Each year, over 30,000 American families open their doors to exchange students, and each family has their own “why.” When you open your heart and home to a young person, you may be thinking about all the things you have to give them - a second family, a chance to live life as a typical American teenager, new experiences. But you’ll soon learn that you also have so much to gain. Host mom Bobbi shares how hosting over the years has given her family the gift of a new culture and an international family.
“It doesn’t seem possible that it has already been eleven years since our family decided to host our first exchange student and provide an opportunity for an international teenager to live and partake in the American culture! Our initial intent in embarking on the hosting journey was to learn about new cultures, broaden our horizons, and have lots of fun. Also, our biological daughter is an only child, and she was beyond enthusiastic to engage in the experience of finally having a sibling. At this time, little did we know the extent and lasting impact that international kids would have on our lives!
Over time, we have continued to host additional exchange students for multiple reasons. First and foremost, are the close relationships we have developed with our international daughters and sons. Despite time and distance, we remain in contact with all of them through FaceTime, messaging/texting, emails, etc. Second is the joy of seeing and sharing the excitement of first-time experiences through their eyes. Whether it is joining a new school activity or sport, participating in an American holiday tradition, or visiting an iconic American landmark or destination. Third is the importance of encouraging connection between our home, community, and the wider world. Hosting an exchange student from another part of the world has helped us to better understand our differences, appreciate our similarities, and graciously respect both. Last would be our own growth – both individually and as a family unit. The exchange process has opened our minds to the world around us and enhanced our belief and value systems. We have truly enjoyed the new personalities and uniqueness of each of our international kids and the significant influence they have added to our family.
Throughout the years, we have gained so much more than we ever originally expected by welcoming international students into our home. As mentioned previously, we have gained not only lasting relationships with our international daughters and sons but we have also been accepted and embraced by their families. We have been blessed to visit each of our kids in their home countries (Germany, Sweden, Italy, and Spain to come in December 2023) and have even had the pleasure of celebrating a holiday abroad. Hosting has sparked curiosity, desire, and passion for our family to experience international travel for ourselves and discover new and foreign places. In fact, our daughter has had the chance to study abroad in England and then engage in a backpacking trip to numerous countries throughout Europe.
Hosting exchange students has also positively influenced our extended families and the communities where we have resided. Not only have our international kids become a part of our immediate family but also our extended families. They have been wholeheartedly received by grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, etc. We have also had other family members host exchange students of their own and have enjoyed establishing relationships with them. Additionally, community settings have also played a vital part for our exchange students. Our international kids flourished in the school setting through their involvement in school activities and sports such as FBLA, homecoming, prom, yearbook, basketball, cheerleading, cross country, football, golf, and track.
They relished the feeling of school pride, the opportunity to be a part of a team, and the interactions outside of the classroom with coaches and teachers. Participation in volunteer efforts including blood drives, raking leaves for the elderly, and distributing candy during the town “Trick or Trunk” helped to strengthen their ties with the community. Most of our international kids have returned for visits not only to see us but others (friends, coaches, teachers, neighbors, and community members) who played an essential role during their time in America.
As a result of hosting exchange students, our family has created a plethora of priceless memories that we will cherish forever. The first ones that come to mind are weekend and spring break trips; holiday celebrations; state-level participation in sporting events; and visiting our international kids in their home countries. However, there are a lot of those little moments that we treasure just as much: singing and dancing when we were preparing meals at home; the laughter and time spent together while playing board games; great conversations that spark interest and debate; and catching up with one another through various forms of media.”
Join families like Bobbi’s who cherish the gifts that hosting gives them, and share the gifts your family has to offer with an exchange student! There are so many moments to share and memories to make, don’t miss out on the incredible opportunity to welcome an exchange student into your home. Learn more about hosting an exchange student today!
Each year, exchange students arrive to the USA, ready to jump right into life at American high schools. Whether they’re trying something new or continuing a passion, they can’t wait to make new friends and be part of their school community. For Inigo from Spain, he found a new way to enjoy his love of music. As a musician back in Spain, he had plenty of experience playing the saxophone. But upon arriving to the USA, he found a new way to play with his high school marching band. He shares how he prepared for his exchange year, and how his first few weeks in the USA have been.Read More
Each year, over 30,000 American families open their doors to exchange students, and each family has their own “why.” When you open your heart and home to a young person, you may be thinking about all the things you have to give them – a second family, a chance to live life as a typical American teenager, new experiences. But you’ll soon learn that you also have so much to gain. Host mom Bobbi shares how hosting over the years has given her family the gift of a new culture and an international family.Read More
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