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Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!): Thinking of Hosting a Foreign Exchange Student?

Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!)

My goal here is to make your life easier, especially those who are in the unique situation of being a military spouse. Yes...I've been around...but in a good way...and hopefully can share those tips, tricks and shortcuts with you too. I've been on this military bus for over 40 years now. My goals in life are to have a well-run home, few money worries, well adjusted children, money socked away and whatever happiness I can scoop out of life.

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After life as an Army brat, being in the Army myself and marrying a soldier, I can honestly say I have a bucket full of life lessons I can share to help you make your everyday life easier and enlightening. Don't waste your time making unnecessary mistakes and benefit from others who have come before you on your journey through life.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Thinking of Hosting a Foreign Exchange Student?

Don't do it! Seriously though, many of you know we have hosted a German exchange student this past school year. We did not go into it with our eyes wide open, but instead, it seems with eyes sewn shut! We've had our ups and downs, things we would've done differently, but also nice surprises here and there of having a young teenager in the house. Honestly, it has been a positive experience and we have a cartload of stuff we can apply to our own kids when they get to be that age.

Be sure to keep these thoughts in mind when choosing and hosting your exchange student:

  • Pick a student with similar interests to your own. Don't pick a student who is heavy into outdoor sports, thinking your bookworm family will changes its won't and both of you will be unhappy in the end. Read the student letters and bios VERY carefully and look for clues of immaturity, dominance, chauvenism and possible (more noticeable and problematic) character flaws too. If there is something you absolutely don't want to deal with, then pick another student.
  • Realize that a boy student is easier than a girl student, so if this is your first experience, I would certainly pick a boy. We all know teenagers, right? I am a girl myself, so I make no excuses in saying that a teenage girl is much more difficult to deal with than a boy...I've seen it myself and been told it over and over again by other parents.
  • You don't necessarily have to have teenage children already in your household to host. We have two young boys and thought it would be nice for them to have a big brother. Unfortunately, it didn't work out quite the way we would've liked. We have a very gregarious young man who loves to play soccer and be with his friends, so he rarely interacts with our boys. Be prepared for something like this happening and make up your mind ahead of time if this will disappoint you or not before you choose someone to share your life. Our program had another family with three young adopted children from China. They hosted a young man from China, hoping he could share his culture and his general being with those kids. Well, those kids were so unruly, and this boy was a professional piano player who tended to like things calm and orderly. It was not a good mix.
  • When they first arrive, don't have a huge party. Your student will be exhausted. Some take many travel days to get here, depending on where they are coming from. Plus, they have to deal with time changes, cultural changes and just the change of being in a new place with absolute strangers and no familiar family in sight! Integrate them slowly. When you first meet them, ask them if they are hungry, take care of those needs, then go home and let them sleep. Let them take a few days to get adjusted. There will be time for a party next weekend (or whenever), as well as showing them around. Don't give them too much to process the first few days.
  • Have basic toiletries on hand. Many don't travel with much stuff and may be too embarrassed initially to say they need something. We always have a basket of toiletries and toothbrushes in our guest bathroom for all guests. Let them know they can help themselves. No need for them to ask!
  • Do show them where you keep basic stuff. Go ahead and give them a quick tour around the house after they arrive, just to show them the basics. Show them where the snacks are and where to put their dirty laundry. Tell them when mealtimes are. Later, let them empty the dishwasher and the trashcan...what better way to learn where everything goes? Make sure you tell them they are not a guest but part of the family, and then treat them accordingly.
  • Realize you may get some cultural resistance. Many of these kids come from cultures where moms do all the housework or dads say what goes. Let them know how you do things here. Remind them they are here on an exchange, and that to be a part of your family, they will do things the way you do things. Don't listen to the excuse that I can't make my bed because that is lady's work...uhh uhhh...not here it ain't!
  • Your water, electric and whatever bill will be higher. Most teenagers LOVE to shower. Our boy takes two or three long showers a day. Water in Florida is expensive. Just be sure to budget for these extra expenses or be prepared to teach them about conservation.
  • Your food bill will be higher. Teenagers eat....a lot. I also had to shop more often and buy snacks and things like that...teenagers like to eat pizzas and snack stuff rather than regular meals, although we do try to sit down as a family at least a few days a week and required this of our student too.
  • Figure out ahead of time how you will deal with situations and money. We decided beforehand, that whatever we spent money on with our kids, we spent it on our student too. If we went out to eat, to an amusement park, shopped for Christmas gifts, our student was treated as one of our children. For extra expenses, such as when he goes out with his friends on his own (which is almost all the love to go out to eat and spend money) and clothing and other knick knacks he may want to buy, those were on his own dime, and he understood that ahead of time.
  • Have a rules talk. Within days of our student arriving, we sat down with him, in fact, we wrote it all down in very plain English, what was expected of him. He ended up posting it on his bulletin board in his room. It listed his curfews (schoolnights and weekends), no drinking, driving, drugs and that kind of thing and what his chores and responsibilities would be. Our student cleans his bathroom every other week (he rotates that with our kids) and gets $20 for mowing our huge lawn. Otherwise, we ask him to keep his room clean and pick up around the house when he sees something out of place. Of course, we constantly have to remind him of many of these things, which I believe are just part of normal teenage behavior.
