If you are getting ready for your first experience as a host family, we have something to share with you. You and your family are about to embark on the most rewarding, growth producing, eye-opening experience. It will be unlike anything you have ever experienced.
Your mind and heart will be stretched to new dimensions as never before, and you will realize the joy of loving and knowing people in more than one part of the world. For anyone unsure about what the experience of being a host family could bring, we have got you covered. This article is for current host families, host families to be, and those just considering the possibilities.
What Does Being a Host Family Entail?
Each host family’s experience is different based on the individual dynamic of that family. Some host families have children while others are single-parent households or empty nesters. There is no one-size-fits-all measuring stick for host families, and this is the beautiful thing about the experience.
Most of the time, host families host a foreign exchange student from abroad, but this is not always the case. Host families do not receive monetary compensation for hosting exchange students. However, some exchange companies offer a stipend to help cover the cost of living for the student.
If you are considering hosting an exchange student, know that each exchange organization performs detailed checks to confirm your candidacy to become a host. Most application processes begin with a home visit to speak with your family, look at the environment of the home, and ensure it is the right fit for an exchange student.
The exchange organization does a significant amount of the legwork, maintaining constant contact with the exchange student. This responsibility often requires them to be in touch with the student’s school or family, depending on the situation. The exchange organization also offers continuous support and resources for host families.
As a host family, you will have some distinct responsibilities for the duration of the exchange student’s stay. The most apparent responsibilities are things like providing the student a bed to sleep in, meals, a quiet study area, and transportation. He or she will handle the rest of the costs associated with their visit directly.
Besides having a copacetic, healthy home environment, host families must be willing to dedicate plenty of time to spend together with the exchange student. Engaging in fun family activities, having mealtimes together, and going on excursions is essential to enrich the exchange student’s experience and make them feel truly welcomed to the family.
The exchange student should feel like another member of the family. That said, family arguments or contentious situations are not circumstances in which the exchange student should be involved. This type of behavior is not only inappropriate, but it will make them feel uncomfortable.
Of course, every family experiences friction from time to time. However, big family blowouts should be kept a private matter and not involve the exchange student.
Host families must always bear the responsibility to ensure the safety and security of the exchange student. The same safety measures you put in place for your own children, like curfews, apply here.
10 Unique Benefits of Being a Host Family You Never Knew
Grow Your Family to a Global Scale
The first unique benefit of being a host family is that you will grow your family to a global scale. This opportunity is the reason many host families embark on this adventure in the first place.
When you become a host family, you have the chance to add a new member to your family. That person has their own unique cultural heritage, beliefs, food, language, and country.
If your children are grown, the new addition to your family will bring that youthful joy back to your home once more. Many host families build lifelong relationships with exchange students, with some even traveling abroad to visit the exchange student’s home country.
Give Your Children the Gift of Extended Family
Along the same lines, another huge benefit of becoming a host family is that you will give your children the gift of extended family in a different country. Many small families or hosts with only one child open their home to different exchange students for years at a time.
This experience enables their children to experience the joy of having siblings. As your children grow up and maintain these deep relationships with their exchange siblings, they will have the opportunity to visit and stay connected with individuals all over the world.
If you want your children to have an open mind and curiosity about the world around them, there is no better way to do it than by becoming a host family. By hosting exchange students from around the world, your children will have a newfound interest in and appreciation for other cultures. This exposure helps them to engage with the world around them on a whole new level as they near adulthood.
Soak up a Different Culture
An incredible benefit host families enjoy is the chance to soak up a different culture. Exchange students often bring with them a desire for adventure and a deep curiosity about the culture of their host family, but they also bring with them their own cultural habits and characteristics.
Exchange students come from every corner of the world, so their unique language, habits, beliefs, food, music, and other cultural affectations are truly boundless. This one of a kind cultural experience is mutually enriching. As your exchange student engages with and soaks up your culture, your family will learn about their culture too.
Redemption from a Former Exchange Experience
If you have ever been a host family before, chances are it was a wonderful experience. Sometimes, however, the exchange experience does not take off quite as you hoped, or you do not bond with the student as much as you would like.
Becoming a host family again is the perfect way to transition from a former exchange experience. Each exchange experience is different in its own unique way. By staying open to the possibilities and letting another exchange student into your home, you will create positive memories to last a lifetime.
