with this young man, Jorge! I was nervous about hosting as this is something we had never done before but after about the first week or so it was like we had known him forever. There was definitely a learning curve but time went so fast! Too fast in fact. Before we knew it we were saying goodbye. Jorge was the same age and grade as our oldest son and they became fast friends. We will now be sending our son off to stay with his family for a month this summer! We will forever have family in Spain now!!! He has definitely become like one of our sons.” I cannot recommend it enough!
Incredibly Rewarding Experience!
“Being a host family has been an incredibly rewarding experience! We started in 2019 with Tommaso Maddalon who was a caring, smart, wonderful young man from Italy. He joined our family when our son was 15 and they became close early. We stayed in touch with Tommaso and his family and a few years later they asked if their son Jacopo could come spend a year with us. We readily agreed! It has been the very best experience with Jacopo. He has been such fun and full of interest in anything new.
We enjoyed him immensely and were so sad to see him go home! Our son and Jacopo are like brothers. We have been able to visit the Maddalon family in Italy and our son is visiting again this summer. We hope it will be a lifetime connection! I would highly recommend hosting an exchange student. It will enrich your lives and provide an international connection you will treasure forever.”
“Although I am in a puddle of tears because yesterday, we had to say goodbye to our exchange student, I am so happy that we decided to get one. The decision was scary, and we did it rather quickly, but sometimes in life it’s just meant to be. Our student was such a joy to have around in our home but also such a joy to our church family, friends and the local high school.
She thrived with everyone she was around. She brought out the best in so many people. We traveled and did so many things and she made it extra fun and special as she experienced all these new and exciting things. We bonded with her family and will always have this wonderful strong connection with them.
The hardest part about this decision was feeling like we were imperfect, and she would maybe see that. My advice would be that no family is perfect and to just be yourself. They aren’t here to experience a perfect family because it doesn’t exist, but to have a cultural experience. Your kids will behave better and your hearts will grow as you welcome a new family member into your home.”
2nd time is a charm…
“2nd time is a charm”…. Well not exactly. I guess that makes it sound like I have it all figured out… but truth is, no one does so don’t count yourself out of the ability to host an exchange student.
I don’t know what to say I expected vs what was reality … and what a heartfelt testimonial would look like after just sending off my bonus daughter back to her life in France. There are a lot of emotions floating around but I will try and put myself back a year ago when we decided to host again.
I know what I was worried about… I had little idea of what I was getting myself into. I had only one experience hosting prior with a young man who loved all things American, came from a non-traditional family, that sounded like could roll with the punches of our household and ended up the perfect fit for our family that put a bit of fun in dysfunctional. Not that we were a bad family…I like to think we were real… we had household struggles, we worked odd schedules, we yelled at our kids…. I was starting to realize I also had had a fear that I might have to encounter and manage when it came to having a female student… all the emotions of a teenage girl (only knowing what I went through in high-school)! I wasn’t sure I was ready to sign up for a year of it.
Would I have to worry all the things that tormented me as a teen…Turns out, I had nothing to worry about. These students have taken a giant leap to leave their home and everything they know stable to come, meet you and immerse themselves in your lives. They have a baseline maturity that took me years of college to find.
I know what I ended up finding… A really cool friend. I never thought I would bond with a 17-year-old like I did. I often am asked “what is it like” to host. I often described it as being the cool aunt/uncle. You care about their safety and general well-being because of your responsibility to family but you are not their parents, they were already raised by parents and you are not trying to replace that… but you get to enjoy the fun of hearing all the gossip at school, you don’t have to over analyze like a parent but relate to them like a friend with a general maturity of an adult who cares about them, and I think it is a gift to be a part of those moments.
I was gifted an insider’s view of what my children are going to see and experience in current day and age and gave me something to contemplate… how will I be as a parent when my girls they reach this same milestone in life. It is quite unique in itself, what they experience, what role you play, it gives me a bit of something to chew on in the great debate of “be their friend” or “be their parent” first. I feel like I was gifted with the trust of a teenager who also, I think, didn’t want to disappoint me (or risk doing something that would end their experience here!) who wanted to share because maybe they didn’t have anyone they felt they could 100% confide in their friend group, needed some advice or just a more mature interpretation of a situation. I definitely learned that listening was sometimes all they needed.
