— From the pages of FLL#35
My wife and I have been hosting short- and long-term exchange students for several years and have loved every minute. We work with a program called American Home Life International, which typically brings in students from China, Japan, South Korea, and Spain. It’s an enjoyable experience that we frequently recommend to friends and family. Here are some things you may want to consider prior to hosting an exchange student:
1. You should have your own dependable vehicle. Host families often share driving duties, so nobody needs to feel overloaded with all the driving. Driving duties for short-term students (two to four weeks) would be taking them to and from their weekday ESL program, which is usually at a nearby church. Driving duties for longterm students would be similar to the needs of your own children, such as activities or games after school and on weekends. Knowing the schedule of bus transportation available in your area would also be helpful.
2. You need a guest bedroom for long-term students (one or more years of high school). An extra bed in a child’s or teen’s room for short-term students may be acceptable, but that would be determined by your exchange program rep when they conduct an interview and home study. Be hospitable! Make sure to create a comfortable environment and provide a proper bed with clean bedding. I’ve heard disheartening stories of students getting provided little more than a blanket or sleeping bag and floor space.
3. Expect that there will be a language barrier, which varies from student to student. Most (if not all) of the students have had some level of English training during school. Some will be stronger with reading English and some will be stronger with hearing and speaking it. Either way, be patient and use the Google Translate app whenever needed. Try to talk without using slang or idioms, and speak a little more slowly than normal. If a student seems confused at any time, try alternate words or visual examples.
4. Short-term students take several bus trips to larger cities (such as New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.) and they frequently visit local attractions (and shop). Host parents are welcome to go along on most trips as chaperones.
5. AHLI offers a reasonable stipend to cover the host family’s expenses (food, gas, electricity, etcetera). However, students typically come with personal funds to cover souvenir purchases, eating out, and activity costs.
Find more information about American Home Life International on their website, www.amhomelife.org