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5 Reasons to Host an Exchange Student

There are many benefits to hosting a student from abroad, even for just a couple of weeks. Here are five reasons why people love hosting!

1. Make International Friends and Form a Global Family

International friends make the world feel smaller and more connected. Even if you speak different languages, it’s rewarding to discover common ground. We often hear that exchange students start to feel like family in only a short time as hosts include them in their daily activities.
Story time!
Peter, a host dad in Portland, says that he hosts because “it brings new life from other cultures into our house, breaking down borders to create an extended family. We love the fact that in two weeks a relationship is formed that will last for years. One adult teacher from Japan last year still refers to me as her Papa.”
Peter and his wife with their pair of Japanese exchange students and a friend
Karen, a host in Washington, has hosted a few French students. She says her family’s last exchange student, Camille, talks to her daughter every day and they’ve become best friends. “Camille was able to come back again this summer for a visit and the two of them were inseparable. They do everything together. She also just blended with our family to the point of not realizing we didn't always have three children.”

2. Build Cross-Cultural Understanding

We at ANDEO truly believe that a more peaceful world comes from increased cultural understanding and acceptance. By getting to know someone from another country, you’re able to build a bridge between cultures. Connecting person-to-person is one of the best ways to learn about different lifestyles and dispel negative stereotypes—about other cultures and your own.
Grace and her family have been hosting students with ANDEO since 1992. She and her husband were born and raised in Kenya, but have lived in the U.S. for almost 45 years. Reflecting on her experiences, she said:
I love when students share about their families, their cities—the areas they come from. Quite often we sit at the dinner table talking about different aspects of culture. At our home, dinner time is story time. I think sometimes people are surprised that they come to America and have this black family with accents. I think they really enjoy learning about our culture—American culture and African culture.
Grace with a French exchange student
During a homestay experience, everyone can learn something from each other, and it’s a beautiful thing!

3. Expand Communication Skills

All exchange students through ANDEO are coming to practice their English, but hosts can learn communication skills, too! In situations in which there is a language barrier, hosts and students learn to improvise and communicate their message in other ways such as drawing, writing or acting it out. Communication isn’t just about perfect language skills, it’s also about creativity and non-verbally getting your point across any way possible.
Spanish students in Albany interview residents at the local senior center
Long-time host Grace has found that writing things down can really help when spoken words aren’t understood. “The students are very good at writing and reading. All of them! No matter how poor their spoken English is. They don't have very many opportunities to practice speaking, and they get shy about expressing themselves. I tell them it's okay to make a mistake.”

4. Have a Cultural Experience at Home

Sometimes you want to travel, but you just don’t have the time or budget for it. When you host an exchange student, you bring a taste of that student’s culture to you! While international students want to learn about their host family’s lifestyle and culture, they also want to share their own.
A French student making crêpes for his host family
Many students share stories or photos from their life back home, and some even offer to cook a traditional recipe for their host family. When you host, you’re also able to see your own culture through your guest’s eyes through the questions they ask and the way they react to things in your family’s day-to-day life.

5. It’s Fun!

Hosting an international student is an exciting experience. Having someone join your family for a few weeks can shake up your normal routine and bring your family together in new ways. It’s fun to introduce someone to unfamiliar foods, practices, and activities and experience their enthusiasm for things you may take for granted.
Enjoying a sunny day in Washington
Whether you host for a few weeks or a few months, welcoming an exchange student into your life is an experience that can shape you for years to come. If you live in Oregon or Washington, we hope you’ll consider hosting with us. Click here to apply to host or connect with us on Facebook!

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