  • Have them realize there will be consequences when (not if) they screw up. You are standing in for the student's parents. Our student's mom actually told him if he screws up, he will be on the first plane back home. They have to learn responsibility. If they come in late from curfew, then take something away from them, whether it's internet, TV or going out (a big one for them). Most teenagers LOVE to sleep in and hey, if they miss their ride to school, let them sweat it out and figure it out themselves. Our student had to go flying through our subdivision on my son's little scooter one morning, trying to catch his last chance for a ride. He made it, but next time, he got up when his alarm rang. These kids have to learn to be adults, and if you baby them, make their school lunch, make their bed for them or wake them up in the morning, they will never learn (remember this with your own kids too). We also had the "sex talk"...I wanted him to make sure I knew what the deal was and if there was any hanky panky that gets him or a girl in trouble, he was going to be on the first plane home, no questions asked.
  • Try to have some kind of contact with their parents. My student's parents were worried about having their son in someone else's care. I regularly send photos and email, plus I know I will get his mom's support when things go wrong. She has stood behind me 100% so far, and we wouldn't have had this rapport without this back and forth contact. Can't speak their language? Then use the Altavista's Babelfish Translator to try to get your point across. Email makes that easy. Even if the parents don't have email at home, in many countries, they can figure a way to access email elsewhere.
  • You may end up being a bus driver. We were lucky in that our student made tons of friends and always had a ride somewhere. We do know other students who didn't have friends who drove and the host parents had to drive them everywhere..not so difficult if your student ends up being a homebody or has only a few friends, but if they join a sport, such as ours did, with multiple practices a week, it might've been close to impossible for me, taking into consideration my husband's deployments and our own kids' schedules.
  • Schedule some family activities. I made sure to schedule some events for our family, including our student. Give them a head's up well ahead of time to make sure they understand they will be attending the event. Many students think it is almost all fun and games when they come here. Ours doesn't want to do anything without his friends, so we sometimes have to rein him in and remind him that he is here on an exchange and not on a party bus. Let them know their world revolves around your family and not them.
  • Have a set-up for your student's privacy. Kids at this age should have some sort of privacy. Don't dig through their stuff and if you can, give them a room they can call their own. This is important. Our student knows that his room is his and his alone and that I don't even go in there other than to peek in to make sure it is somewhat in order and all the four walls are still standing.
  • Decide what you want to do about the cellphone situation. It seems like every teenager has a cellphone these days. Our student says kids text message all day long, even when they are standing right next to each other. We couldn't add our student to our cellphone plan, because we didn't want to incur any more time in our contract due to our upcoming move. Plus, we would've had to uptick our minutes and add text messaging, which we don't have. So, our student had his mom send his phone from home, and we set it up as a prepaid phone. He ended up going through his minutes like water, especially with all the incoming text messages he had to pay for too, so he eventually started leaving it at home when he went to school...a good and smart decision if you ask me in the first place. He has learned to be thrifty and to delay gratification with the thing.
  • No TV or computer/internet in the teen's room. When we went over the rules, we set down the internet rules as well. If you don't want to trust them and are a little paranoid, you can always get one of those software monitoring programs on your computer and set them up with their own user id (not as administrator). Keep the computer and TV in the common areas of your house (this is a must for your kids too). You want them to know you are monitoring what they are doing, and that you are keeping track of the time they spend online. I think ours learned the wonders of My Space over here, although I think he was already a messaging wizard before he came here. I have heard it can be a real problem keeping them off the internet for hours, as many want that contact with home (and their friends), and this behavior is discouraged in order for this exchange to work as it should.
  • Insist that they call their parents and family at least every other week. This frequency seems to work out best. Once a week is too often and longer than two weeks wrecks havoc on the poor parents. We have lowcost long distance/international phone service and our host family was also able to find a deal at two cents a minute. You can't beat that! Check Phonedog to find a lowcost long distance provider in your area.
  • Query them about their likes and dislikes, and try to make them feel at home. Most will get homesick at some point. Ours had no problem at the beginning, it is at the end of his stay that he is starting to feel down and apprehensive about going back. Give them a chance to tell you their wants and needs. Buy snacks and toiletries and things for around the house they might need. We made up a basket of goodies and gadgets, such as a pocketknife, pen flashlight, dictionary, Post It Notes, a popular novel and office and desk items our student might have needed for school. We included a nice note and put this on his desk in his room before his arrival. The kids also made a welcome home sign for his bedroom door. Before I go to the grocery store or wherever, I do let him know I am going beforehand and leave my shopping list where he can add things to it.
  • Encourage your student to answer the home phone. Ours used to run the other way when it rang. I finally had to tell him to answer it. Now that he has his confidence up, he has no problem answering it. Try to get them in situations where they can get their confidence going in the right direction. You can start with a non-threatening thing such as the's not face-to-face contact, and if they totally screw up, they can still run and find you and give you the phone. The more they do something, the better they'll get at it and the more they'll get out of the exchange experience.
  • Do take the tax deduction when you do your taxes. Right now, you can take a $50 tax deduction per month for hosting a student. In actuality, you spend much more, but that's what the law says right now.
  • Along those same lines, don't host a student if you are short on money. Hosting a student costs at least a few hundred extra dollars per month. If you can't spare that, then don't host. Don't put a student in a situation where you are always pinching pennies. You will also tend to resent that unknowing student, and that's just not fair to them. Most of these exchange programs cost many THOUSANDS of dollars for the student and his family. Many scrimp and save for years or have to ask a rich uncle to help them out. This is a big thing for them. Don't blow it for them, and be prepared to be somewhat generous. I think many host parents don't realize the costs involved going into this (both in time and money), so I just wanted to get that out there so you can mull it over!