What I have to look forward to is a bit unknown and maybe where the emotions feel stronger sense of trepidation. This time was different. 4 years ago, we already had plans for our exchange student to come visit, he was very involved with his American friends and talked of coming back for summer breaks in the following years, which most likely would have happened had it not been for Covid, but all came to full fruition when he decided to come to America for college. He visited last year and we look forward to seeing him at the end of this summer on his way to his 2nd year of college.
So, I know it can happen. It doesn’t have to be goodbye. But you never know. And maybe that’s just the emotions talking, the bit of sadness that a piece of fabric you wove onto your heart had to be unstitched but left its mark on the fabric beneath. Maybe that’s what makes me worry it might be a bigger farewell… But as our Local Coordinator told us, you just have to believe you will.
I like to hold on to the idea she will come to visit, but she may not, we may have to go visit her and that’s okay, too, great actually, who doesn’t want to look forward to travel the world! We have a family member that lives in a different country and will welcome us when we get it together enough to get there. Whether it be next year or the next, it will someday happen. Nothing will take away that you were this kids safe space for 10 months of a very impressionable time of their lives. I hope she didn’t come with expectations and I hope we fulfilled some amazing memories. It is something she and we will never forget.”
My Family Keeps growing!
Hosting a foreign exchange student is one of the most rewarding things a family can do. I am beyond proud to have an Italian “son,” a German “son,” a Thai “daughter” and an Italian “daughter” added to my brood of 3 children. My 10 grandchildren love their aunts and uncles too!!
Learning about another country’s culture and ideas is the best way to bring this world closer together. I wouldn’t give up my experiences hosting students for all the money in the world. My “kids” are special to me! And I love going to their homes to visit!
A Piece of Our Heart Lives in Sweden.
“One year ago, we made the decision as a family to host an exchange student, in hopes to learn more about another culture. We were excited to show a student all the wonderful parts of living in California, and in America.
What we didn’t expect was for our hearts to grow to love someone who is now a permanent part of our family. We became a party of five when Alice from Sweden joined our family this past year. It was incredible to see big, beautiful sites like Yosemite and the Golden Gate bridge through Alice’s eyes, for the first time. We were excited to introduce her to all the great places to visit and all the great American things to eat near Roseville. But the real magic was in the little moments – doing taste tests of all the different flavors of Peeps, recapping Friday Night Lights in the Tiger Cage at Roseville High Football Games, family game nights, explaining American slang and idoms, and sharing Christmas traditions together.
The little moments are what make a family a family. Our family is forever a part of five now, and a piece of our heart lives halfway around the world in Sweden. A year with three teenagers in the house is chaotic and messy and challenging, but we wouldn’t change it for the world. Alice got to do all the American Teenage Things, taste lots of American foods, and see lots of American places. We got to gain a Swedish daughter that has reminded us that the world is big, and there is lots to explore, but it’s the little things that mean the most. Beginnings are scary, endings are sad, but the middle is the most important part, where the memories are made. Host an exchange student and make lots of memories, but be prepared for your hearts to forever be changed.”What an amazing adventure!
Compassion and Sharing Thanks to Becoming a Host Family
As a host family, I did not realize that true compassion could be achievable. I thought about a lot of “what if’s.” Instead, I experienced many firsts. First time ever sharing my home with someone in their teens, first time trying real authentic Brazilian food or Thai food. I learned that by sharing my home, everyone’s hearts grew. We had many laughs and tears. The joy of hosting a student is very indescribable. We can not wait until our next student arrives.
