Author Topic: Hosting a foreign exchange student  (Read 845 times)

MayDay

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Hosting a foreign exchange student
« on: May 06, 2019, 06:54:23 PM »
My Spouse and I are considering hosting a foreign exchange student at some point. I have a variety of questions, but the top one is how do you find programs, and how do you evaluate which ones are good?

Current questions we are pondering:
1. What are the costs? Do we cover all room/board or do they pay a stipend?
2. What do we do if we go on a trip? Adding a third child would be another plane ticket and a whole nother hotel room, so quite expensive. Are we expected to fund the exchange student? If not, where do they go?
3. Are curfews typical? How much are you parenting vs. having a young adult guest in your house?
4. Along the same lines can you assign typical household chores in line with the other children in the house?
5. Are there any unacceptable age combinations? We have a 9 and 11 year old.
6. Pros and cons of different length exchanges? I have seen from 1 month to a year. The longer ones are a little scary because what if the student annoys the crap out of us or there are other issues?

At this point we are spitballing. We have a great room we could use for a student but we have only 1.5 baths and a fairly small house (1600 sq ft) and I've never parented a teenager, so we are inclined to be cautious. But in some ways I think it would be easier to do when our kids are middle school age.

startingsmall

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Re: Hosting a foreign exchange student
« Reply #1 on: May 06, 2019, 07:41:25 PM »
We hosted a couple of exchange students while I was growing up. This was ~25 yrs ago, so I'm sure there have probably been changes, but I know that my mom received a stipend to help cover the students' living expenses. (In fact, that was a large part of why she did it, because we were struggling financially... so presumably it was a decent amount of money.)

In our case, we hosted one student for a month, then later hosted two students (simultaneously) for a month. The first student we LOVED and would have been glad to let him stay for a year. The other two students were not as good of a fit (one was "okay," one was very difficult to tolerate) and we were pretty relieved to see them go. I would definitely lean towards a shorter placement the first time, just to see how it works out for your family.

Our students never really went out on their own, so curfews weren't an issue. Neither were vacations, due to the length of their placement. They were expected to chip in around the house just like my brother and I... although, admittedly, my mom was a SAHM and therefore we didn't really have very many chores!

Villanelle

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Re: Hosting a foreign exchange student
« Reply #2 on: May 06, 2019, 08:53:36 PM »
We had one when I was in junior high and my sister in high school.  It was for an entire school year and the program was for older high school kids.  As far as I know, there was no stipend, but I may just have not been privy to that.  She was just another kid in the family so she had chores just like we did.

It wasn't a great match.  Partway through the year, she requested to go live with the family of one of her friend's from school.  Around the same time, another kid from the program was having some sort of issues with his host family, so he came to us.  Now, about 30 years later, he is still a part of his family.  His kids call my parents Grandma and Grandpa.  There have been visits to Brazil, and he and even some of his family have visited my family in the US.  So if it doesn't work, generally there are way around that, although you'd want to ask your specific program.

My parents were definitely expected to care for the students just as they did their own kids.  it would have seemed cruel to head off to Disneyworld and tell the student we'd see her/him in 2 weeks, even if they'd somehow made the arrangements for care/supervision during that time.  I don't know if this was just the way our family ran things, but it seems to me like it would have been awkward for everyone if a family hadn't operated that way.   Again, this could vary by program, but for the one that facilitated our students, I'd say you need to be prepared for it to be like having an additional child.  Mom drove her to ballet lessons just like she drove my sister to band practice.  If she broke a rule, she was grounded.  If mom would have paid for a prom dress for us, she paid for it for her.  And her curfew was the same as my sister's because she was a kid in our family and the same rules applied.

My Brother- and sister-in-law hosted younger (11, I think?) Chinese kids who were students at their kids' private school.  They did receive a stipend, and my sense was that while the kids were part of the family, they were a little more like guests, though that could be just they way they approached it. 

habaneroNorway

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Re: Hosting a foreign exchange student
« Reply #3 on: May 07, 2019, 05:01:33 AM »
Guess what you are "expected" to cover varies a lot based on the specific student. Where he/she is from? Are his/hers parents loaded? What is he/she used to recieving from his/hers parents?

