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News - Youth For Understanding USA

Latest news about Youth for Understanding USA student exchange programs worldwide – Events – Partnerships.

6 benefits of hosting an international exchange student that might surprise you

Jennifer McKendree

If you're on the fence about whether to host an international student (or two!) in your home for the school year, here's some food for thought to help you make your decision. And yes, you still have time.

Opening your home to a student from another culture will enrich your family in unexpected and wonderful ways. From learning about a different culture and its norms and values to being a tourist in your own city, the benefits of hosting a student will add another component to your family's world that you can't get any other way.

A fresh perspective on your daily life

Busy parents rushing to get their kids out the door on time each morning, then to work, and finally to practices and other extracurriculars in the evening, can sometimes forget the beauty in that routine. Exposing a new member of the household to the minutiae of the day-to-day routine in your family can give you a glimpse into your world with new eyes.

Celebrate your cultural differences ...

It's not just about your exchange student learning about American culture. Your family will learn about your student's culture, too. It can be everything from the way your student holds silverware and how he or she eats at your table to sharing recipes, customs, language, norms and values from a faraway place. Differences in manners and social interaction vary widely across the globe. For example, you'll find kids from Asian cultures more apt to follow the rules and behaviors that their society values, whereas American children are looser and more apt to bend the rules. Learning those differences, and a whole host of others, will give your family a broader world view. The more different your student's culture is from your own, the more your family will grow.

... but don't forget to laugh

Host families are sometimes surprised by how joyful and funny interactions with people new to American culture can be. This country can seem like the wild, wild west to a teen from a small Thai village, or it can seem like a young, brash cousin to a student from Berlin.

You'll make new friends

Some host families mistakenly believe it's just going to be about the student living with them, but a whole community comes along with your student. You'll meet other host families at group events, work with volunteers and meet other students too.

You'll see your town in a new light

Until we have guests, it's all too easy to get stuck in our own routines and not really enjoy the wonderful parts of our own hometowns. By showing off the best of your town to your new student, you'll rediscover why you love living there.

World peace

Taking a child from a different culture into your home, and marveling at the way he or she becomes part of the fabric of your life, is one of the most powerful ways to break down barriers between nationality, culture, religion, and race. When parents hear their Muslim student from Africa giggling with their American teenager, or the family celebrates the Chinese New Year to help their student feel less homesick, suddenly those international boundaries seem to fade in importance. But it doesn't stop there. Spending a year in an American home changes a foreign child forever, and they'll go home with a renewed opinion of our country as well.

If you're interested in learning about becoming a host family, it isn't too late to sign up. Contact us today at YFU to find out more.