Our First Host Family Experience
Our family made the choice to host a foreign exchange student for the 2017-2018 school year. We completed all of the necessary documents, created a family profile and had a hard time picking out what student we would like to share our home with. We finally chose a wonderful young lady from Barcelona and, once approved, we made contact prior to her arrival. It was exciting having the opportunity to get to know her, her family, and her reasons for wanting to study abroad over Skype. It felt like forever as we waited for her to arrive. T
he last-minute prepping of our home, trying to ensure everything was just right, the purchasing of a welcome to our family gift, writing a rules and expectations book, and making a “Welcome” sign was so exciting. The anticipation of her arrival was palpable. Finally, the day arrived that she was flying in and we anxiously waited at the airport with butterflies in our tummies and smiles on our faces. When we finally saw her walking our way she was nervously grinning from ear to ear. Having had the opportunity to have several conversations with her before her arrival made it easy for us to quickly embrace her and try our hardest to not make her feel more nervous, awkward, and overwhelmed than she already did.
The first few days were a whirlwind of getting her sleep schedule adjusted, touring her new school, trying new foods and meeting classmates, family, and friends. As the days turned into weeks and then months and we really got to know her likes and dislikes and who she really was, we knew we wanted to make her stay with us as memorable as we possibly could. We exposed her to our culture by taking her to do fun things such as high school Friday night football, Reds baseball game, Cavs basketball game, Amish Country, Cedar Point Amusement Park, New York City for New Years Eve, and a trip to Cancun Mexico. While we did have boring days at home, we experienced getting to know our culture through her eyes. We were quickly reminded how much we take for granted.
Seeing our world through her and watching her eyes light up at simple things made this experience well worth it for our family. Our family got extremely close with our “bonus daughter” and we knew how much she cared when our biological daughter became deathly ill and was admitted into Children’s Hospital for 3 weeks on a ventilator. Our bonus daughter was amazing during this time and so helpful by being so strong. The bond you create with these young adults is amazing. They truly do become a part of your family, as if they were meant to be there from the beginning of time. In a few short weeks we will be putting our daughter on a plane to send her home to her family. It is a day that I’m sure will be emotional for us all and we will end her trip the way it started, with butterflies in our tummies and smiles (and tears) on our faces.
I have no doubt that we will always remain in contact with our bonus daughter and can only hope that as she heads home we provided her with memories to last a lifetime, as that is what I know she provided for our family.
Life-long Memories Through Hosting
We have hosted 4 times in the past 7 years, and each girl has been the best experience we could have hoped for. The last two girls came through ISE and, sadly, will be leaving us soon. They will be taking a piece of our hearts home with them! The experience is one that I wish for every family out there. These students brought joy and laughter into our home, and it truly feels like they are a part of our biological family. The most precious part of this experience is that we now have forever family all over the world whom we can visit at anytime.
These families have welcomed us with open arms and a grateful kindness that is too good to be true. We can’t speak highly enough about this program and all the good that comes from it. It has enriched us all and opened our eyes and hearts to new cultures, foods, languages, and love. We are forever grateful that these brave girls stepped out of their comfort zone and decided to live abroad in America. We are equally grateful that we decided to “give it a try” all those years ago and welcome these wonderful, smart, and loving girls into our life.
Becoming a Host Family Was a Life-Changing Experience!
We just finished hosting our first exchange student, a girl from Brazil. Now that she is gone the impact she has made on our family is obvious. Our kids grew to love her as she did them. The friendships with family members across the world are also priceless. You will learn that the ability to share experiences and cultures with someone else is worth more than gold. THIS is what makes life worth living and gives you the ability to give and be remembered, forever.
Hosting Our French Girl Has Been a Gift
Hosting a foreign exchange student these past 6 months exceeded our expectations! She has become forever a part of our heart and our family! What a gift she has been to us! We have learned much about French culture from her and we have taught her a great deal about America. She adapted well and was never a difficult in any way. I feel as though we gained a daughter and a sister. We will miss her terribly! We would recommend this experience to those with children the student’s age or older.
