Give Your Family a Worldly Experience: Host a High School Exchange Student

Give Your Family a Worldly Experience: Host a High School Exchange Student

The Hughes Family with Giulia (far right) from Italy.

Are you searching for a way to expose your children to different cultures or add a little vibrancy to your house? Volunteering to host an exchange student is a great way to experience different cultures and it offers numerous benefits for you and your family. Now is a great time to select a student to host for the upcoming school year. Doing so will allow you to start communicating with the student and preparing for his or her arrival.

Who can host an exchange student?

From traditional families to single parents and empty-nesters, host families come in many different forms. Host families have high school-aged children, toddlers, or no children at all. If you’re at least 25 years old, willing to provide a welcoming home, you can host an exchange student. Of course, all host families must undergo a criminal background check and be vetted by the exchange agency to ensure the safety of all involved.

What is required of the host family?

Host families volunteer to provide meals and lodging. They also ensure transportation to and from school (typically via a school bus). Exchange students may share a bedroom with a host sibling of the same sex but must have their own bed and a place to study. Exchange students cover all other expenses, including school, medical, and leisure activities. ⁤⁤They can also contribute towards their travel expenses for any joint trips.  ⁤

How long do exchange students live with host families?

Most students come for a full academic year, which is 10-months. However, some students come for a single semester.

⁤Why do they want to come here? ⁤

Their goals are simple: improve their English and experience the culture. When it comes to experiencing culture, what better place than Louisiana? Whether it’s enjoying a crawfish boil, catching some beads at Mardi Gras, or cheering on the Tigers, our everyday life offers students an unforgettable cultural experience.

Tico (left) from Germany with his host brother on their first day of school.

Exchange students also want to experience the quintessential American high school life: cheering on a football team under the Friday night lights, playing a school sport, and attending prom. In many of the countries where exchange students originate, school is just school, with no sports, dances, or extra activities. Participating in the full high school experience is a significant aspect of the cultural exchange program.

⁤What are the benefits of hosting? ⁤

⁤Welcoming exchange students into your home offers a chance to immerse you and your family in diverse cultural practices firsthand. This could mean learning a new language, mastering the art of making pasta alongside someone from Italy or discovering the various ways of celebrating Christmas from around the world. These experiences allow our families to become more worldly without leaving home.

Lucia from Spain attends her first prom.

⁤In addition to cultural exchange, hosting creates new possibilities for many families. ⁤⁤For some like empty nesters or those who are unable to have children themselves, hosting provides a source of healing and joy as they fill their homes with laughter and love. ⁤⁤Likewise families with one child often find value in the sibling bond that hosting can create.

Possibly the most valuable benefit of hosting is the lifelong connection you and your family members will establish with your exchange student. The student may only live with your family for less than a year, but you will have a relationship that lasts a lifetime. Many host families keep in touch with their exchange students long after they leave. Additionally, it is not uncommon for exchange students to return to the U.S. for visits to their host family or for the host family to travel abroad to visit the student and meet their family.

What if it doesn’t workout?

Local coordinators try hard to help families select a student who will mesh well with their family; however, the reality is that sometimes the match is not perfect. In such situations, your local coordinator will work to assist you and your student in developing a better relationship. However, if that is unsuccessful, the coordinator would find a new home for the student.

If you’re interested in learning more about hosting an exchange student, feel free to reach out to me at [email protected]. Additionally, you can click here to read the profiles of the students who we are trying to place for the upcoming school year.

Lacey is a resident of New Roads, where she resides with her husband and their two sons, ages 10 and 14. Holding a Bachelor of Arts in English/Creative Writing and a Master of Education in Educational Technology Leadership, Lacey has dedicated 16 years of her professional life to the field of education. With experience ranging from teaching to directing IT initiatives, and even assuming the role of principal, Lacey has worn many hats within the education sector. Recently, she transitioned from academia to state government, a decision she considers one of her best. While her career path has evolved, Lacey remains connected to her educational roots by serving as a local coordinator for STS Foundation. In this role, she fosters cultural exchange by placing high school exchange students with host families and supporting them throughout the exchange year. Lacey's greatest talent is her ability to keep a baseball scorebook and manage GameChanger simultaneously. When she's not immersed in work or family responsibilities, she enjoys long strolls through Floor and Decor, playing Exploding Kittens with her family, and relaxing with a True Crime podcast.


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