Considering hosting an exchange student? Then it’s probably a safe bet to assume that you have questions about what the experience will be like. From what students are like to how expenses work, it’s important to understand all of what goes into the hosting experience before embarking on the journey yourself.
It’s natural to feel curious and even anxious about welcoming a foreign student into your home. To help ease your mind, these are the five most common questions (and answers) about hosting exchange students.
Why would I host an exchange student?
This is a great question with a not-so-simple answer. Like many decisions, every host family has different reasons for why they choose to host an exchange student. Some hope that welcoming a student into their home will enrich the lives and experiences of their own children, while others are curious about other cultures. Some even choose to host exchange students because of their own experiences studying abroad!
Regardless of the reason, hosting an exchange student offers you an incredible opportunity to make a global difference – and sometimes just the start of a relationship that continues for months and even years after an exchange program ends. Opening your home to a foreign student is just one of the many things you can do to help foster more empathy and understanding across cultures.
How does hosting an exchange student work?
The first step toward becoming a host family is to complete an interest form, and shortly after, a host family application. This form helps ISE area representatives to understand what motivates you to host an exchange student and to determine if you are prepared to become an exchange host. From there, an ISE representative will contact you to complete a background check and home check — a required step in any reputable foreign exchange program.
Once you have completed these steps, you’ll work closely with your area representative to select an exchange student that you feel will mesh well with your lifestyle and household. Your area representative will be actively involved in this step and can help answer any questions or concerns you have about how to prepare for your student’s arrival.
Most students arrive around the same time toward the beginning of the school year, usually allowing a week or so to settle in before classes begin. Every host family has a different way of welcoming their student — some decorate their incoming student’s room, while others create a welcome sign and even a gift! This is entirely up to you, but your area representative and fellow host families can help you think of great ideas.
What are the students like?
While there are some similar characteristics within particular cultures and nationalities, every student is different. Some students are quieter and more studious, while others are social and gregarious. These are characteristics that are usually represented well in an exchange student’s profile, and good indicators of how well a student is likely to mesh with you and your family.
It’s important, however, not to have too many expectations of what your student will be like when they arrive. While you can determine a little bit about what a student might be like from their ISE profile, it’s important to keep an open mind and open heart.
You will provide not only a home for an exchange student but also a certain level of emotional support and stability during their stay in the US. Allowing a student to open up to you and your family over time is a great way to provide both, whether that’s staying patient with cultural differences and language barriers or simply lending an ear when they need to talk.
What if there is an issue or emergency during a student’s stay abroad?
Area representatives are bonafide experts in matching students with compatible host families, and always conduct monthly check-ins to ensure the placement is going smoothly. Plus, representatives are available to help iron out issues before they become major problems.
That said, while a vast majority of hosting experiences go off without a hitch, there are rare cases when an emergency or issue arises. ISE takes student and host family safety and security very seriously, so for particularly time-sensitive situations, support is available via hotline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Do host families get paid, and is it expensive?
Hosting an exchange student through a J-1 program like ISE’s is done so on a volunteer basis, and does not include any compensation. That said, many hosts choose to become an area representative to earn supplemental income along with hosting a student.
As for expenses, students arrive in the US with their own spending money for social outings, activities and other personal expenses. All ISE students have full medical insurance coverage as well, so hosts are never responsible for medical expenses. While host families are expected to provide meals just as they would for their own children, at no point are hosts on the hook for additional expenses beyond these necessities.
If you have questions about finances when hosting an exchange student — or questions about the hosting experience in general — don’t be afraid to reach out to us. Hosting an exchange student will likely be one of the most rewarding experiences you’ll have in your lifetime, and we’re eager to help you become a part of the ISE family!