The following list of ten reasons to host an exchange student was written by Regenia, an AYA Local Coordinator with lots of experience exploring life in these United States through student exchange. From roots in Ohio, the branches of Regenia’s family now extend around the world.
1. It helps your family to behave (and be nicer).
Seriously, your natural kids will behave better (for about a week or so) and you and your partner will be kinder, gentler and more understanding with each other. After all, you want your family to be a model family/ home. You are representing the USA to someone from another country. Too much pressure? Read on.
2. You will meet more people in your community.
I cannot believe how many more people my family has met because we happen to host exchange students. Sure, we meet students from around the world, but since we are the hosts of the local “celebrity” in town, so many people know, or know of, the “exchange student.”
Recently, we visited the local Chipotle, paused in reading an order from a text message, because it read the ambiguous “meat” as an ingredient. Interrupting our discussion regarding what “meat” could mean, the burrito craftsperson said, “Oh if this for Mirko (our Italian exchange student), he will want chicken.” What is this life?
Truth! Culture is one of those often innate, generally subtle influences in our lives that we interpret as “reality.” We don’t really have to think about why we do the things we do past the age of 3 or 4. Just like having a preschooler in your midst who questions your every action, word and thought, hosting an exchange student will bring up questions to things you never really considered. Why do you eat pizza with your hands? Why are the eggs white? What do the pink ribbons on cars mean? What’s the difference between “pop” and “soda?” It’s fascinating stuff!
4. You will rediscover local attractions.
How many times have you said something like, “Yeah, we need to visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, art museum, or national park…” but failed to make time for it in your schedule? Having a deadline (like the end of an academic year with an exchange student) will provide you the necessary motivation to schedule in some fun with your family. No more putting things off for another week; you only have a few weeks to share with your exchange son or daughter, and you need to make the most of it.
5. You will learn new games to play with your family.
One Christmas while at a boring family reunion, our kids entertained themselves by playing “Chinese poker” thanks to Yizheng, our Chinese exchange student, who just happened to bring along two packs of playing cards and the knowledge of the game. This past Christmas break we played Tombola (an Italian game similar to Bingo). Our family has learned lots of traditional family games from other cultures because the exchange kids introduce them. Great fun!
6. You can play World Cup Soccer in your backyard.
Not a fan of soccer? You will be. Most of the world LOVES soccer like nobody’s business. Your exchange student’s enthusiasm will be catching, and before you know it, you will be in your backyard engaged in your own version of the World Cup (USA vs. _____) It’s your choice!
7. You and your kids will learn A LOT about geography, world politics and culture.
Not sure where Kazakhstan is? Wonder what life is like in Ukraine? Concerned about life in the Middle East or the number of Syrian refugees in Europe? Living with a student from another country will provide the opportunity to learn about the world in a new and exciting way. Car rides and family dinners will have the potential to help your world view evolve and your understanding of diversity expand. That’s a good thing.
8. Family meals will become epicurean adventures.
Exchange students love to share their culture, and for most of us, culture easily equates to food! We enjoyed Nutella in large quantities before it graced the shelves of Target and learned that most every culture has some form of food in “pockets.” Seriously. Chinese dumplings, pierogis, ravioli, even quesadillas, crepes or burritos are all excuses to hide deliciousness in a doughy substance and serve it to your family. Fast food from home will take on a whole new attitude as your epicurean palate expands with the help of your exchange student.
9. Your little kids will have the BEST show and tell ever, and your older kids will have a live-in foreign language tutor.
Having a real live person from Spain to share with your class on World Cultures day at elementary school is pretty awesome. The same goes for cramming for the French test with the help of your live-in native speaker. Exchange students always want to improve their English, but in exchange (pardon the pun) they are always willing to share their culture, language and history with others. It’s a win-win.
10. The world will shrink, but your family will grow!
China, Brazil, France, Germany, Spain, Italy… these locations are no longer abstract blobs on a map, but the homes of Yizheng, Gabriel, Guillaume, Leoni, Javier, and Mirko. My husband, kids and I can’t wait to someday visit these places and have our own personalized tour guides. For now, we know our family is literally all over the world, and we love it!
This post was generously shared by Regenia S., an outstanding Local Coordinator in Ohio. She enjoys helping others and is a strong advocate for cultural exchange in her community.
Learn how you can host an exchange student with Academic Year in America.