By Guest Author Sophia Jones
Now may be a great time to consider becoming a host family for an exchange student. An Institute of International Education report stated that the number of international students in U.S. high schools tripled from 2004 to 2016, and more are set to arrive. Many of these students hope to continue their education at American colleges.
Opening your home to foreign students can be a profound experience. You are not just tasked with looking after someone else’s child; you’re also in charge of introducing them to your culture. Here are a number of important lessons to gain from hosting an exchange student.
You’ll discover different cultures
Hosting an exchange student is a unique way of learning a new culture without resorting to travel. You’ll learn about your foreign student’s traditions, beliefs, cultural traits, and maybe even learn something new in the kitchen while they stay with you. The exchange program could also help you appreciate things about your own culture.
For instance, Beth Markley’s hosting experience taught her that what we consider normal school activities like proms and homecomings are unknown in other parts of the world. Cultural interaction is one way to deepen your understanding of the importance of cultural diversity. Experiences like hosting an exchange student can help break prejudices by helping you realize that apart from your similarities, your differences are also a cause for celebration.
You’ll develop your communication skills
The language barrier is one of the common challenges host families and students face, and can vary in difficulty depending on your exchange student’s country of origin. However, this provides an opportunity for you to practice a new language with a native speaker. More importantly, through communication, you’ll learn how to establish a relationship with someone who has different customs, beliefs, and behavior. Participating in an exchange program may prepare you for more opportunities. See, for example, Maryville University’s program in organizational leadership, in which communication is mentioned as a key skill in learning how to effectively manage a variety of groups and bring about change.
This type of leadership can be applied to many areas of work, from healthcare to business and beyond. Working with an exchange program can help prepare you for leadership positions in a number of careers. The Exchange Mom blog has previously noted the importance of communication — not just in dealing with exchange students, but also in sharing information with your program coordinators. Open communication lets program representatives address any issues a family or an exchange student may have and help you and your student have a smoother hosting experience.
You’ll learn to appreciate mundane things more
Because of your household’s newest member, you’ll view your daily routine from a fresh perspective. The exchange student may ask you questions about how you get to work or why you watch a certain TV program. These questions help them understand the “daily grind” in America and how different ordinary life is from their own life back home. Their fascination with the smallest things we do may help you appreciate your life even more.
In addition, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to grow as a family. As the host, it’s your responsibility to help the exchange student discover your country. This doesn’t mean you have to engage in major travel plans — but you will find yourself encouraged to do more family activities, such as going on road trips or attending community events. These moments could strengthen your ties not just with the exchange student, but with your own family as well.
One key thing to note is that many programs and many host families recommend not treating your exchange students as guests. This means that they should not be exempt from household rules. Don’t hesitate to assign them chores or send them to the grocery store. This will help them settle into their new surroundings and provide them with typical teenage life lessons.
If you’re all set after reading Sophia’s post, consider getting in touch with us here at the Exchange Mom. We can direct you to a coordinator in your area, or help with the screening process and help you find the right exchange student for your family.