Hosting Was a Great Experience for the Entire Family
I have 3 kids, two in high school and one a senior in college at Iowa State. They came home almost in tears begging me to host an exchange student. They described him as funny, sweet, and thoughtful. They said, “Mom, you will love him.” They would not give up on asking me to please do this. So, I didn’t make any promises but said I would look into it the next day. I have always trusted my kids’ judgment. So the next day, I made a few phone calls.
I asked several questions about the exchange student and since this was my first time as a host parent, about my responsibilities and obligations. I gave them permission to go ahead and get my background check going and give me the weekend to make my decision. I decided to do it. Once I met Minsoo I knew I had made the right choice. He was such a sweet, smart, and fun young man. He was the perfect fit for our family. He brought us closer together by doing fun things together that we as a family had neglected to do. We had fun late night talks full of laughter. We learned a lot about his country and before we realized it we were creating a relationship that would stay with us for a lifetime.
Minsoo’s parents would send him snacks and candies from his country and he would let us try them. My son Keaton and him became best friends. Minsoo’s family sent Keaton a t-shirt from Korea which meant a lot to him. He participated in soccer and we were able to attend some of his games. Because of some circumstances with Korea’s school year, he only got to be with us for 2 months. It was an awesome 2 months and we created the best memories that my family will treasure forever. I am so happy I made the decision to be a host parent!
We Became a Host Family and Our Student Fit Right In
Nina was the third exchange student that we’ve hosted. All exchange students are unique individuals and we’ve enjoyed that each is so different and a new experience. Nina, however, fit in so well with our family and was a great host student! We enjoyed getting to know about the customs in her family, seeing where she went to school and sharing stories. I barrel race as a hobby and she was already adept at riding a horse, having her own and competing in dressage and jumping that she picked up on barrel racing and competed with me which was special. She loved seeing new things so we made many trips to different states (8 in all!) and loved having that experience with her.
My husband was deployed through 3 months of Nina being here and it was great to have someone to hang out with when he was away. We look back over the year with great memories and can’t wait to go visit Nina in her home Country of Germany!
Becoming a Host Family Made Our Family Grow
We loved hosting so much the first time we decided to host two teens this year. We opened our home and hearts to a girl from Thailand and a boy from Spain. We have loved having our house filled with laughter, fun, and learning about different cultures. These kids are forever part of our family. This year we learned how to cook some Thai dishes, went on a family vacation, spent many days at the beach, played lots of family board games, went on family walks with the dogs, survived Hurricane Harvey, heard singing in the shower and seen tears fall as loved ones were lost.
We wouldn’t trade a day of it. Our home is going to feel empty when they head back home, but plans are already in the works to visit both of them and meet their families in person. We can’t wait for new adventures!
Hosting an Exchange Student in Our Open Home
During the 2009-2010 school year, two families from my school hosted exchange students and I thought it would be a neat experience. We hosted our first student in 2010 and have been hosting since then. Being a host family has so many rewards! First, the bond that you make with students from other countries is unbreakable. I get messages from all my students all the time and they still call me mom. Second, it teaches your own children to open their hearts to other cultures. Third, it gives you a chance to help another person which in itself is very rewarding. My youngest child was 1 when we started hosting and she considers them to all be her brothers and sisters.
We have hosted two students from Korea, two from China, one from Brazil, and one from Venezuela. I had two students decide even decide to come back and stay for a second year. This summer, my oldest is getting married and we are hoping to have most of them here so that we can get a family photo. My daughter got to go visit Brazil for two weeks when she went back with one of the exchange girls. Two of my daughters and I got to go to China for two weeks and see the country and meet her parents. I would not change my experience for anything and we are planning on hosting again next school year.
My Family Loves the Experience
My family loves hosting students. We host 2 students at a time and it has been wonderful to see our kids learning to live with someone from totally different cultures. We have had boys and girls and they have been some of the nicest and well behaved young people we could have asked for. I would highly recommend this experience to anyone who loves being around young people. They are very self-sufficient in every aspect and just need some love and attention to help guide them in the right direction. Saying goodbye at the end of their journey is always the hardest part. We are looking forward to our new kids coming in August and we know it will be awesome.
