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Why Host an Exchange Student?

Have you ever wondered: “why host an exchange student?”  Are you curious if hosting would be right for your family?  One CHI host mom explains what hosting has meant for her and her family.

“My husband and I have no children, which we wanted but never happened for us. So hosting an exchange student sounded fun. After talking with [a CHI Academic Coordinator (AC)] and completing our application we were ready. To be honest we really had no idea what we were doing? How to host? How to have a teenager in the house? I mean what does it eat? Don’t all they do is take selfies and watch reality tv? But full steam ahead we can do this. After telling our AC how our family works and telling her all of our likes and dislikes, she started sending us applications of students for us to review.  We found two girls that matched our family style so we went with both. We thought at least they had each other if we didn’t know what we were doing. We were matched and we waited for three months for them to get here. During that time we skyped and emailed, keeping in contact with the girls. When the time came we picked them up at the airport and we came home and they settled into their rooms. That night we went over the guidelines and rules for our house. And now what happens?

This is the exciting part! Watching them learn, see and interact with our culture and customs is fun. They love Costco! I mean buying a huge container of mayo sounds normal to us but so silly to them. They just can’t resist taking a picture next to it and having a good laugh. They are fascinated by EVERYTHING! They even want to ride the yellow school bus “just like in the movies”! Or maybe they ask for a rubber at school when they really wanted an eraser. Oops! True story that happened! But they fumble thru words and our lifestyle and when they succeed you can’t help but get a sense of pride watching them. It amazes me the things I don’t think twice about are very interesting to them.

About three months into the program things were running smoothly and then BAM! We had some tiny issues. Having issues with teenagers is magnified to the max luckily for us we had the subject matter expert and CHI coordinator to call for help. She was able to talk to the girls, talk to us and than all of us together to get us all back on track again. Was it fun? No actually it was kind of embarrassing but we had to see things from the girls perspective as well as our own and this was the best way to prevent further issues. We chalked it up to the girls testing boundaries and normal teenage drama. I don’t know a single person that can live with a stranger for 10 months and be without problems. Issues do arise and that’s why we have a coordinator to look after everyone so that the year is successful and fun for all.

So after 10 months of having the girls it was time to send them home to their families but wait they are our family too! This isn’t fair, they just up and leave and that’s it!! Oh the heartbreak. It does hurt. It just so sudden and seems so final!! So you help them squeeze their American life into a suitcase with a love note from host mom and send them home! They will go home and tell everyone they know about their American family, experiences and school life. The impact we had on them is literally life changing.

What did I get out of all this! We got a new family from another part of the world. We learned a new culture and get excited when we can tell people about that culture from first hand experiences. We get new recipes to cook. We learned about another sport and get excited to cheer for international teams. We became interested in other parts of the world. In a world that has a lot of violence in it we get to spread a love, acceptance and kindness through hosting. How powerful is that!

Liz Chris and kids

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