Updated March 2022
So you’ve been considering hosting a high school exchange student, but have some questions regarding the process. Don’t worry! We’ve gathered the top 9 frequently asked questions about hosting an exchange student:
1. What does our commitment require? Will hosting disrupt our family life?
Hosting an international student through iE means opening your home and your heart. It does not mean changing your routines. Your exchange student is coming to share the way YOU live. Learning to adapt is an important ingredient in his or her personal growth. When your student first arrives, you will spend some time helping him or her adjust to your family and household rules. We will have a pre-arrival orientation to give you some suggestions and tips on making this transition easier. Communicating clear expectations and showing patience will help him or her learn your ways.
2. How are iE exchange students chosen? How can we be sure this “stranger” is OK?
We use a very careful process of selection to ensure our students are well qualified and prepared to live and study abroad. In addition to school and teacher references, we conduct a lengthy interview in the student’s home, which includes his or her natural parents. Only when we are satisfied that the student is an excellent candidate for participation will we accept him or her into the program. We also observe our students during an orientation weekend held in his or her home country before they depart for America. Naturally, should any concerns arise during the exchange program, your iE-USA Local Coordinator will be on hand to assist you and facilitate resolution.
3. Realistically, what is our financial commitment?
Host families provide their student a bed of his or her own (but not necessarily a private room) and meals. There are always other small costs, but how much you spend is up to you. Your only required out-of-pocket expense is providing meals. Your student will have about $200 – $300 per month to cover personal expenses. You are not obliged to cover incidental costs for your student.
A Note about Family Outings: It is anticipated that host families pay for the student when the entire family goes out together, as for dinner at a restaurant or family trip to the movies. However, the student pays for any personal or social entertainment. If your family plans a trip away from home while your student is here, you may choose to take him or her along at your expense, or ask that the natural parents pay the student’s share of the expenses. If neither is feasible, you may talk to your Local Coordinator to help find another family for the student to stay with while you are away.
4. Is there a language requirement for participants? Will we be able to communicate?
We conduct part of our exchange student’s in-home interview in English to make an early assessment of their English capabilities. Each student takes an English proficiency test so that we have a well-rounded understanding of his or her comprehension and English speaking skills. Students who do not do well on this test must either withdraw from the program or undertake extra tutoring before leaving for America. There may be a few weeks at the beginning of the iE-USA.org exchange program when it seems difficult for a student to communicate. Remember that he or she is working very hard at listening to a foreign language, translating it in his or her head back into the native language, formulating an answer, translating that answer into English, and then trying to speak it to you. Even if someone in your household speaks the student’s native language, we ask that host parents do not speak it with him or her. Students are here to learn English, and the best way to do that is to speak English. After a few weeks, your student’s command of the language should improve greatly and communication will improve. When he or she starts dreaming in English, you will both know that the immersion has worked!
5. What kind of support does iE-USA provide to us? What happens if there are problems?
Each host family has a local coordinator living in their community. This person is there to assist you, the student and the school throughout the year. Don’t hesitate to contact your coordinator whenever you have any questions or problems. We like to deal with small problems right away rather than problems that have been allowed to grow into big ones. Should you need assistance and your coordinator is not available, iE- USA maintains a 24-hour toll-free number where you can call and reach a live person. If there is an emergency that cannot wait until regular business hours, call 1- 866-794-4629.
6. When can I talk to my student once a placement is made?
Once a student placement is complete, the host family has the opportunity to connect with the student online prior to arrival. Many families and students begin an “online” relationship where-in they are able to get to know one another before the exchange officially begins. This is a wonderful time of bonding that can foster positive relationships before the student even arrives.
7. Our family is “unconventional” – Can we still host?
Families of all shapes and sizes make terrific hosts. The key component of a great host family is the willingness to welcome a student into their daily routines as a member of the family. Among our treasured host families are single parents, empty-nesters, young married couples without children, couples in a domestic partnership, and families with children of all ages.
8. We are just too busy to host an exchange student. How can we help?
Many families say something like this: “We’d love to host, but we’re just so busy. We would never have time for the student!” Most of the time, this “busy” family lifestyle is exactly the kind of environment where an active student will thrive. We will work with you to find the best possible match in terms of student hobbies and interests.
9. Can I host more than one student at a time?
Yes! A host family may host two students in their home at the same time, which is called a double placement. The students must be from different countries and speak different native languages. Some host families who do not have children of their own prefer hosting two students because it creates an instant sense of “family” and provides each student with a peer in the home.