T_Stein

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Re: Hosting a foreign exchange student
« Reply #4 on: May 07, 2019, 08:07:07 AM »
I have been an exchange student from Germany to the US twice.

The first time was a month long stay in the US and a return visit half a year later. This was in 2006 and I was 15 at that time. It was organized by my school and an American partner school through GAPP (German American Partnership Program). Most of us stayed with the family of that student who would also stay with our respective family on their trip to Germany.

The second time was a year long stay in the same city. I was 16/17 at that time. Rather than going through a program, it was privately organized with the help of the German teacher from the partner school. I ended up going to a different high school in the same city because the family who could host me for a year lived closer to it. Although it worked out in my case (and saved me and my family a lot of money - going through a program can cost the exchange student north of 10,000 €) I highly recommend going through a (non-profit!) program. They can provide counseling or find a new placement for the exchange student if you end up not getting along at all.

Both my host families and I have visited each other multiple times since then and we are still in contact.

An ex-boy friend of mine volunteered with AFS (American Field Service Intercultural Programs). It is an international network of non-profit youth exchange organizations. YFU (Youth for Understanding) is another one and there are certainly more. I would recommend using one of the non-profit programs since they seem to provide better services (e.g. preparing the students and families before the exchange, support during the exchange, ...) for less money than for-profit programs. They also often offer stipends to exchange students whose families are not that well-situated. You might want to ask your local high school about their experiences with different programs.

Now on to your questions:

1. Usually, you cover the exchange students' room and board. You don't cover their spending money, health insurance etc. Some for-profit organizations may pay you money but I am not sure about that. You may be able to claim a tax deduction for having an exchange student stay with you.

2. If they can't come with you, they can either stay with a friend or with a short-term host family organized by the program. However, since they are supposed to be a full member of the family it would probably be nicer to figure out a way they can join you on your vacation. They may be able to cover their own cost or alternatively, you might be able to plan a less expensive vacation.

3. You can and should apply the same curfews as you would to your own children of the same age.
Will you be parenting or having a young adult guest? Definitely both. Although they will be part of your family and you will have the role of the parent it will naturally still feel different from your own kids. Depending on their background they may be more or less independent than American teenagers at that age. They may feel homesick at times and need your support there.
Compared to Germany, teenagers have to folloe more rules in the US (early curfews, having to ask your teacher to go to the bathroom, ...). To me, it was strange to have my mobility depend on others. There was no public transportation at all where I lived miles outside the city and I depended on rides from my host family and friends.

4. Absolutely. The idea is that they will be part of your family and this includes chores.

5. No, not really. I had a host brother my age (and two older sisters who had already moved out) but families with children of all ages or even without children or with adult children can host. Even if your children are the same age as the exchange student, don't expect them to become best friends. They might "only" form a sibling-relationship.
Personally, I liked having a sibling my age but it would also have been fun to have younger siblings in the family.
If they are to share a room with one of your own children you probably want to make sure they are about the same age so they have similar daily routines.

6. Just a few thoughts:

Short term stays:
- You could get exposed to many different cultures by hosting multiple exchange students in succession.
- They will be a guest rather than a member of your family.
- If you happen to not get along you could just stick it out since they would leave soon anyway.

Long term stays:
- You can build a closer and potentially more lasting connection with the exchange student.
- Expect the occasional argument. Since they will be part of your family, there are definitely going to be conflicts. That's a normal part of family life after all.

About the size of your house and the number of bathrooms:
From a European perspective, this is a normal to large house size for a family of 4 or then 5. Growing up, we only had one bathroom for a family of four. I guess, after all, it depends on your routines and need for privacy (Do all of you get up at the same time? Do you mind brushing your teeth while others do the same?).


