Wry Exchange

Why Should I be a Host Parent?
08-09-07, 10:21 pm
Filed under: Exchange Students, hosting | Tags: , , ,

Hosting is fun.  Hosting will change your life.  Hosting can change the world.   At the very least, you’ll have several funny stories to tell at parties. 

Through the years, countless host parents have thanked me for letting them host.  They tell me “We got more out of hosting than the student did.”  They’re surprised; they think they a doing a good deed for a student, and end up having their own lives enriched.  A lot of people host for the first time because they want to help a friend who needs a host family for an incoming student.  That’s how Husband and I started.  We were hooked, and recruited our friends. 

I always begin by asking a potential family to host a student for 2-3 months.  Most people can visualize opening their home to a young stranger for a few months.  If the student and family are well-matched, they have the option of remaining together for the year.  If it isn’t working out, the student is moved to my back-up host family.  The students are only here for one year, and we all want them to have the best possible experience.

People host to help a young person, but host parents and siblings benefit too.  I think it’s hard to do well, but worth it.  If your child thinks he may want to be an exchange student some day, hosting is a good way to learn more.  Husband and I enjoy having an extra person in the house.  We like learning different customs from the students.  People may want to learn more about their own heritage.  There are a lot of German families in Brasil, and many Italians in Argentina.  Did you know that there are Amish in Bolivia?

When you invite a student to live with you for the first time, you’ll be nervous and make mistakes.  A common mistake is treating the student as a guest, not a family member.  Give the student rules and chores.   He can set the table or fill the dishwasher without understanding much English.   But then, as you see them grow, magic happens.  Well, hopefully.

My favorite part is watching the arc from beginning to end.  The students look, behave, dress, and even think differently by the end of the year.  Sparky grew 3 inches this year.  I loved watching him learn to succeed with friends, teammates, and in school.  The kids become American teens.  They gain confidence. The kids will never again be a citizen of one country.  They become citizens of the world.  

I also enjoy seeing everyday things through their eyes.  Squirrels fascinate exchange students.  They like Hard Rock Cafes and Hooters.  Many of the students like our highway system, it’s very different for them.  We take students to Niagara Falls almost annually.  It’s fun watching them experience the Falls for the first time.  

When you host, you have a new relative.  You can go visit your student in her home country to see her way of life.  Weddings in Europe and South America are a whole lot more fun than weddings here!  It’s much easier to stay close now with webcams and cheap internet phone calls. 

To successfully host, you have to be flexible, tolerant, and have some patience. (I certainly do not have a lot of patience.) You don’t need a lot of money, children living at home, or a big house.  You just have to open your heart and home.  I’m not saying you’ll fall in love with your student, but you should become a real family.  It will hurt to say ‘farewell’ when they return home.


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