Many families think that hosting an exchange student requires taking them on big trips to famous places. And while most students do love to sightsee, that is not what usually defines their exchange. Students come to experience “the real” U.S. by living the day-to-day life of an actual American. And often, when they return home, it’s those simple, even mundane things, that they miss the most.
As a host mom, I have seen this play out repeatedly with my own exchange students. My Jordanian son, Khaleel, still—more than 10 years after his exchange—reminisces about relaxed Saturday mornings sitting around the living room drinking coffee together. My Thai daughter, Wan, misses our evening walks. And nearly all our past exchange students express fond memories of playing cards as a family on Sunday afternoons.
Students from last school year have returned to their home countries, but we reached out and asked them to share some of their favorite memories of simple things.
Marian from Spain misses having lunch with her friends at her high school in Kentwood, Michigan.
Marta from Italy, who spent her exchange in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, misses car rides with friends on the way to watch games or go to the mall or to get ice cream after practice.
Many students don’t realize how special these simple things are until they are back home. Paula from Germany explains how she’s missing life in Idaho Falls:
"I'm home for a week now and something I really miss is watching movies with my host family and different series with my host sister. During my stay in the US I didn't realize how much it meant to me but now I look back at those memories nostalgically. We've also watched a series with a few friends, something I had a lot of fun spending time on. Those are not my only great memories but definitely something I'm already missing."
Elisabeth from Germany spent her exchange in Vero Beach, Florida, and has a whole list of special memories—all related to Chick-Fil-A!
"One of the smallest moments I miss the most is Chick-Fil-A.
- I miss going to the drive-through to try hash browns with my host sister in her open Jeep the first time.
- I miss sitting there with my friends and then running back to school because lunch break was over.
- I miss my host family bringing chick-Fil-A home and I put it at 10 on the Food-Ranking-Board they made for me.
- I miss going there after watching the first volleyball game in the US and going there before the bus comes.
It’s just a fast food restaurant but it holds a lot of great memories from me and so totally go back there and be so happy!!"
Iona from Spain had a wonderful year in Deckerville, Michigan. She shares, “One of the most simple things I miss a lot from my time in the U.S is going to the grandparents house and playing cards with all the family, the game I like the most is the six handed euchre, it is the best game ever. I also like a lot playing corn hole with them, I spent a lot of good time with all my hosts family, I miss them a lot!"
Valentina from Columbia shares these sweet memories from her time in Wayland, Michigan:
"I think one of the simplest thing that I would miss most is watching tv at night with my family, just pick a movie and then watch it, it is something that we did mostly all nights and gave us the time to speak and know more about each other, play with my dog (Remi) and pet the cats (Toad and Chance), a family time just for the three of us, I also think about car rides, we use the car [for] every thing and either if it was all of us or just me and my mom we had a good time, during the morning we didn’t talk much but the in the afternoons we would talk about our day or eat dinner."
Manuel from Italy shared this picture of this special memory: a coffee run with his host brother, Kayden, in Scott, Louisiana.
Manuel goes on to say, “I miss gossiping with my host-mom, the evenings watching movies and talking with my host-dad and, then, those amazing rides with my host brother to go anywhere.”
Sonalen from Cambodia misses so many “little things” from her life in Edmond, Oklahoma.
"Before coming back to Cambodia, I never thought all the simple things I did in the U.S. would affect me this much. Some of the littlest of things I do include getting coffee and going to work with Amanda, jamming to Taylor Swift, car rides to and from school with my host dad, and feeding/playing with Finn and Aspen (the dogs). There are times where I saw something that reminds me of them such as a tiktok, plants, food, Star Wars, coffee, or treats and my head immediately went, "Oh, they would've enjoyed this".
Sonalen goes on to beautifully share the sentiments shared by so many of our exchange students:
"I seriously couldn't have thought how much this exchange meant to me every time I realized I didn't come to the U.S. just to study as I've learnt that I also have a family. All the tiniest of things do seem and sound basic and easy to be taken for granted, yet it builds so much upon my life as an exchange student in America and it makes me miss the lifestyle every time I think about it."
So if you think your life is too boring for an exchange student to enjoy, think again! Some of the normal, everyday activities of your normal routine could be just the thing to make lifetime memories for an exchange student.
We still have many students waiting for a host family to welcome them into their home and family. Click below to search or browse profiles of available students.