Cultural Exchange Goes Both Ways
Hosting taught us that cultural exchange goes both ways. Our two foreign exchange students, Luya from China and Dat from Vietnam, shared information and activities from their country with elementary students at two of the local elementary schools. Each had short video clips of their country, then shared their personal story about their cities, daily lives back home and schools. Dat also taught all the students how to use chopsticks providing each with chopsticks and Chinese noodles for a hands-on lesson.
Luya taught the students how to create origami hearts. Dat and Luya are natural teachers and the kids loved them. On the last day of school, one class voted that the Dat and Luya’s day at the school was their favorite day beating out the ever popular school field day.
Blessings Galore by Becoming a Host Family!
This year we were honored to host three young ladies, two that were 5-month students & one 10-month. Our girls came from Germany, Taiwan, & Vietnam. I never dreamed how much we would grow to love each other as we shared our culture & lifestyle. We watched each of these girls blossom as they made friends in school & in Church. Their grades were amazing & each of them came away with special recognition. Bringing strangers into your home that spoke at best broken English at first & explaining what words mean & how modern appliances work was challenging.
Every holiday was amazing! These girls lit up like Christmas trees with every new adventure. We were blessed with girls that were appreciative & extremely helpful, sharing their cooking skills & pitching in with chores. In fact, our first exchange student came back home for spring break three months after initially going home, making this one thrilled Momma of three beautiful girls! We did everything as a family. We became family….a bond that will last a lifetime!
Agreeing to Host Has Been a Life-Changing Experience
My family and I have hosted foreign exchange students with ISE. 1 from Thailand, 1 from Slovakia and 1 from Ecuador, all for 1 full school year each. I can not say enough just how this changed our world. We created an amazing bond with each student that expanded the base cultural knowledge not only of these exchange students but for our immediate and extended families as well. As much as you teach these students, these students also teach you in return.
As a result of the wonderful relationships with these students, not only did we gain knowledge, but we have gained lifetime friendships that are amazing. Many of our family members have traveled to Slovakia and to Ecuador since we have hosted these students and these students have returned to visit with our family. When we opened our hearts, it opened our minds and it expanded our family forever. We are ever so thankful for the time that we had with these students! Thank you ISE for wonderful experiences.
First Time Host Family
This was our first year hosting and while it was not all rainbows and butterflies, we are so very happy that we took on the experience. Being able to welcome an exchange student into our home not only gave them the opportunity to experience the American life, it gave us the opportunity to learn about another culture. We did not just gain a new daughter but a forever-family member. Our exchange student went home two days after Christmas, which was very hard for us since she was supposed to be a full year student.
When we found out she was leaving early it was heart-wrenching. However, she promised that it was not because of the experience but because of things happening at home. She also made us promise to visit her in Spain after she returned home. We made that trip in May and had the experience of a lifetime! We lived the culture, explored the country, and made so many friends and family while we were there. While we hear so many host families had to say goodbye because it is the end of the school year, we have said see you later twice now. Neither time has it been a dry-eyed moment, but it has always been a heat filled one.
We talk to our forever Spanish family weekly and cannot wait to visit with them again in the future. We are now preparing for our next student’s arrival in August. We love being host parents and our children love their exchange siblings! I live my life in a way that can help to make a positive difference in someone else’s life, and this absolutely fits!! Hosting exchange students has been the best experience ever!
Love and Family Have No Borders
I’ve been hosting for over 5 years and have 11 exchange daughters across the globe. I stay in touch with each and every one of them after they leave. And although my current daughters haven’t personally met my previous ones, we are a growing family. As a single mom, I host 2 students at a time. It’s such a wonderful experience to bring these kids together from different cultures to meet with mine here in America where we all learn and grow from each other.
When I Skype with my previous girls, my current ones are right there with me. And when I’m preparing my new girls to arrive, my current ones are right there with me. We truly have no boundaries when it comes to love and family.