Foreign exchange student programs are those where students from a particular country travel to another to learn about the life and culture of the other country. These students are welcomed by host families who become the student's family during his or her stay in the country. Many people volunteer to be host families for different reasons. Some do this because the government of certain countries offer tax reduction for the year they keep a foreign student in their house and also because they and their kids get new exposure of knowing a new person from a different part of the world, thus promoting intercultural communication.
For the foreign exchange student coming to a new country and living with people he/she does not know can be a little difficult and they may take time to adjust. In the same way, if you are the host family you would also require some time to get to know and get used to a new person in your house. Having a foreign exchange student at your home means adopting him/her. You are like the foster parents of the student and have to look at him/her as you would do with your own kids.
Selecting a Foreign Exchange Student
There are various organizations which handle the placement of foreign exchange students. However, one must do a thorough check of the organizations, because several of them cannot be relied upon completely. The Rotary Youth Exchange, The Youth for Understanding Foundation, etc., are some of the reliable institutions that have been conducting student exchange programs for many years. Once you choose the organization, you would have to select a student who you think would suit your home and family. It is important for you to go through various student profiles before zeroing on the student you would like to host.
One very important thing you have to remember before you host a foreign exchange student is that you have to check your financial status. Though the students have funds and medical insurance policies, as a host family you would have to spend extra money on food, family trips, etc. So, if you are hard on money, it would be better if you drop the idea.
Communicating with the Student
Before the student comes to your home, try to know more about him/her. Most of the foreign exchange programs involve high school students and so most likely you would have a teenager at your home. You can contact the student through emails or the telephone to know more about his/her tastes, likes, dislikes, etc. This kind of communication would help you as well as the student to be comfortable with each other quickly.
Part of the Family
Once the student reaches your home, the most important thing for you is to make him/her comfortable. The student must understand that he/she is not a guest in the house, but one among the family members and should behave in that way. You have to make him/her understand that he/she would have to follow the same rules that your children follow and also would enjoy the privileges that they enjoy.
Clashes between Your Children and the Student
People decide to host foreign exchange students because they would like their children to meet different people and develop new friendships. However, it is not necessary for this to happen. There may be clashes between your children and the exchange student. You must be prepared for such things and also to solve problems if such a situation arises.
As you give them space to live in your house, you also have to provide your foreign exchange student with your emotional support. There can be language and cultural issues, and you would have to help the students in adapting to the new environment.
The experience being a host family can be different for different people. However, it is an enriching experience where you would be able to interact with young minds of a culture different from your own. You may also be able to form a long-lasting relationship with your foreign exchange student.