In conclusion, I had a great time and I am still in contact with my host families and many friends I made there.
In a few years, I would definitely like to host exchange students ourselves. I believe it's a wonderful way to get to know a different culture. You could start by trying a short term stay for a few weeks to see if you enjoy having an exchange student and to find out if the size of your house works with an additional person.

april_leigh

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Re: Hosting a foreign exchange student
« Reply #5 on: May 09, 2019, 03:14:49 PM »
Woo, this is my first post here! :)

We are wrapping up our first experience with hosting. We've had a 17-year-old Italian girl for the whole school year! We weren't sure about that long for our first time, but our high school only accepts full year placements, so that was that!  It has been a great experience. We're pretty sure we're going to wait another year and then host again.

The program we're with is called Cultural Homestay International. The support has been fantastic! We "matched" with our student in May, and she arrived in August. So we had a lot of time to Skype, email and chat via WhatsApp to get to know each other a bit before she arrived. We were able to talk about what some of our expectations were, and I believe either of us could have backed out if any issues came up.

1. What are the costs? Do we cover all room/board or do they pay a stipend?
     With CHI, we don't receive a stipend. We offer a place to stay, and 3 meals a day, and a nice environment (I hope!) It is a State Department requirement (I believe) that the student has their own bed (not a futon or hide-a-bed) and cell phone not on the family's plan. However they are responsible for that cost. Any spending money, sports, school fees and activities, specific food requests, etc. are the responsibility of the student.

2. What do we do if we go on a trip? Adding a third child would be another plane ticket and a whole nother hotel room, so quite expensive. Are we expected to fund the exchange student? If not, where do they go?
    We've gone on 3 trips with our student. With our program, it's definitely acceptable to ask the student to pay their costs. We paid for the first 2 trips because we wanted to, but the 3rd was a week-long roadtrip for Spring Break. We did ask her to pay for 25% of the lodging and her share of activities, and we paid for food and gas. No problems whatsoever. We have a 12-year-old son; we bought a single-sized air mattress and he slept on that in the 2 Holiday Inns we stayed in, but the rest of the time we had 3 bed AirBnbs. Your coordinator should be able to help you find someone for the student to stay with if they aren't able to go with you.

3. Are curfews typical? How much are you parenting vs. having a young adult guest in your house?
     House rules are totally acceptable, and encouraged. Our student was a little different, in that during the week she lives with her older brother in "the city" and only sees her parents in "the village" on the weekends. So she was used to a certain amount of independence. She had no problem with having a curfew and rules about when she could go out with friends. We haven't really had to parent much, I don't think, but I'm not sure how much of that is just not having had a teenager before!

4. Along the same lines can you assign typical household chores in line with the other children in the house?
     Absolutely. I think it really helps the students feel like family, and not just guests.

5. Are there any unacceptable age combinations? We have a 9 and 11 year old.
    Our program didn't mention any. I was nervous about our 12-year-old boy, but there have been no issues. Well, it took a while for him to get out of "only child mode" and realize that he didn't get 100% of our attention anymore. But they were bickering like siblings by Christmas!
   
6. Pros and cons of different length exchanges? I have seen from 1 month to a year. The longer ones are a little scary because what if the student annoys the crap out of us or there are other issues?
   Initially, we didn't want a full-year student, but that's all our high school accepts. When we met with the coordinators, they reassured us that nothing is set in stone. If it really doesn't work out, they will find a new family. There have been a few students in our group that had to be moved, but they made it work. I would imagine that a shorter placement would logistically be easier, but you don't get the same bonding as a longer placement!


happypigday

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Re: Hosting a foreign exchange student
« Reply #6 on: July 07, 2019, 11:15:02 PM »
We hosted a grand total of 30 students (2-3 at a time!) from 15 countries over 6 years so I consider myself fairly well versed on this subject!  (Good to know I have something to contribute).

1. What are the costs? Do we cover all room/board or do they pay a stipend?

This depends on the program.  A "homestay family" generally implies being paid for room and board -- sometimes as taxable income, sometimes "to cover expenses".  Hosting an "exchange student" usually implies an act of goodwill and generosity for the sake of cultural exchange, etc.

