Host Family Decisions: Choosing an Exchange Program
Families have different reasons for why they choose to host. Reasons include a desire to expose one’s children to other cultures, building long-term relationships, changing the dynamics of children’s relationships in the family, and learning how to prepare for when your own kids become teenagers. Welcoming an international student into your home can spark your own children’s interest in learning about other cultures, and you will develop lasting friendships with people from around the world.
Before you can think about choosing an exchange student, you’ll want to choose an exchange organization to work with. Students planning to attend a semester or a year of high school in the United States must come through one of the many high school exchange programs approved by the U.S. Department of State. You might be surprised to learn how many different organizations there are, although there might only be a few dozen in any given area of the country.
Students and host families all have a local contact (sometimes called a local coordinator or local liaison) who represents the exchange program. The local representative will likely be the person who interviews families and conducts the home visit, and he or she will call or see families and students at least once every month (per U.S. State Department regulations), if not more often. This person is the face of your exchange organization.
What do you need to know? Among other things ... :
“Most questions can be answered and most challenges can be resolved with help, and that is a key role of the exchange program.”
There certainly are a number of questions you should ask: what are the requirements and expectations for a host family, what are the U.S. State Department regulations and organization guidelines you need to know, and what should you do in the event of an emergency. Evaluate the program you are talking to on how well the representatives answer these questions. They will expect honesty and transparency from you; you should expect the same from the program.