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Illustration for article titled How To Host a Foreign Exchange Student
Photo: Shutterstock (Shutterstock)

Hosting an exchange student is an enriching experience that allows you to serve as the bridge that allows another person to enter into America. Through exchange programs, you can teach your hosted student about American culture: our food, our political history, our pop culture, our natural beauty, our diverse cities and the day-to-day realities of American life. At a time when America’s reputation on the world stage is in decline, it may be more important than ever.

If you’ve ever considered hosting an exchange student and want to know how it works, here is a basic overview.

The concept

Through an exchange program, students from around the world have the opportunity to come to America to continue their studies while living with you. Typically, exchange students are in their last years of high school or in college. They will live with you for a specified time, attending a local school while you introduce them to life in America.

The benefits for you and the student include:

  • Forging lifelong bonds
  • Opening windows to understanding other cultures
  • Making a positive impact on someone else’s life

Who is eligible to host

Anyone looking to host a student must pass a background check as well as a check of your home. Just as when you apply to adopt or foster a child, the exchange program will ensure that the home and people hosting are safe and have all space and resources necessary for their exchange student to live comfortably.

The specific criteria set by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs states you must:

  • Be able to provide for an additional member of the family including a separate bed, suitable study area, and three meals per day.
  • Offer a supportive environment as the student goes through his or her adjustment process.
  • Be interested in teenagers/international students and have realistic expectations of what life with a teenager is like. Help your student adapt to your family and to U.S. life and culture.
  • Familiarize your student with your hometown and promote participation in school and community events.
  • Provide a safe and secure environment for the student to live and learn.
Illustration for article titled How To Host a Foreign Exchange Student
Screenshot: Imani Bashir

The process

First, you will find an exchange program that you would like to apply and participate as a host family. You will then need to:

  • Fill out the “Host Family Interest” form.
  • Speak with a representative to ask any and all questions while they provide in-depth.
  • Complete an application with in-depth details about you, your family (if applicable), and your overall lifestyle.

Upon acceptance as a host/host family, you’ll work with a representative to be matched with the student that best fits with your everyday lifestyle, family dynamics and interests. For example, if you enjoy skiing because you live in Colorado, having a student that also enjoys adventurous activities will benefit you both.

Background check

You must provide the information for a background check performed on your own. You can use IntelliCorp, a virtual way to input all of your information and send it directly to the exchange program. You will only be accepted as a host if you pass a criminal background check.

In the case of emergency

Exchange students will go through a full physical prior to being accepted into the program. After the physical, they will be required to submit a report specifying that they are in optimal health and able to travel and participate in the program.

Exchange students are provided with a health insurance plan that will cover their expenses in the event they experience a medical emergency.

Finding a program

You can find a ton of programs and resources on the internet. Here’s a list of them to get you started on your student exchange hosting journey:

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