Those are the highlights, and these are the things we have learned over the past few months. Would we do it again?....probably. I would rethink though having a student the year before we make a big move overseas, but it has mostly been a positive experience for us all. There are many student foreign exchange programs out there. There are a few shady ones as well that you need to stay away from. You can check the Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students to read some of the complaints. We had a lot of luck with Youth for Understanding, a program that's been around since the end of WWII. I must say, they go through a lot of trouble to make sure their students are prepared before they arrive, they have activities and get togethers for the students, and they monitor their stay and try to make it a positive experience for both the host family and the student. Have you ever hosted a foreign exchange student? Have you been one yourself?

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Blogger Linda said...

I'll add these:

Don't make a decision for a student until both parents come to a COMPLETE agreement about which student they want. A military couple I know argued about which the end the male got his choice...a saucy little number. She had him wrapped around her finger in about 2 seconds and a lot of times, I saw what *I* considered inappropriate behavior. (hugs and other physicalness that seemed wrong for a girl that age to be trying on a man)

Also...when your student decides to do things that he/she SWEARS her parents said was okay...maybe be sure the parents ARE in agreement. Same couple above...their young lady went out and got several tattoos (the first 2 were without anyone's knowledge - she lied about her age to the tattoo place as well), and then, it was too late. She swore mom and dad said it was okay...but it really wasn't, they discovered. The rapport between the families quickly disintegrated.

And...if you are a young married couple (say...aged 23 and 25) it's probably not a good idea to host a student...especially if you've just had a baby, moved to a new state, started a new job, and have only been married a year or two. You need to be solid in your foundation so that you can give the students a good home.

March 27, 2008 at 3:21 PM  
Blogger ****Veteran Military Wife at Life Lessons of a Military Wife**** said...

I agree!...Funny, my husband wanted a girl too until our area rep told him a boy would be much, much easier!

March 27, 2008 at 4:07 PM  
Blogger tootie said...

We'd eventually like to host an exchange student. We will keep all these tips in mind. Thanks for sharing - it's definitely an interesting topic!

March 27, 2008 at 10:48 PM  
Anonymous Sarah said...

Wow! Awesome that I was just looking for advice like this and you just wrote this post yesterday. My parents are hosting a German girl next year and I'm forwarding these tips to them. Thanks for your time. :D Do you have any advice for exchange students?

March 29, 2008 at 3:00 AM  
Blogger ****Veteran Military Wife at Life Lessons of a Military Wife**** said...

That's wonderful! As far as advice for the student...I asked mine..he said the student should become familiar with the cultural differences and customs, work on their language skills and to go into it with an open mind. He also said you have to minimize contact with friends back home (no text messaging) or else why bother doing an exchange if you can't get "out of your life".

Let me also add, I don't think many of the parents know the true costs of an exchange. Yes, there is the fee to be a part of an exchange organization (since 9/11 there can be no more independent exchanges done on your own, you have to go with a program)...running thousands of dollars (our student paid around $9,000)...but teenagers need LOTS of money. I can't tell you the number of times ours went out to eat with his friends (almost a daily occurrence) or to Starbucks, plus money to attend school sporting events ,be a part of the soccer and swim teams and other school activities. Our student had a paper route at home and saved some of that up. He typically spends about $300 a month (not including if he buys clothes or things for himself)!

