Hosting an international high school student has a lasting impact on American families, in particular on the host children, who gain not only a unique first-hand cultural exchange experience, but also a lifelong sibling and friend. There are many ways in which the hosting experience positively shapes American children.
Welcoming a host brother or sister from another country and language background provides host children with a unique educational opportunity to learn more world cultures and languages. By sharing in each other’s holiday celebrations, meals, and customs, host children teach their new sibling about American culture and, in turn, learn first-hand about the exchange student’s home country and lifestyle. In many cases this cultural education includes language exposure, helping the family’s children to learn or improve their skills in their exchange student’s native tongue while helping the student to perfect his/her English.
Living and bonding with an international exchange student also teaches American host children to appreciate and celebrate cultural differences, an important lesson in today’s global world. Host children gain a new perspective on and appreciation for their new sibling’s culture, as well as American culture, which they can see through an outsider’s lens. Children learn not only the differences that separate cultural groups, but also about the common threads that tie people of all cultures together. According to a recent host mother, “My children have so much more of an understanding of the world around them. They associate real people with far-away lands that would otherwise be just a place on the map. They understand more about diversity than many adults.” The cultural exchange experience could also foster in the host children a lifelong curiosity about other countries and cultures, perhaps leading to additional exchange and travel experiences down the road.
By the end of the exchange year, host children and their international siblings often think of themselves as real family, forming long-lasting bonds that span oceans and cultures. As one host parent perfectly explained, “My sons have learned about the world, different cultures, and languages. The have learned to be flexible, give of themselves more, and that relationships are what matters. When asked how many siblings he has, my youngest tells people he has 8 brothers and 2 sisters.” This is the true gift of cultural exchange!
Learn more about hosting an AYA international high school exchange student today!