Whether you are just wrapping up your latest hosting experience or are getting ready to host your very first, you might already be thinking: “Should I host another exchange student?”
Opening your home to a foreign student is a hugely rewarding experience for families and individuals across the United States. With ISE alone, more than 20,000 families have welcomed exchange students to their homes — and of those host families, a large percentage host new students year after year.
So why do they decide to continue to host after their first experience? Should you welcome another student into your home? These are just some of the reasons veteran ISE host families have chosen to host again and again — and tips for inviting another student into your home.
Extend Your Global Family
For many host families, the decision to host another exchange student presents an opportunity to extend their “global family”. This is especially true of host families that have grown children of their own, but still enjoy having an extra dose of youthful energy in their homes. Plus, veteran exchange families often form strong, lasting relationships with their students — and even go to visit their prior students in their home countries!
Just take it from one veteran host mom, Jenn McBride, about her decision to host an exchange student two years in a row: “We loved having another child [in our home], and more babies are out of the question! We fell in love with our first student, and we cannot wait to share that love with others!”
Grow A Global Family for Your Children
For some smaller families or those with just one child, the choice to host multiple years in a row offers their children the opportunity to experience what it’s like to have siblings. As your children grow older, this also presents them with a unique opportunity — to visit and connect with their prior exchange siblings in other countries around the world!
Angelia Turk, a host mom that is preparing to host her third exchange student, put it this way: “We absolutely fell in love with our first [student], as he is such a sweet kid. Plus our son is an only child, so we think this is a great way for him to have brothers and sisters!”
Hosting many different exchange students from various nations helps helps instill empathy and curiosity about other cultures in your own children, and can even help them become more engaged global citizens as they grow older.
Experience Yet Another Culture
Although exchange students tend to share similar characteristics like a sense of adventure and cultural curiosity, each student arrives with their own unique characteristics as well — many of which are informed by their home culture. If your family decided to host an exchange student in order to learn about other cultures, why limit yourself to only one cultural immersion?
ISE students come from nearly 100 countries around the world, each with their own unique story and experiences to share. Lisa Marcell, an ISE host mom that hosted her first student from Hungary last year, attests to this cultural curiosity fueling her decision to host for the second time. “We decided to try hosting from other countries each year to be able to learn about other cultures and share ours as well,” she said, adding, “It’s like our family just keeps growing!”
“Bounce Back” From A Prior Hosting Experience
While the vast majority of hosting experiences are positive, not every host and student connect in the way that we expect. For some host families, choosing to host another student is their way of giving it another go in order to enhance their hosting experience overall.
One former host mom explains how choosing to host once again can be an entirely different experience, saying “[We] didn’t bond with our first student [the way we expected], but we already message our new student three times a week [before she’s even arrived]. She is excited to come and we can’t wait until she arrives!”
No two hosting experiences are the same, and sometimes a more positive experience after one that doesn’t meet expectations can be enormously healing and beneficial — especially if you feel a nagging sense of disappointment. Just remember that every student is different, and the best way to ensure a great experience is to keep an open mind!
Offer a “Built In” Support System for An Exchange Student
Some particularly adventurous host families choose to host not one, but two exchange students at the same time. While not necessarily the norm, those that do choose to double-up on their hosting experience stand to benefit in more ways than one. In fact, choosing to host two exchange students in one home enhances the cultural experience for both student and family, since foreign students can act as an emotional support for each other through the tougher periods of cultural adjustment.
According to Cheryl Griffith (a host mom to two students), hosting multiple exchange students can create especially lasting bonds that you’ll be proud you were a part of creating. “I selected one student but thought it would be better if another student was here,” she says. “I selected a girl from Spain and a boy from Vietnam, and I couldn’t have asked for better kids. The Vietnamese family even traveled to Spain on vacation a month after the students returned home and visited the Spanish family while they were there!”
Considering hosting another exchange student?
Keep a few of these tips in mind to ensure that it’s just as rewarding of an experience as the last.
Remember that each student is different. While it’s possible to determine some level of compatibility from initial student questionnaires, each and every foreign student is different. While it’s natural to expect that each experience will be similar to the last, remember not to let prior hosting experiences create unrealistic expectations for future students. Keep an open mind and stay positive about creating a brand new relationship!
Don’t forget to set expectations. If you had a prior student that rarely or never bent rules, it can be tempting to forego the hard work of setting expectations and boundaries for new students. This can set up a new student for failure, especially if they have a very different personality than your last student. Remember to stick to this important step in the hosting process so that you get off on the right foot!
Keep a positive outlook and an open mind. It is completely natural to feel nervous that your next hosting experience won’t live up to your last, but try not to let these feelings get the best of you. Just as your students are taught to approach new cultural situations with a “different doesn’t mean wrong” approach, the same can be said of your new hosting experience. Try not to compare your experiences, and remember to keep an open mind and heart!
We invite you to read more about hosting a foreign exchange student. If you have specific questions about hosting, check out our host family FAQ page. You can also read testimonials from our past and current host families. When you feel ready, complete our host family interest form and our area representative will get in touch with you.
You can also get involved by joining our team of Area Representatives! Help match host families and exchange students and bring the world closer together, while making a supplemental income.