March 29, 2008 at 11:48 AM  
Anonymous Funny about Money said...

Well, this one may sound like borrowing trouble...but for what it's worth:

If you're in a big city and the young person you're hosting comes from a smaller town, take a little time to teach her or him the basics of street smarts and urban survival.

Our neighbors hosted an exchange student and were very happy to have him as a guest member of their family. One afternoon on the way home from school he was let out of the bus on the main drag nearest their house and tried to cross the street from in FRONT of the bus. He was hit and killed on the spot. This happened in front of the family's twelve-year-old son, who was riding the bus with him.

It was heartbreaking. And more so because no kid who lives around here would even think of walking across the road in front of a bus; they would all walk to the back of the bus where they could see oncoming traffic or walk the 50 or 60 feet from the bus to a crosswalk.

In some parts of the world jaywalking is normal behavior. So...think of all the hazards a kid could encounter and give a clue.

March 31, 2008 at 4:32 AM  
Blogger ****Veteran Military Wife at Life Lessons of a Military Wife**** said...

What a sad story to hear! Our student came from a small city, and we did have a street smart talk...but alas, you can't cover everything and the student needs to be reminded to be aware of their surroundings, look and then act...we tried to instill this in our student and so far, he has matured like you wouldn't believe since he's been here!

We also had a student immobilized in a terrible snowmobile accident from our program. I don't know what her experience is with snowmobiling, if she was riding alone or what the story was, but it was heartbreaking to hear about it. I hope she is able to make a full recovery.

March 31, 2008 at 1:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Want to find out what exchange looks like from the kids perspective?


I'm not a military person but I thought I'd add my comments.
We hosted a swedish girl and couldn't be happier. she became another daughter yes she got a tattoo (a little one on her ankle) yes she got drunk (but was discreete about it) Yes she had a fling with a boy (and we were happy for her to put some energy into learning about relationships.) she has now returned home. Sending her home was a heart rending processes. She became another daughter for us and we still keep in contact.

I read all your tips and they are all sound and sensible. My thoughts though are that your exchange organisation should have pointed all those things out to you well before your student arrived. Ours (Rotary) did.
Communication is the key word We told our host daughter on day 1 that if something wasnt right to tell us. perhaps there was nothing we could do and she would just have to accept the situation but at least we knew.
You do hear horror stories from time to time but there are thousands of exchange students each year you would expect a few to "go wrong"

best wishes
Aussie Dad

April 2, 2008 at 2:35 PM  
Anonymous FinlandTytt√∂ said...

Coming from a host student, I have to say that many of your points would make me feel so completely out of place and angry, I would probably leave.

Your whole suggestion that giving the student their space is excellent and extremely true, but then you talk about putting a software monitor on the computer? Would you do that to your own kids? If the answer is yes, then whatever. But if you think that just because this kid is foreign and coming to your country, he's suddenly going to decide to look at porn on your computer, you obviously don't understand teenagers that well.

Trust does not need ot be earned in this situation, we have spent 17, or maybe 18 years convincing our own parents that we are trustworthy. (And Rotary, if that is the program being used) When someone is allowed to be an exchange student, we have to go through a lot of processes to prove that we are worthy, and should be give a certain amount of trust. If we keep breaking rules however, obviously we should be punished and such.

There is no such thing as being a perfect exchange student, obviously you didn't go on exchange. You may never understand how hard exchange is, nobody can unless they do it. College exchange is different, but high school exchange is probably the hardest thing a teenager can do. You don't understand how stressful and hard and complicated and confusing and painful leaving your family and coming to a new country is. It's not all fun and games, if your kid wants to go out, let him go out. If he wants to stay in his room reading or crying or whatever, let him. We need space to cope, we can't be perfect.

Just keep in mind you have to be lenient and understanding, more so than you would with your own kids, since this is a completely different situation.

I know I'm only 17, and you probably don't care what I have to say. But I know that if you were my host mom, I would break as many of your rules as I could, just to prove that I am 5 anymore, I can make my own decisions and I don't need you breathing down my neck constantly just because I'm foreign.


April 3, 2008 at 12:48 PM  
Blogger ****Veteran Military Wife at Life Lessons of a Military Wife**** said...

Wow, you sound like an angry young person. Our exchange student loves it just fine with us and actually wants to stay!

Our own children follow these SAME RULES and yes, I was an exchange student myself at one time. I went to Germany, so I know what I am talking about.

