Hosting a foreign exchange student can be a rewarding experience that creates friendships that last a lifetime. As a foreign language teacher, I can attest to the tremendous impact contact with other cultures has on my own students, sometimes a lifechanging impact. Here are some of the benefits of hosting foreign students:
1. A new way of seeing your own life: Like it or not, a foreign student will open your eyes to your own lifestyle. They will surely appreciate many aspects of your life, but there will also be times that they will react with shock or dismay to some of our habits. I see this as a benefit, because we can always stand to reevaluate our views and habits now and then. We also get another chance to become more appreciative of all that our lifestyle does afford us.
A friend recently had a student from Amsterdam for a year. The student was upset about the lack of freedom that American students had. She found American kids to be immature and thought that part of this stemmed from the fact that they never experienced any real freedom. She felt as if they were rebelling because they weren’t trusted. While this may not be entirely true, we could definitely see that she was far more mature and trustworthy than many of her peers here so it gets you thinking.Is she right? Is she wrong? Something to think about…
2. A new way of seeing the world: Along with reexamining your own life, you may find yourself reexamining your views on the world after having an exchange student. As most who have lived abroad will tell you, foreign news is often far more complete than U.S. news. They will oftentimes know far more about our own politics, wars, scandals, and other news than we do. This is a benefit because if you have never left your own country you can’t fully comprehend why other nations feel about your country the way they do. You learn what misconceptions people hold about our country as well and have the opportunity to present a more realistic image to your exchange student.
3. Friendship: If the relationship goes well,an exchange student and their family can be friends of yours for life! There are many cases where the host family then travels to the student’s country for a visit. What a fantastic experience for your own family to be able to live with a family abroad and see a more authentic view of another country rather than visiting as a tourist with no real connection. You may end up in a part of the world that you would otherwise never have known.
4. Opening doors for your own kids to study abroad: Once you see how common it is for foreign students to study abroad, you begin to toy with idea of having your own child study abroad. While short school trips are fairly common in the U.S., the notion of sending a child to another country to live with a host family for a year or even six months is still quite unpopular. Our kids may be missing out on an incredibly rewarding and lifechanging experience. Hosting a foreign student makes this possibility seem less frightening and more natural.
There are times when the relationship doesn’t work and the student is moved to a new host family, but in most cases, the family and the student learn a tremendous amount from one another and end the stay in tears and with promises of keeping in touch and seeing one another again!