Life Lessons You’ll Learn From Hosting Exchange Students

teenaged boys sitting on wall laughing

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.

Image courtesy

Five Ways To Finance Your Study Abroad Experience Yourself

person with camera, focus is on camera in foreground

Today’s post is by guest writer Victoria Greene. Victoria is a freelance writer and branding expert; visit her site at

It’s no easy task taking up a new life abroad as an international student. You have to cope with things like homesickness and the culture shock of living in an entirely different country. Finances can also be a challenge, but you may have the option to self-finance and lighten the load.

If you are an adult going abroad, you may have the option of supporting yourself through casual work — but be sure to check the working visa rules for your host country. If you aren’t allowed to work due to your age or visa restrictions, it could be that the best option for you is to work in the year preceding your study abroad experience instead.

(This would also allow you to fully focus on your studies while abroad, and not get distracted by a part-time job.) Another option would be to start an online business back home that needs little day-to-day running and just keep things moving along while you’re away.

With that in mind, this post will present possible five options for financing your study abroad experience, regardless of your skill set and schedule.

Become A Tutor

If you’re studying abroad as a university student and if your visa allows it, you are in an excellent position to offer advice and guidance to other students looking for help with tutoring. Ask your professors if they have any tutoring positions available. Alternatively, you could look elsewhere and send your CV to other schools in your area. Think about conversation classes and book clubs to get you going for tutoring in your native language. Online tutoring is also an option to think about. You will need a webcam, mic, and headphones, as well as a reliable internet connection to help you get started.

You could also sell your other specialized skills by setting up an online video course, using  sites like iSpring. These platforms allow you to film your course and charge people to download your lesson plans. If you have skills in things like crafts or illustration, share them online!

Just make sure that your tutoring role and efforts don’t take away from your own studies. A more informal (and unpaid) language swap or skills exchange is also a great way to help others and make new friends at the same time; you might not be paid for this, but you won’t have to worry about visa requirements and you’ll certainly have some fun.

Sell Your Travel Photos

If you are handy with a DSLR camera, consider selling stock photography through a host site such as Shutterstock. Selling the licensed use of your photos for online articles and design work will give you the opportunity to pick up a small amount of passive income. Try to take interesting and unique photos that aren’t already well-represented. Photography is also a great way to get to know a place.

Think about representing abstract ideas within your photos. For example, ‘social media’ and ‘personal development’ are high-traffic search terms. Tagging your photos with a range of searchable hashtags will help make your photos more visible to internet users.

Make your photos high-quality, learn how to use photo editing software, and upload in large file formats. Once you have uploaded your travel snaps to a service, link them to your website or travel blog to help you gain more personal publicity.

Check any visa restrictions when it comes to selling online products during your time abroad, or set up a bunch of photos before you go to generate some passive income. You can always monetize your travel photos when you return home.

Become A Virtual Assistant

There are vast arrays of casual online positions for those who provide creative services such as copyediting, as well as administrative services like data entry. You can set up a profile for free on many freelancing sites and link them to an online portfolio or LinkedIn page. This will add legitimacy to your new online business.

Sites like UpWork allow you to bid for jobs and set up your own pricing structure to meet your needs. You can find many remote working contracts that can tie into your scheduling needs, regardless of how busy you are. You may be asked to appear for telephone or Skype conferences to meet the demands of certain projects. Therefore, you should ensure that you have a working phone abroad and a reliable internet connection.

Again, you need to make sure that your visa terms permit work like this, since many study abroad visas limit (or prohibit) the ability of students to work. Also, you don’t want to be too distracted by work demands. Virtual assistant work is a good option for short-term casual work over the summer months and can help you build up some extra money before you go on your study abroad program.

Become An Online Seller

This method of making money online requires a fair amount of initial research and may not be a practical option for younger students of high school age or early college years. However, once you are up-and-running with your online web store, the sky’s the limit in the amount you could earn on a monthly basis. This is the ideal financing method for anyone who loves spending time on Instagram and shopping online, and you can set your store on pretty much autopilot whilst you’re traveling.

Dropshipping is a convenient arrangement where an online seller can sell a third-party supplier’s products for no upfront costs. If you have no web development skills, don’t worry; you can easily create an online store. Use an e-commerce host with a good selection of features and templates, or use a free WordPress plugin to convert a blog into a store. Other options include Etsy or Amazon, which will ultimately be a lot less work for you.

The initial product research phase will help you find your target market. Check out competitors and create a branded image that draws in the right kind of customer to your sales pages.

You could place a small amount of daily budget on paid product promotion campaigns on Facebook, Instagram, and Google Adwords — but only do this if you’re already making money.

When you have started to make a profit from placing orders and advertising, look for ways you can gradually pull back from the admin tasks. Invest in automated apps and virtual assistants to help you run your store on a nearly passive basis.

Provide Odd Job Services

Doing odd jobs at home before you leave can be surprisingly lucrative, and once you are abroad (and if your visa allows it), you may be able to take on some odd jobs in your host country.

Look in your local community and find odd jobs you can do for a bit of extra cash in your spare time. You are never too old to do a bit of gardening or car washing for a neighbor in need! You can set up a profile on service sites such as Yelp or Angie’s List. Start collecting positive reviews from host families, friends, and contacts. You can also offer services like babysitting and dog walking through advertising in local newspapers. Alternatively, you can pin your contact card on a local community notice board to help you bring in your first few customers.