As for the computer, I did not say I spy on kids use the same computer. They all know the computer is MINE and that they are allowed to use it as they like..responsibly. They know the rules beforehand and respect them. As a responsible parent, I have the monitoring on there, just in case. I trust my children and exchange student just fine. I would hope you remember these tips when you have'll make them better and more responsible adults.

Oh, and if you were my student and broke all those rules, you would be on the plane back home...what a waste of money and effort on your part...hope it would've been worth it for you!

April 3, 2008 at 1:15 PM  
Anonymous FinlandTytt√∂Taas said...

Fair enough, I guess you can host how you like but it's just not the way I would choose to treat an exchange student/be treated as one.
But, actually yes, its been the best thing in life. And defiantly not a waste of my time and money, in any way, ever.

When I was back home my parents had a lot of rules and restricted me a lot, and when I came to Europe I had practically none. Back home I would go out, party a lot, break rules and be a teenager. But since I have more freedom and I can choose to go out and be a teenager, I don't have so much incentive to do those things. I'm an advocate of the idea that more rules = more trouble, because it's what I've experienced.
Because I got to make my own choices about my free time here, rather than having my parents breathe down my throat all the time, I've learned how to be in on control of my life, and grew up a whole lot. We have to be let go in order to learn how to live our lives, and what better time to do that when we're on exchange, right?

As for me being an "angry young person", probably. But before you tell me I'm angry please realize that you have no idea why I may be angry.

April 3, 2008 at 6:51 PM  
Blogger ****Veteran Military Wife at Life Lessons of a Military Wife**** said...

finlandty, I agree with a lot of what you have to say. It sounds like your exchange experience was a very positive one! I am very glad to hear that! Thanks for all your constructive criticism, and I hope you can continue to encourage others to experience an exchange..whether it's a student or a host family:-))

April 3, 2008 at 6:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Veteran Military Wife: I'm so grateful for your sharing on this subject. My husband and I are considering hosting this coming school year and we have many questions. This spells out quite a bit of information that I find helpful and reasonable.

FinlandTyttoTaas: I realize since you haven't commented here since April, you probably won't receive this, but I'd just like to say that as an educator who has taught MANY exchange students from MANY different countries, I see validity in what you say about having freedom being a deterrent for getting into trouble in the first place, but I'd like to add something. Every exchange student is different, and things that you see as useless boundaries have PROVEN to be important safeguards to my students again and again. I do not believe any exchange student INTENDS to cause a problem or get into trouble, but rather that most of you are curious about the world around you. I believe this to be a sign of maturity and respect that you have the courage and committment to take a journey like this. However, due to either misunderstanding, or a lack of knowledge about certain situations, I have known students that did things they later regretted. Guidelines exist NOT to control a student, but to protect them and help them get the very best out of such an experience. I believe you were more open to what "Military Wife" said after you allowed her words time to settle and after she replied to you, but the way you represented yourself in your first response was indeed angry-sounding. Maybe more so than you intended. The truth is that you ARE younger and have important things ahead to learn. Your values and beliefs WILL change as you journey through life, and at no time will you have ALL the answers. I know this because mine have done so, and all those around me. I wish you great success in your life, and hope that as you enjoy your process and perhaps someday have children your understanding will deepen.

By the way, I have taught and formed close relationships with at least ten Finnish students in the past four years. I love them dearly and we "keep up". They sometimes expressed frustration at more "rules" in their households, but they had been told to expect this as an American way of life and an important part of their exchange experience. Every single one of them left for home FULLY SATISFIED with their experience and several have returned to visit me and their host families and friends here. No regrets.

Thanks to all who shared input!

July 22, 2008 at 5:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi all,
Being a former Exchange student from Oslo, Norway in 1989/90 (now married to a soldier, and living in the US); I fortunately had a GREAT family, that I still talk to on a weekly basis, and see at least twice monthly (as we are now stationed in the same city I used to be an exchange student in!).