Provide a Support Network for Your Exchange Student
Have you ever considered hosting two exchange students at the same time? While it may not be the choice you automatically think of, doing so can provide an unparalleled support network for your exchange student. Host families also enjoy this shared hosting experience in a few key ways.
For one, you will have a heightened cultural experience. Second, the exchange students will have an automatic support network for one another, which will only contribute to a more stable, peaceful home environment all around. Plus, if you have kids at home, they will enjoy the benefit of 2 more siblings and a larger global family in other parts of the world.
Open Your Eyes to New Possibilities
It is often so easy to get caught up in the stress of day-to-day life you forget the vast world surrounding you. One unique benefit of being a host family is that the experience opens your eyes to new possibilities. Life goes by so quickly, and before you know it, days have become months, and months have become years.
When you host an exchange student, they will open your eyes to the world in new ways through their experiences and culture. They will challenge your entire family to look beyond the mundane of everyday life and reflect on the possibilities that await in this fascinating world.
Open Your Mind
The enriching experience host families enjoy also serves to open their minds and those of their children. With modern technology, the world is more connected than ever before. The effects of globalization make it paramount to foster a sense of understanding and acceptance of other cultures in your children.
Your family’s perspective will be shifted and expanded by hosting an exchange student, whether through something as simple as eating a meal together or going on a group outing. Your family will share your values and beliefs just as your exchange student will offer their own.
The Power of Mentorship
If you have young children, becoming a host family to an older exchange student could help them experience the power of mentorship. The exchange experience as a whole challenges your views and mindset as never before, and your children will benefit from this enrichment.
Alternatively, your own children could serve as a host sibling mentor, connecting with the exchange student on a deep level. There’s no rule that says you can only have older kids to make your exchange student’s experience a rewarding one. Younger children can be incredible hosts too, ready and willing to bond with their new, older exchange sibling and share their culture.
By becoming a host family, you can form lifelong connections with your exchange student, and even their family back in their home country. More often than not, host families maintain the relationship with their exchange student long after the program ends.
These lifelong connections bridge the gap between different countries and cultures. The continuing relationship offers your family the chance to have extended “family” in just about any corner of the world.
The Gift of Laughter
While this benefit of being a host family may surprise you, get ready to be blessed with the gift of laughter. Exchange students do not need tons of gifts or fancy outings thrown at them to make their experience a good one.
The student needs care and support. They need to feel safe and secure in your family environment and to feel that they have a second home. They need to relax, have fun, and enjoy themselves. Before you know it, your family and your exchange student will laugh at the joy and adventure of navigating this new experience together.
Things to Consider Before Becoming a Host Family
Accept the Differences
If you want to become a host family, there are a few things to consider before you get started. For one, it is essential to accept the differences between each exchange experience.
You will get a sense of how compatible your family is with the student from the exchange organization’s questionnaires. However, each student is unique in their own way, and it is best to remember this so everyone can get the most out of the exchange experience.
If you have hosted before, try not to let that occurrence form your assumptions for another exchange student. Stay open to the possibilities and work on developing a new relationship with the next exchange student.
You always need to set clear boundaries in your home as the host family. If you had a previous exchange experience with a student who stuck to the rules entirely, it might feel unnecessary to restate those boundaries for a new exchange student.
Remember, every person is different. You always need to set your exchange student up for success. Get your hosting experience off to a strong start, and kindly, but firmly state the boundaries your family has in place so that the student is aware. This clear communication will help avoid unnecessary confusion down the line and aid in ensuring the exchange student transitions seamlessly into your family unit.
Stay Positive and Open Your Heart
Finally, stay positive and open your heart to the hosting experience ahead. It is normal to feel nervous about hosting an exchange student, particularly if you have never done so before.
Even if you have hosted an exchange student previously, you might be nervous that this new experience will not be on par with the last. Just remember that it is impossible to compare hosting experiences because each one is unique in its own way.
There are so many benefits to being a host family. The few we shared are merely the tip of the iceberg. It is nearly impossible to measure adequately the extent of the personal enrichment your family can enjoy through the hosting experience. Embrace the differences, stay positive, and open your heart to the newest member of your family.