Hosting an exchange student can be an incredibly rewarding experience, but there are often misconceptions that prevent people from considering it. Let's debunk these myths and shed light on the reality of who can host and how it works.
Myth: You must have teens at home
Fact: While it's true that many host families have teens in the home, it is not a requirement. Families with younger children or even empty nesters can also provide a welcoming and enriching environment for an exchange student. Each family dynamic brings its own unique benefits to the experience.
Myth: You have to be wealthy to be a host family
Fact: The truth is that most host families are regular middle-class people. Exchange students come to learn about normal American life, which for most of us doesn't include mansions and yachts. If you have a clean home and a caring heart, you very well may qualify to host a student.
Myth: Single people can't host
Fact: Hosting an exchange student is not limited to married couples. Single parents or even single individuals can make wonderful host parents. It's the warmth, support, and cultural interest that matter most--not your marital status.
Myth: Exchange students must have their own room
Fact: Exchange students must have their own bed and a quiet place to study, but they may share a bedroom with a host sibling near their age. In fact, late-night chats and giggles can be a wonderful way to create a life-long bond.
Myth: Host families must take their exchange student on a lot of trips
Fact: Although it can be a fantastic opportunity to travel with your exchange student, it is not mandatory. Hosting an exchange student means providing a safe and loving home environment, not acting as their personal tour guide.
In addition, ICES students have the opportunity to travel with Belo Tours, a company that arranges trips specifically for exchange students to visit some of the most popular places in the U.S.
Myth: If it doesn't work out, you're stuck
Fact: Hosting an exchange student is a commitment, but it is not a lifelong obligation. If unforeseen circumstances arise or the match isn't ideal, your Local Coordinator can move the student to another family. It's important to communicate openly and honestly to ensure the best experience for both the host family and the student.
Myth: I'm too old to host
Fact: Age should never be a barrier to hosting an exchange student. In fact, older individuals often bring a wealth of wisdom and life experience that can greatly benefit the student. As long as you have the energy and willingness to open your home and heart, age is just a number.
Myth: The agency will assign me a random student
Fact: In most cases, you have the flexibility to handpick the student you host. Are you intrigued by a specific country or language? Or perhaps you're eager to host a student who shares your hobbies, interests, or faith. Your Local Coordinator will provide you with detailed student bios and heartfelt letters, allowing you to carefully assess and select a student who aligns well with your family.
Alternatively, if you prefer, you can explore all the available students at Meet Our Students. It's important to note that your local high school may have certain policies regarding the acceptance of students.
Myth: I'll have to adapt to the student's culture
Fact: While you will undoubtedly learn about their culture and customs, it's important to remember that these students are here with the express purpose of immersing themselves in American culture and becoming a member of your family.
Your role is to share your life, values, and traditions, helping your student successfully integrate into your family, school, and community. Together, you can create a truly enriching experience for both the student and your family.
Myth: I should wait to host until my kids are older
Fact: Hosting an exchange student can be a wonderful experience for families with children of any age. Younger children can learn about different cultures and form lifelong friendships with their exchange sibling. It's an opportunity to broaden their horizons and develop a global perspective from a young age.
Myth: My home is too boring
Fact: Exchange students are as varied as the families who host them. While some students love to be forever on the go, others are homebodies who enjoy hanging out at home.
Every household is unique, and what might seem ordinary to you can be fascinating to an exchange student. The love, warmth, and sense of belonging you provide are far more important than the size or grandeur of your home. It's the connections and experiences shared within the walls that truly make a difference.
Myth: My town is too small
Fact: Living in a small town can actually be an advantage when hosting an exchange student. It offers a close-knit community that is often more welcoming and supportive than its big-city counterpart. Students find it easier to make friends and get involved and truly immerse themselves in the local culture.
By dispelling these myths, we hope to encourage more people to open their hearts and homes to exchange students. Hosting is a transformative experience that not only impacts the life of the student but also enriches the lives of the host family in countless ways. Let's embrace cultural exchange and create lifelong memories together.
What's keeping you from hosting?