But let me say: we had some MAJOR difficulties to get through at first! Nr. 1: most young people from european countries are NOT religious in any way, nor have they ever attended church (or even considered doing so) speaking for myself: Telling my host-family I had no interest in going to church because I do not believe in God was a HUGE issue (considering they are southern baptists!) I remember calling home telling my mom I may be sent home! LOL The end-result: I went to was their house, and their rule (oh: and I didn't die! But definetely did NOT believe even a smidgen more than before either). Another huge issue was the fact that coming from Norway (a very safe country) at 17yrs old I had no curfews what-so-ever, my parents always raised me under the principle: "Freedom with responsibility" (meaning: don't mess up because you'll loose!) The subways run until after mid-night, there is a night-tram, or you just ride your moped to whereever you need to go at night......But I had no clue that in most US states you HAVE to have a car to get around...there is no subway/tram/bus-system in most cities....and mopeds were for people that had lost their license (well: basically)! it was a SHOCK to me having to be in at 10pm on weekdays, and 11 pm on weekends, and the fact that there were no coffee-shops, teenage hang-outs, orclubs to even go to was mind-blowing to me coming from a large city. Norway is a country where you are on a first-name basis with all your teachers, your friends parents, grand-parents, etc...Every teacher i ever had WANTED you to be out-spoken and discuss issues, and also disagree with them (of course you had to present your case, a give reasons!), but coming here to the US everything was you must conform, no-one in high-school is "allowed" to voice other opinions, there is little room for individuality... It takes TIME & UNDERSTANDING for people (both sides) to "learn" the others culture. Would I do it again: YES! Would I let my son go to another country to study: double-yes! But I think I would make him study long and hard about the other country's culture first. My host-family paid for everything we did together, if I did something by myself (or with friends); I paid. My parents called me on a weekly basis (this was before e-mail). If I baby-sat my host brothers (3 and 5 yrs at the time) they paid me. I did normal chores around the house (I love to do laundry so I did a LOT of that so I could escape other things such as vacuuming! LOL). The year in the US does not count for most exchange students (myself included), everyone I ever knew just did it to be fluent in another language...and to get a break from school (which in Europe is a LOT harder than here in the US....we have no such thing as a multiple choice test....everything is essay based).....OK, I can go on and on and on.... But mostly I wrote in because i can't see why people would be upset about your little blog about exchange student: I would have been a lot harsher! I still ask my host-mom: WHAT the heck were you thinking taking in a teenager when you had 2 small kids: did you not have enough work as it was??? LOL They both always "blame" me for not having more kids...LOL they say: we were scared we'd have a girl, and we saw how hard that was!! :-) Then again: we only had one exchange student from my program get sent home the year i was here: and that was a BOY from Ireland: he was caught drinking and smoking weed....and his excuse that it was normal in Ireland; did NOT fly here!
My tip for a family considering this:
1. Religion = Can you tolerate someone who is the opposite from you?
2. Politics = are you liberal (you may WANT to be, at least picking a european youth)
3. Can you afford it?
4. Do you have time for him/her (I needed help with homework sometimes)
5. Can you stand having another person in your house for 10-11 months? (Honestly: my limit is about 3-4 days for anyone but my husband and son!!)
6. Getting someone just because you want to learn more about that country: Bad idea. Spend your money on a plane-ticket there instead :-)

For those of you that do open your home: THANK YOU!!!!!!!! I would have never been where I am today without the experience as an exchange-student living with a wonderful host-family...I even came back to the US to go to University 7 yrs after I left the first time, and ended up meeting my now: hubby! CUDOS to you all.

March 21, 2009 at 7:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was an exchange student in Germany from 2007-2008. It was a very differnt and rewarding experience. Coming from a very strict familyinteh US to a very informal family with lots of unwritten rules, structure and rules would have certainly made life alot easier. Plus I agree with the OP, do not host if you cannot afford it nor want to include them as family. One of the families I stayed with wanted an au-pair. The other did not want an exchange student at all. Overall I made lasting friends, and one of my hostparents will be coming to my wedding next year (marrying a Navy guy). Overall I thank each and everyone of you hostparents that make this possible. Thank you

April 20, 2009 at 6:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for all of the helpful information. We are also a military family, preparing to host a student from Switzerland for the upcoming school year. We're wondering if you were able to obtain a military ID for your exchange student so they can access on-post facilities.

June 29, 2009 at 7:27 AM  
Blogger ****Veteran Military Wife at Life Lessons of a Military Wife**** said...

We lived 45 minutes away from post, so didn't even consider this. As far as I know, you have to be a true dependent to get an ID card, but just call your ID office and ask.

We did get him added to our family though at the YMCA at no extra cost, so he could go with his friends. The YMCA is very popular with his crowd of friends.

June 29, 2009 at 9:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

anyone had experience with a German girl exchange student. mine is very negative with a low self esteem and it is starting to affect my other two children. I have been told this is common in German girls.

any suggestions on how to help boost her self esteem and to not be so negative.

Thanks for any suggestions.

October 6, 2010 at 6:00 AM  
Blogger ****Veteran Military Wife at Life Lessons of a Military Wife**** said...

So sorry to hear that! No, not all teenagers are as outgoing as you think an exchange student would be! Many just don't know what they are getting themselves into.

Some things that I'm thinking there a neighbor's daughter who would be willing to include the young lady in activities and events? I would say bribe the neighbor's daughter if you have to.

Get her signed up for some kind of club or sport....there she will start to feel like she's part of something greater and that helps self esteem issues.