Carrying out odd jobs will help you explore your new locale and get a feel for the everyday culture of a place. Plus, you can help people in need and collect some good karma points along the way. Win-win!

You may find that informal work or volunteering for a charity or local group will allow you to still focus on your studies, and though you might not make any money, the experiences will make you a lot richer!


There you have it! Five ways to make money while studying abroad. These options maybe not be available for all students during their study abroad terms; for all of your income-generating activities, make sure you are following the rules of your visiting country. Pay close attention to your host nation’s tax obligations and employment laws for international students, too. You should be 100% clear on any visa restrictions well in advance of your journey so that you can plan and save effectively. Make sure to talk to someone who can help you decipher international visas in more detail.


Photo credit: The Digital Marketing Collaboration.

How To Be A Parent When Your Child Is On An International Student Exchange Program

wooden bridge on path in woods

by Jana Grobbelaar, Moomie, South Africa

Regardless of whether your child is in secondary school or university, an international exchange program will be an enriching experience. There are many benefits for parents: your child will return with added maturity, a more serious approach to their studies, improved language fluency, and a greater comprehension of human nature and the experience of making new friends.  Parents will discover that allowing their child to be an exchange student will be among the best experiences of the child’s entire life.

Of course, you will dearly miss your son or daughter. But the homecoming and the awareness that your child has grown up so much that they can become your friend, as well as be your child, is enough reward to consider this route, even with the challenges that your child will face and the difficulties it poses for parents. As parents, we strive to do anything and everything to enhance our children’s future, but this long distance arrangement doesn’t come without its share of parenting challenges.

Let’s face the facts: it’s not easy being a parent. We often battle with ourselves, questioning if we’re doing the best we can for our children. It’s a lot of pressure realizing that you only get a limited window of time to prepare them to develop into dependable, balanced, and emotionally healthy adults. When your child is away for six or ten months in a different country, there is the extra challenge of being geographically distant from them. But it’s not impossible to parent from halfway around the world. The key is laying the groundwork correctly, both with yourself and with your child.

Here are some suggestions on how to be a parent when your child is in an international student exchange program:

Communication is key

Probably the most valuable approach to ensure you have a secure connection with your kids is to do everything possible to keep communication lines open. This isn’t always easy, but it’s among the best strategies to keep up with what’s happening in your child’s life.  Find out when a good time is to get in touch with them on weekends and set a particular time to contact them. Try not to bother them much during the week, as they will be at school and in a completely different time zone. You can connect with the host parents, as they might be aware of any challenges that your child could be having in school or at home. Your child might not want to burden you with their struggles or may not be keen to share any information that might lead to conflict. Speaking to the host parents might just put your mind at ease for a few days at least.

Technology is your friend

Nowadays it’s easier to stay connected over a distance. Besides telephones, there are many ways to connect that aren’t that expensive. If you have internet access at home, make use of text messages, email, instant messaging, and Skype, to mention a few — but not too often! Reserve time weekly to ‘visit’ for ten to fifteen minutes. Video calls make it possible to not only verbally correspond, but also to see each other occasionally. You may also want to follow your child’s social media posts as they will probably be sharing a lot of pictures on these platforms.

Send a care package

Children of all ages would love to receive some homemade cookies or other treats. A note or a card to tell them that you’re thinking of them and that you love them, carries much weight. But nothing says I love you like a thoughtful package from back home. Never follow up your packages with phone calls. These calls might make it look like you are fishing for a thank-you. Gifts are most efficient as relationship builders when there aren’t any strings attached.

yellow DHL package unopened

Don’t forget to discipline

Parenting your child from a distance can make you feel as though you’re losing control over your everyday responsibilities as a mother. This doesn’t have to be the reality. Don’t stop disciplining your child because you feel guilty, you need things to be “nice and comfortable,” or because you are worried your child will rebel and push you away. Now, more than ever, your child must fully accept that distance doesn’t affect the “rules” at home. Being away from home is not a reason to break the rules and take advantage of the situation. You should continue being consistent about family morals, and loving your child does occasionally mean saying “No.” If your child is living with a host family, it’s also important for your son or daughter to understand that they have to follow the rules of the family they are living with. This can be hard for parents, especially if the rules are different — which is certainly common in a different country!

Teach respect

In the same way as discipline, your child needs to recognize that the host family takes care of them on your behalf. Thus they should respect them as if it were you.

Visit your child

Something that can be fun both for you and your child is if you get to visit them during their exchange period. This could give you a better understanding of their experience, and you might even get to partake in it. Talk to the host-family and find out if a visit will suit them. Don’t proposed a visit in the middle of the exchange, because you don’t want to interfere with your child’s experience. Wait until towards the end! If they have space and are comfortable with it, you might be able to stay with your child or in the alternative you can book a hotel nearby.

In summary

The world is getting smaller, faster and much more complex. Approaches to learning and teaching are shifting. To be successful in tomorrow’s world, young people need the skills essential for a consistently growing number of industries, and possible career paths. They need an understanding of different cultures, a chance to interact with people from various linguistic backgrounds, flexibility and tolerance, an appreciation for alternative perspectives and the maturity to make sensible choices and decisions. Never before has studying a second language been so crucial.

By allowing your child to travel on exchange, you are helping them discover a whole new world. Even though it’s hard to parent from far away, it’s possible to maintain a great relationship with your child and enjoy this experience with them.


Jana Grobbelaar is an entrepreneur, editor, and mother of three. She is the founder of Moomie, a popular online parenting forum in South Africa.