When you become one of the thousands of families that host an exchange student each year, you may wonder, “Why isn’t everybody doing this?” For host dad Mike Carroll, it was that feeling that led him to join STS Foundation as a Local Coordinator, where he has gone on to give other families in his community the gift of a new culture and perspective. He shares his experiences both as a host and a Local Coordinator, and how it’s much more than culture that is exchanged when you welcome a young person into your community.
“My family has hosted foreign exchange students since before I was born. When my mother was a high school student her family hosted students. When I was in high school my family then hosted again. The first two students that we hosted back in the 80s are still in contact with us to this day. In fact, eight years ago my wife and I hosted the son of the student that we hosted in 1984. My wife and I and our kids have hosted seven students ourselves. These students have come from five different countries. It always seemed like when we were hosting we were trying to talk other families into hosting, so I was asked to become a Local Coordinator (LC). I am now in my ninth year as an LC and have placed close to 130 students from around the world during that time. It is incredibly rewarding because I get to see these kids live out their dream of being an American high school student for a year. I also get to see the great personal enjoyment that the host families gain from the experience. While I have families that only host once, most of my families host multiple times like my family. I currently have a family that is hosting their 14th student.
These exchange students bring something to their host families, schools, and communities that can not be taught from a book or learned by watching a video. They open up the world to their communities. American students often do not travel as much as European students so they may never have the opportunity to meet someone from Sweden, Austria, Italy, or another country. Without these exchange students, the world is very small, especially in rural communities where I place students. I have had multiple host families that have traveled after hosting to their student’s home country, and many have told me that this was the first time they traveled to a country other than Mexico or Canada.
Hosting is not just a one-way road where the student provides something to the family and the community and gains nothing from the experience. As a local coordinator, I have witnessed with my own eyes students arrive from their home countries as very shy and nervous young people. They are unsure of their surroundings and can become homesick. Many, however, become involved in their school community and their host family and those feelings of insecurity vanish quickly. It is amazing when I hear from the student “I feel like I have been here my entire life.” or “I have two families now.” Those same insecure students often leave at the end of their exchange year as a changed person. They have gained a year of knowledge, but they have also gained self-awareness, and maturity, and have gained a belief in themselves that would have taken years otherwise.
As both a Local Coordinator and host family I can not recommend hosting strongly enough. I have so many amazing memories of my time involved with this program, too many to mention. I don't have one favorite memory, because there are so many and they are so numerous. I feel like I am a foreign exchange student evangelist because I could talk to anyone about hosting and know that if they did it it would be life-changing not only for them but also for the student.”
Don’t miss out on the opportunity to give your community the incredible opportunity to learn about a country and culture firsthand. Join the STS Foundation team today and help in our mission to foster greater mutual understanding in our world and to empower young people to grow through the power of cultural exchange! Learn more about becoming a Local Coordinator.
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
When you become one of the thousands of families that host an exchange student each year, you may wonder, “Why isn’t everybody doing this?” For host dad Mike Carroll, it was that feeling that led him to join STS Foundation as a Local Coordinator, where he has gone on to give other families in his community the gift of a new culture and perspective. He shares his experiences both as a host and a Local Coordinator, and how it’s much more than culture that is exchanged when you welcome a young person into your community.Read More
In a world filled with technological advancements and instant connectivity, it’s easy to forget the power of simple, genuine human connections. The heartwarming stories of Melinda Krause and Claudia Werner Grassy remind us that true friendship can transcend time, distance, and cultural barriers. Their tale of a summer exchange program in the mid-1980s has not only shaped their lives but has also extended its legacy to the next generation.Read More
Are you ready to step out of your comfort zone, explore new horizons, and make unforgettable memories? Embarking on a high school exchange year is a thrilling adventure that promises personal growth, cultural immersion, and lifelong friendships. As you gear up for this transformative experience, let’s delve into the key aspects of preparation, including a unique suggestion that can significantly enhance your journey – having your family host an exchange student.Read More
Did you know that 66% of US households own a pet? For many exchange students, this is one of many cultural differences they encounter during their time spent in America. In some cultures, pets are very uncommon, and some students may even have fears of sharing their home with a furry friend. But with time and treats, exchange students and pets usually become fast friends, and students end up trying to find a way to sneak their host pet into their luggage when they return home.Read More
When you decide to welcome an exchange student into your heart and home, you may not know what to expect. Each journey and relationship is different, but each one is filled with learning, love, and memories that will last a lifetime. And sometimes students and host families don’t realize just how much of an impact their experiences together have had on them until years have passed. STS Foundation has been bringing American families and international students together since 1986, and we love seeing the long-term, global impact exchange has on us all.Read More
Every year, families across the USA welcome over 30,000 high school exchange students from all corners of the globe. The appeal of the USA as a destination for young learners is undeniable. From its world-class education system and diverse cultural landscape to its vibrant communities and vast extracurricular opportunities, there are numerous reasons why the USA remains the number one choice of destination for high school exchange students.Read More