The other thing is to complement her....often but not excessively...either on her work, what she's wearing, her chores and that kind of thing.

Lastly, talk to your own kids in private. You've got to get them to understand how hard it is to get transplanted out of everything you know and to be in a strange place with a new language. Try to have them see it from her perspective and that it is not normal behavior, but they have to try to help her to cope. You didn't say how old yours were...they should act really delighted when your exchange student "gets it" or does something out of her comfort zone...that's how you pump someone up.

Don't be artificial about it...but genuine, and she'll eventually come around.

Our exchange student was quiet and shy when he first came....he was a different person when he left and is STILL a member of our family, visiting often:-)

October 6, 2010 at 7:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We hosted a beautiful young lady from Germany three years ago and are considering hosting again. The delay has been our first experience was close to perfect and we're afraid the next one will be hell-child. :)...just kidding.
Mariana was a delight to host in every way. She was kind, thoughtful, involved and we came to love her as our own.
What we learned during the experience and in talking with other host families is that kids are kids no matter where they're from. Sure, there are cultural differences, but we experience those within the borders of our own country.
The "rules" you worte about in your original post were spot-on. It's very simple..."my house, my rules" applies. As long as the rules are fair and applied consistently and communicated in an understandable fashion, there rally shouldn't be any more drama than goes in in any normal household.
Thanks! I think I just went from "considering" to "gonna do it!"

November 16, 2010 at 12:33 AM  
Blogger isecz said...

This made me smile when I came across it. 19 yrs ago I became a host mother for the first time. A boy!!! Heck, I had 3 children, foster children and loved being around kids. That year changed me forever. Since then I have hosted 18 students from so many countries. I am now a Regional Director at 61 yrs of age and don't understand why all the kids that come visit me (that I don't host) want to stay. LOL So much of what everyone said on here is so very true. It is not like raising your own children. These kids are scared, go into culture shock, don't understand rules, feel they may know it all sometimes and see how far they can go but if you as a host mother, Area Representative or even a Director, as I am...have the understanding of kids, can be open minded, try to think what you would do if it was you, how you would want your child to be treated in another country, able to stay calm before saying things and can give Huge Hugs....You can make it and the student will never forget the little things you did for them. So often I cry when I read things my kids send me. The one that touched my soul the most was from the young lady I just hosted last year from Denmark. She told me in a short message how much se missed me, wished she was still with me and thinks of me all the time when she sits down to eat dinner with her parents. She remembers we would sit and pray first, then eat, talk about the day and end up staying there for at least an hour talking. That was our time and she misses that every day. She wanted to learn about God and she joined Young Life through the school. I bought her her first bible and that was the book she never went to bed without. Religion was never pushed down her throat but she would always come home from Young Life and tell me they discussed something we may have spoken about weeks earlier. Yes, hosting to me is what I will do till I take my last breath. Each one I have had gave me something deep inside and even with me in charge of so many students placed all over PA, DE, NJ, even those who try to do things they should not do are still special. Remember, we did not give them their values in life, we did not bond with them from birth and we did not teach them what we do our children each day...Understanding and having an open mind with them gets you further then tough rules. To all my Area Representatives, Host Families and Students...I love you all and am so proud of what you do each and every day. We all have grown together each year and have formed wonderful relationships. I have over 600 son's and daughter's all over this world. Hosting may not be for everyone. Don't be ashamed if it is not. To the one lady above who mentioned she would like to host again but is afraid it could go bad and the one she did host was so good....don't stop now. Read the letters, find the organization that really cares, especially the Area Rep's and Managers and look for the one that catches your eye. You will be just fine. God Bless All of You. I have been Blessed....

December 1, 2010 at 8:41 PM  
Anonymous J Elizabeth said...

I'm a USAF vet, single, childless and my first hosting experience is drawing to a close. This year was one if the best experiences if my life! My new "daughter" is from Thailand and was the mist perfect addition to my life! I never thought I'd be a Mom - my timing has just been off and it just never happened- so the day she asked to call me Mom was one of my happiest!
The tips are here were good but I had to adapt them to fit what my student needed. That was scary for me as this was my first parenting-like experience! My student would have spent every waking hour studying if I didn't push her out of the house! An 85 or 93 on a test triggered intensification if studying!! It was a great learning experience for both of us - I tend to work long long hours but when I had no time to visit with her and saw that we were doing nothing but school/work, it was the prod I needed. We both relaxed our type-A ways and have regular fun breaks now!!
As for expenses, I set my rules up that food outside the house us generally the responsibility of the student, unless we're eating out cause there's no food UN the house. I don't buy snacks other than what I normally eat - my student was free to buy what she wanted but rarely bought anything. Road trip costs - gas, hotel- were split 50-50.
As a single person, I could not afford doubling every expense. My exchange program encouraged me and helped us find these compromised rules that worked for me.
I would encourage other adults to host- absolutely!!
I'm ambivalent about hosting again- thus was such an easy ride I feel completely unprepared for a rocky one if it came my way!!! But, it is so life changing I can't imagine not doing it again!
My student will leave in a few weeks, but I know she and her entire family will be part of my life forever.