We were trying to monetize the two extra rooms in our house so that we could have more space and still stay within our budget so we were only interested in the first option.  We were in a HCOL area at the time and were able to rent each room for ~800 so we pulled in 1600 towards our rent which was very helpful when my DW went back to school.

We lived close to a local university and close enough to a variety of English language schools (mostly post-high school kids coming to the States to improve their English for anywhere from 3 weeks to 8 months).  We started by hosting for EF (Education First) which had a school in our area but we also rented to international university students independently.

2. What do we do if we go on a trip? Adding a third child would be another plane ticket and a whole nother hotel room, so quite expensive. Are we expected to fund the exchange student? If not, where do they go?

We mostly had older kids (post high school or college aged).  They had tons of friends from their various schools and they all headed off to NYC or other locations during breaks.  They definitely did not want to vacation with two middle aged women so it was not a problem.

3. Are curfews typical? How much are you parenting vs. having a young adult guest in your house?

Since most of our kids were 18+ and operating independently we did not enforce a curfew.  We did tell them that if they slept overnight somewhere else (with friends, boyfriends, etc.) they had to tell us and tell us WHERE THEY WERE. 

Once or twice, the language school gave us kids who were 16 or 17.  One girl (German) was great, super responsible, it's not uncommon for 17yo Germans to operate completely independently of their parents.  The other young girl (Corsican) was a complete mess.  We were not legally responsible for her (in loco parentis) but we didn't feel like the school provided enough oversight, she broke all of our rules immediately and was a pain in the a**.  Eventually she had a screaming match with her mother and ended up moving to the dorms where she could party with her friends.  Goodbye! 

In all fairness, out of 30 students, we loved and bonded with some and had respectful but more distant relations with others but there were only 2-3 who were bad apples and they quickly left on their own.  I really doubt you would see the same issues with an exchange student, who is specifically coming to spend an entire year with an American family.

4. Along the same lines can you assign typical household chores in line with the other children in the house?

Yes.  We generally did not have chores but our students were older.

5. Are there any unacceptable age combinations? We have a 9 and 11 year old.

I don't think the exchange programs worry about this but personally, we only hosted female students, partially because we are both women and partially because we have a young daughter and didn't feel comfortable with a young man we really did not know in the house all the time.  Also, girls eat a lot less than teenage boys!

6. Pros and cons of different length exchanges? I have seen from 1 month to a year. The longer ones are a little scary because what if the student annoys the crap out of us or there are other issues?

I would start with a shorter length of time so that you can learn what you like and don't like.  For example, we loved having students from the Middle East and we are quite knowledgeable about Muslim culture but some of the host families had trouble with that specific cultural difference.  We enjoyed having students from East Asia and Latin America as well.  After a few bad experiences with younger students, we started asking for students who were at least 18, preferably 20.

Overall, we enjoyed students who were more home / family oriented and who would sit with us after dinner and have long conversations about religion and politics.  The students who mostly wanted to shop and hang out with their friends were fine and easy to manage but not as enjoyable for us.  We enjoyed middle class and work-their-way-up type students more than the super wealthy kids who come to America to play. 

Our daughter was 3-9 during this time and she honestly began to completely ignore the students after a certain point.  I would strongly suggest that you ask for a student who has younger siblings -- the kids we had with younger siblings were much more into our daughter and it really helped.  They wanted to play with her, help out, read to her, etc. partially b/c they missed their younger sibs.  The other students literally ignored her and she happily returned the favor.

You have to be willing to keep an open line of communication and to be aware of cultural differences around food, bathroom habits, shoes, parent-child interaction, etc.  Hopefully, the exchange student coordinator can help with all of that.  We saw our role as trying to help the student have whatever experience THEY wanted to have in America.  We were facilitators for their American experience.  If that meant taking a road trip to visit my family for Passover, great.  If it meant never coming home except to sleep because they were out partying or shopping with their friends, also great.

We hoped that our "side hustle" of being a home stay family would allow us to travel the world from home, given that we did not have the time or money to do it ourselves.  It met that goal and more and we now consider many of our former students part of our extended family.  I recommend it 100%.