Hosting a Foreign Exchange Student: A Guide


Have you ever thought about hosting a foreign exchange student? Opening your house and family to a student from another country? Introducing the student to your culture and making the student a part of your family and your life? Mrs Ryals said yes to all of the above. “I love to learn about my exchange students cultural, but most important to me and my family is to open our house and share the American culture,” said Mrs Ryals. “I think that young people that takes this big step and move to another country at a young age is so impressive itself that of course we would help the student learn about us and our country”.

Taking a year abroad is not just a memorable experience for the exchange student, but it also introduces a new life for the family. It is important to remember that hosting a student can come with a lot of pressure about making the year as best as possible for both the family and the exchange student. As a family and as an exchange student, it’s necessary to remember that the year abroad is not a vacation, it is a different life.

But what exactly is an exchange student?

An exchange student is a student from one country received into an institution in another country often in exchange for one sent to an institution in the home country of the first. A foreign exchange student is leaving their family and friends in their home country to begin a new life in in the country they are moving to. As a host family, it’s important to remember that you are the student’s only support until they starts making friends and their own network. It is also good to have in mind that the student can get homesick. Helping the student be as busy as possible is a good way to avoid the homesickness. In addition to making the student as busy as possible, it could also be a good choice to ask the student if he/she is stressed about something. Mental health is even more important when away from one’s family and home.

Host family brothers Pierce and Clayton Ryals trying Norwegian chocolate for the first time!

It is important to remember that the student left everything that they usually feel really comfortable about, and can become stressed about the smallest thing. Mrs Ryals said, “It could be enough to talk with your student and ask if they get enough rest or if there is anything you could do for them. The smallest things that may feel stupid to ask about, can help a lot”. It is also a good advice to ask the student about their home country and their family back home. For a lot of people, it helps to just get to talk about the people and the places you miss. Showing interest and being curious is the best thing you can do if your student is homesick. And remember, it doesn´t have to be something big. Sometimes it´s enough to just walk in the park to get some fresh air to think and see something else.

Why should you host an exchange student?

By hosting an exchange student from another part of the world, you will promote friendship, cooperation and understanding. These exchanges are special. It allow us to appreciate our similarities and better understand our differences. This is one of the most important lessons we can learn and teach through cultural exchange. And do not think that this is a long and hard process- just fill out some papers and write about yourself and your family, and then the company will do the rest. They will put you up with some students that you and your family match with, with the same interest and skills. If you are interested in having a bonus child for a year, learn about a new culture and share your family and life, this is definitely the right thing to do.

Norwegian foreign exchange student Linnea is picked up at the airport with a sign, flowers, balloons and cake!