Should I Host A Foreign Exchange Student?

I have been considering hosting a student for one semester in the fall or spring. I really don’t know anyone that has done this but I thought it might be a good experience for my family to learn about another culture by interacting on a daily basis. When I sent in inquiry from a web site, I was contacted within minutes from my area’s representative pushing me to make an appointment to have her in for a home visit. I got the impression they are desperate for families.

The child I inquired about is a 16 year old boy from Germany who supposedly has good English speaking skills and various hobbies that fit in with my family.

Has anyone done this and would give an opinion of the experience as well as any advice if they recommend it to others. Is it very expensive and demanding? Also, there seems to be many companies, any thoughts on any of the ones out there?

I am new to posting although not new to the boards. I sincerely appreciate any help in making this decision.

Well… put it this way, would you want a typical teenage boy in your house?

I strongly recommend you get a pre-pubescent girl or maybe offer to be a boarding house for mature language students.

I do not have any experience of any of this fwiw. I have tried this a couple of times, but it didn’t work out brilliantly, the members are mostly bright young things (which should have been obvious in advance):

Actually it wasn’t that website now I look at it. It was something voluntary. But that probably works the same.

Bolding mine. But why does that phrasing just … sound funny?

I knew a foreign exchange student in high school. She was originally placed with a family that was clearly just looking for a free babysitter. They took her nowhere, did nothing with her - no trips to the museum or whatever - and just expected her to stay home with their pack of kids. She eventally complained enough to the overseeing agency to get moved to a different household for the remainder of her time here, and she was subsequently much happier.

I say, go for it. A full decade later, the exchange student I mentioned is still close with her host family.

notchimine - When I was a kid (during the '70’s) we had several exchange students, two for the whole school year, and a couple others for shorter periods of time, often as fosters if the original placement didn’t work out. Speaking as one of the foster sisters, it was no big deal. One student we had was from a wealthy Argentinian family. used to servents, spoiled only-child, etc. He had a hard time adjusting to being plunked down in the middle of 5 middle-class kids, being expected to clean his room and help with chores, but he adapted. By the time he went back, his mother sent my mother a letter thanking her for the change in her son! The next kid was from the Dominican Republic, and a much poorer background. Our house was very luxurious compared to what he’d had.

Ours was a family that often had extra kids hanging around. There were five of us, and I have 42 first cousins. Taking in an extra kid was no big deal. I think you have to have that attitude or it’ll stress you out. You have to be able to treat these kids like your own, not like guests.


A friend of mine, Terri, hosted a teenage girl a couple years ago. Terrie’s family had hosted several exchange students while she was growing up, so I wasn’t surprised when she decided to do it herself.

But it didn’t go very well. The girl clearly wanted to Party All the Time. She was defiant when Terrie imposed curfews (sensible ones; 11 pm for a 15-year-old). She called her mother in Germany to loudly complain and conduct transatlantic mother/daughter wars, which she then continued with Terrie. She was sullen and uncooperative.

I don’t know much more than that, since Terrie lives in another city and I never actually met the kid, but it makes me wonder if she wasn’t screened by the host agency very well.

Do it! I haven’t hosted, but I was an exchange student in high school. I went through Youth For Understanding, and they are excellent.

My husbands parents host exchange students, and in fact, their last (about two years ago) was a 16 year old German boy. It turned out great, partly because my husbands mother is Austrian and the family on that side speaks German. He was also a great kid, and he’s a close family friend now. He came back to visit for a few months last summer to come to our wedding. He’s a part of the family now.

On the other hand, about three years ago they got two boys from China. Eight and 13. They were very reserved and the eight year old caused a lot of problems. The thing is, once you sign up, unless something goes REALLY wrong, you’re stuck with them for the term.

That said, I think these organizations generally attract more affluent families where the kids have decent grades and are generally ok with doing this type of trip.

My family hosted an exchange student while I was in high school. About twenty-five years later, my sister hosted the same student’s daughter.

Both thru AFS. I don’t think it could possibly have worked out better - both families remain in contact to this day, there were no problems at all. It probably helped that both ladies were as sweet and accommodating as could be imagined, and both families made an effort to include them as real members of the family.

If your experience would be anything like mine, you should go for it.


I have a typical teenage boy in my house right now - I think it’s great.
Pre-pubescent girl? That kinda creeps me out.
Our friends who have hosted students - all high school aged boys and girls - had good experiences. It helps to have an open, busy family with lots of people coming and going and an easy-going attitude towards taking strangers into your home.

I wish we could do it but our house is odd and we don’t have a spare bedroom. Maybe after our son leaves home we can take someone.

I don’t have any experience with hosting exchange students, but if I had the room in my house and some time on my hands, I would do it in a heart beat. It seems like a great opportunity to see your culture and hometown through new, eager eyes, and I would imagine your kids would love having a cool temporary older brother. And think of the opportunity for your kids to stay with this boy’s family on a return trip !

Would you like to tell us a little more about your thoughts and why you got started considering this? A little more about what you hope to get out of it?

Man, that’d be a huge plus.

Not done it myself, but … do you currently have a kid? I would imagine it would sort of more or less double the expense and demands of parenting, albeit temporarily.

Sorry, don’t know any details about the specific companies. You may also need to check in with your insurance, although I imagine the agency would guide you through that process. Good luck with your decision! :cool:

We hosted a male exchange student from Thailand last year for the whole school year. I would say since it’s only a term give it a try but be very careful of signing up for a whole year.

