The J-1 Exchange Program: A Short Look at a Long History


The International Student Exchange’s secondary school student exchange program brings over 2800 students to the U.S. every year. Academics and cultural immersion are the focus of the exchange program, as well as improving diplomatic relations between different countries. Over the course of the last fifty years, the global efforts of the organizations that promote the exchange program have brought hundreds of thousands of students and families together.


The visa issued by the U.S. Department of State that makes these exchange programs possible is the J-1 visa. This visa allows a student or an exchange visitor to come to the United States for a period of up to twelve months and study in a public school while living with a host family. Host families are volunteers, and they participate in the program simply for the experience and the opportunity to enrich their lives. When the students return home at the end of their exchange programs, they improve the diplomatic relations of the U.S. by telling their friends and family about their experience, spreading the word about the amazing year they have had.


The history of the J-1 visa goes back to 1961 and the institution of the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act. Created by Senator J. William Fulbright, the act’s purpose was to increase understanding between people of different nations through the common goal of promoting education and cultural understanding. It consolidated many of the former laws already on the books which set up agreements with individual nations and gave more freedom and resources to students and institutions that promoted and participated in the exchange programs.


What students and families should take away from this exchange program is the idea of cooperation and understanding. Governments, students, and families have continued to advance these exchange programs for the last 60 years, and that has been no small undertaking. Issues of politics, conflict, economics, and ideals occasionally get in the way, but at this time there are more participants in exchange programs the world over than Fulbright might have ever imagined was possible. The success of the exchange program is because peoples of different nations want to understand one another and that humans have an instinct to learn as much as they can.

international students in exchange program

The future of exchange programs are in the hands of the students, and that is exactly where it should be. As long as there are people who want to learn from one another, and bridge the boundaries that define nations, the effort to reach world peace through understanding still has a chance.


Get involved in J-1 exchange, consider becoming a host family for an international exchange student!


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.


Global friendship starts with local action. Volunteer to host a student today!


Change the world, one family at a time. Apply to become an ISE Area Representative!


Explore a new culture and experience a new way of life. Become an exchange student!