Becoming a host family is a remarkable opportunity to open your doors, hearts, and minds to a new culture. Welcoming an exchange student into your home can be an enriching experience for both your family and the student. However, as a first-time host family, it’s natural to have questions about what to expect. In this blog post, we’ll guide you through the journey and highlight key aspects you can anticipate when hosting a high school exchange student.Read More
When young people say “Yes!” to the exchange experience, they’re saying “Yes!” to learning a new way of life, and that can be both exciting and scary. Vuk, a Future Leaders Exchange scholarship student from Serbia, took the leap and found he had a lot to learn about the world around him. He talks about how his year in the USA changed his perspective on the world.Read More
In this blog post, we share with you the transformative impact of international exchange students and the importance for American high schools to partner with organizations like STS Foundation to welcome these students into their classrooms.Read More
No matter your hosting story, it can be said that you learn a lot while also teaching you exchange student many things as well. Host mom Jill shares how hosting again years after her first time was a new experience, and all the things her family learned from having an international young person in her home.Read More
STS Foundation host families come in all different shapes and sizes, each one offering loving homes and unique experiences to exchange students from around the world. Whether you have a house full of kids or are empty nesters, everyone becomes a special kind of parent – a host parent – when they say yes to welcoming a young person into their hearts and homes. Host dad Jeff Jones shares how hosting has allowed him to have experiences as a dad he might not otherwise have had.Read More
Each year, over 30,000 American families make the decision to welcome exchange students into their hearts and homes for 5 to 10 months. While each family has their own story of how they joined the exchange community, they all have had unforgettable moments with their exchange students that have changed their lives forever. Host mom Heather shares her hosting story!Read More
When you become a host family for an exchange student, you invite the world into your home and community. You also provide a life-changing experience not only for your student, but for you and your family as well. By helping a young cultural ambassador experience life in the USA, you get a front-row seat to watch them grow, and to learn about another country and culture. The Winkles family in Texas has made a tradition of hosting exchange students for years now, and each student they’ve hosted has become part of their family. Host mom Laura shares how they first got started, and things she’s taken from hosting year after year.Read More
Each year, high school exchange students around the world prepare for their exchange year in America by attending orientations before leaving their home countries. At these events, students prepare for immersing themselves in a new culture and review the rules of the program. This year, members of the STS Foundation team were invited to join these events to share their perspectives on life in the USA and what to expect as an exchange student.Read More
Each year, American Councils for International Education hosts the Workshop for Youth Leaders in English Teaching (WYLET) for select exchange students taking part in the FLEX and YES scholarship programs. WYLET builds on the U.S. experience through an intensive, week-long training program for aspiring English language teachers in Washington, DC. Participating students also develop and practice important leadership skills such as public speaking, team-building, and goal-setting. Participants are expected to organize or participate in teaching English upon returning to their home communities.Read More
Each year, STS Foundation Local Coordinators all around the USA help foster and grow cultural exchange in their communities. They build lifelong friendships around the world while working with students, high schools, and families who open their hearts and homes to new cultures. Karley Ailin joined the STS Foundation team in Missouri and treasures the connections she’s made with her students and host families! Karley shares her story and how much she’s learned in her role as Local Coordinator with STS Foundation.Read More
After being accepted onto the program and preparing for her exchange experience, Elena crossed the Atlantic to join her host family in Indiana. Over the last 8 months, she has had the opportunity to pursue her interests and try new hobbies, all while exploring life in America. Elena shares with us what her experience of life as an American teenager has been like so far.Read More
In the United States, February is Black History Month. All around the country, schools and communities take this month to remember and celebrate important people and events in Black American history. Sali, an exchange student from Palestine, joined her school’s Black Student Union to learn more about Black American History and to take part in her school’s Black History Month events! Here’s what she had to say about her experience:Read More
For the past five months, Vlada has been a remarkable member of the Troutdale community in Oregon where she is spending her high school exchange year. Vlada is an exchange student from Estonia who discovered the American spirit of volunteerism and gave back to the community that welcomes her by participating in the Helping Hands Community Service Project with STS Foundation.Read More
Carlos is a high school student from Spain who came to the USA as an exchange student with STS Foundation. After going through a rigorous application process and months of preparation, Carlos finally hopped on a plane in August 2022 to fly across the Atlantic and meet his host family in Louisiana. Over the last 7 months, Carlos’ host family and friends have been showing him the American way of life and shares with us his experience.Read More
During his exchange year, Denys has been an active member of the community where he is spending his high school exchange year. Denys is an exchange student from Turkey who offered up his passions and talents to give back to the community that welcomes him by participating in the Helping Hands Community Service Project with STS Foundation. The bulk of Denys’s volunteering took place at his local library, as well as the town’s history museum. Here is what he shares about his volunteering experience.Read More
Each year, exchange students set goals for their exchange year. Whether it’s wanting to try new things, grow as a person, or learn new skills, we love seeing them work hard and reach their goals. For Paula from Spain, the goal was to break records. With a passion for swimming, Paula was excited when she found out her high school had a swim team and that she would have the chance to participate. She shares her achievements both in and out of the pool during her exchange year.Read More
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