We already had one teen in high school and one just out of high school, both boys. We were kind of tired of boys at this point. All the problems I just went through with the older one and was currently going through with the high schooler were the same as the problems we had with the exchange student.

He wasn’t doing his schoolwork and we were getting constant notices of failing grades. He really wasn’t trying at all. I would ask him if he needed help with his work and he would say no but if he was goofing around and I asked him to show me his homework he would show me and it wasn’t done. By the second half of the year he was better at doing his work, so that headache was gone.

Some problems might have been a language thing, the English they speak in Thailand is not the same as the English we speak here. It was like there was no ending to any of his words.

Hr really didn’t want to have anything to do with us. He spent all his time in his room on his computer chatting with his friends back home. We tried to get him more active with us as a family but eventually we gave up. I realized it was really bad when I noticed that whenever I walked into a room he would leave. For a while that was a fun game but really, things got more distant after that.

He had friends but they were mostly other exchange students from Thailand. I think he was just here to buy stuff. He was extremely immature for his age. If I told him he couldn’t do something he would argue with me. When he first got here I said he couldn’t ride a bicycle at night to the high school. We had a little argument about that. He said he rode all the time in Thailand. I said that’s in the city where there are lights and this is in the country with no lights and all the crazy high school drivers on a rural rd. He argued quite a lot.

It was just very uncomfortable having him in our home since he didn’t really interact with us.

It is possible that he viewed the situation as a punishment and not as an opportunity. I am in China teaching 14 and 15 year olds, and some of them have parents that are planning to send them abroad as exchange students. Many of the students are very scared and do not like the idea at all. Some of them are refusing to learn English because as soon as their parents think that they can speak English they will be sent abroad.
Maybe some of these parents just want to send problem children out the country just to get a little peace and quiet in their own homes.
Not all exchange students are going abroad because they want to see the world.
I hate to say it, but hosting a female exchange student might be a better situation than hosting a possibly more rebellious male teenager.

Look into “host families.”

Around here, they make ~$500/month.

Yup. I’ve had classmates who were exchange students and, with the exception of two Erasmuses who didn’t seem to understand the concept at all, it was generally enjoyed by both sides. I went to Ireland for a month the summer I was 15, as part of a group organized by my school. The family I got was pretty horrid and, since I was convinced that Grown-Ups Don’t Give A Shit, I didn’t ask to be moved, but most of the families were very nice and many would repeat from year to year, so it seems like they liked having us as much as we liked being there.

Go for it, but remember you are letting some random teenager move in. It may be a touching and life-changing cultural experience, or it may be like having a mute stranger skulking around. You have to be prepared for and ready to be happy with either outcome. I think it’s best to think of it as taking in a boarder, and consider any cultural exchange or bonding you get out of it to be a neat extra.

The country will for sure make a difference. In my experience, European teens are often more “worldly” than American teens of the same age. The European exchange students in my high school, at least, were nothing like us. They smoked like chimneys, had facial piercings we’d never seen, complained endlessly about the lack of raves and screwed on the teacher’s lounge couches. They were baffled by their host parent’s desire to supervisor them, their inability to buy cigarettes, and being ID’d by the dance clubs. Looking back, I think they behaved more like college students backpacking around while their parents were expecting high school kids on a class trip.

In my experience talking to Chinese students who have gone abroad, some Asian teens may be a lot less mature, probably in part to having a more structured school life (meaning less experience making decisions) and different norms about how people socialize, especially with strangers. They may also have a different view of “integration” and may not be particularly interested in learning about a different culture through experience.

Having lived in a host family, I can say it does sometimes bring out the worst in you. Sometimes you really do need to shut the door and spend all night chatting with your friends back home. When I’d go through those stages I knew it worried and upset my host family, but it’s all I could do to cope with my own life. I did my best to make my host family happy, but it’s a lot of pressure when you are dealing with culture shock and all that.

Many of my Chinese students have such sheltered lives that they seem to be about 5 years emotionally less mature than their Western peers. The games that they play seem more appropriate for elementary school than high school.
I had to laugh the first time I walked into a classroom and the boys were spinning around trying to see how dizzy they could get before they fell down.
Their classmates would stand around counting the number of turns and the winner is the one that could complete the most turns without falling on the floor.

When I first came to China I thought that most of my students would be very interested in learning about other countries. They did ask me a few questions, but just like most teenagers elsewhere they are just focused on their own lives and really do not care much about what happens in the rest of the world.

We did not receive any money but we did get a $200.00 deduction on our taxes.

I started looking into it out of boredom. My eldest son has moved out and it seems we really don’t do too much. I thought it would be interesting to have someone from another culture living with us to stir things up a bit. When I was looking at profiles, I noticed a young adult that seemed to have a lot in common with our family. He is in a rock band (as is my husband and son) he likes to swim (pool in the yard) he likes basketball (my daughter plays on her school team) he is german (my sil’s family is from Germany).The expense is a concern. It isn’t something that is paid so I am feeding a teenage boy for six months. He is supposed to have money from his family to pay for clothes and toiletries but I have a feeling I may have to contribute there too. He isn’t permitted to drive so acting as a taxi service may get old if he finds himself with an active social life. I assume I pay for our outing would of course would include Disney, Universal and Seaworld at the very least seeing we are in Central Florida.