April 18, 2011 at 8:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My family hosted an exchange student during 2009-2010 school year and she became a true part of our family, I would not change that experience for anything. At the time, I was pregnant, had a fifteen month old son as well as a nine year old step-daughter, My husband and I had only been married a couple of years and we were both in college as well as searching for our dream home during her stay here. We aren't wealthy but felt as though we could give a student an opportunity of a lifetime of coming to America. At first we limited her email and computer use simply because we wanted her to become a part of the family rather than talk to her friends at home and not get the full experience here. We still talk to her once a month or so as I said she became a part of our family. She was there for the birth of my second son as well as mine and my husband's graduation plus the purchase of our first home. Only you know what your family can handle. I am certainly glad that I decided to bring an exchange student into my home...

April 24, 2011 at 1:43 AM  
Blogger Kittie said...

We hosted a a girl from South Korea. Poor thing felt so out of place when she first arrived. Just as she was adjusting it was time for her to head home. She said if she could have picked an area to go to it would have been a major metropolitan city( we took her to Chicago,and Dc.She taunt me a lot about her country and her culture. I hope to go visit her some day.The only bad experience I had with hosting was I felt she could of gotten so much more out of her experience if we had been paired better. But when she was interviewed she gave different answers then what she ended up actually 'hoping" to experience. Were as I thought she was perfect. We tried to allow her to see some of the bigger cities located here in the USA the best we could. She says she misses the big house and quietness of our home. I was far less critical of her and gave her more personal space she was accustomed to . I too limit PC time, TV time, chores, and money spent, who and where they went. As great as it is to learn to be self sufficient begin practical and respectful are just as useful.

I hope to do again some day.

May 25, 2011 at 4:26 AM  
Blogger Angela said...

Thanks to everyone for this information. I am interested in serving as a coordinator that places international students in US homes. I stumbled upon this blog, and was hoping that some of you that have hosted students could provide insight as to your decision to host a student. I'm really looking for incentives to provide families that might be interested. Thanks in advance for your help!

June 16, 2011 at 3:50 PM  
Blogger ****Veteran Military Wife at Life Lessons of a Military Wife**** said...

I can answer for myself. I studied at a foreign university in college and wanted to give a German...particularly one from the former East Germany a chance to do something new and exciting! Plus, it was a bit selfish, in that I was looking for a "big brother" for our boys and wanted a "taste" of what it was like to raise a teenager before we had to do it for real!

June 16, 2011 at 6:56 PM  
Anonymous Dorothy Eubanks said...

Wow! There are some high emotions in some of these comments! I have been hosting and placing exchange students for over 19 years and have to say that there is a bit of truth in everything that everyone has said. The bottom line is that each student is a person and we are all different and should not be judged nor stereotyped by one individual or their experience. All exchange organizations worth their salt have full standing with the CSIET, the watchdog organization for international education travel at I have worked with the same organization for all of these years while teaching school. I have seen just about every type of teen-age angst that exists and have survived by keeping my sense of humor. I love the kids I have personally hosted and the ones I have worked with as a coordinator. By far, the good times have outweighed the bad many times over. You have to be flexible enough to handle all types of situations whether you are an exchange student, a host family or a coordinator. I would not change the past 19 years with my kids for anything. I have made great, lifetime friends among the host families I have found as well as with the families of my students overseas. They will always be my kids and I will continue to advocate for student exchange until my last breath! Our differences make us interesting and our similarities make us understanding. Share some love and yourself with one of these students and you will be hooked!

August 8, 2011 at 11:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My husband and I are getting ready to host a student for a year. We do not have kids and are in our late 20s. Some may think this is not ideal, but I think it is just a different type of host family. Perhaps not suited to every exchange student (such as ones who really wanted host siblings), but our active lifestyle and various interests seem to align well with our exchange student's own interests. Being young does not mean you are incapable of setting ground rules or knowing what you allow in your home and do not allow in your home. I think regardless of whether or not you are a parent already, it can be difficult to set those boundaries and confront another person's child. We expect that is one of the biggest hurdles/worries for most host families. I was an exchange student myself and it was a fabulous experience. With the current state of the economy, there is an even greater need for host families, and we are so glad we can make this opportunity possible for the student we're hosting! Every family is different and that is part of the beauty of the experience...

August 24, 2011 at 5:11 PM  

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