The Value of Hosting an Exchange Student

by Katy on March 21, 2016 · 12 comments


Goodbye Kentaro

Today we dropped our Japanese exchange student off at the airport, and said our emotional goodbyes.

I cannot over emphasize how valuable it’s been to my family to host these foreign exchange students through the years. (Twenty plus exchange students/teachers at last count.) We don’t have the budget to do much international travel, but even if we did, we’d likely sleep in hotels rather than stay in people’s homes. You simply cannot compare the experience of being welcomed into someone’s home to renting a hotel room.

With my younger son off to college in the fall, I’m unsure when we’ll host again, so this experience was extra special.

Hosting costs next to nothing, yet fosters a rich connection that makes our great big world a little bit smaller.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Deb March 22, 2016 at 1:26 am

I hosted several long term (full school year) exchange students while my children were teenagers. It was a life changing event. I was a single mother and knew I would not be able to send my children around the world so I tried to bring the world to them… worked! The experience completely changed our perspectives and then my daughter went on an exchange herself. I now visit her, her wonderful husband, and my adorable grandson on another continent. I highly recommend hosting.


Diane March 22, 2016 at 3:26 am

We hosted adult exchange visitors when I was growing up. I clearly remember 2 visitors from Holland who stayed with us in our small town north of Boston.

I agree…… a lovely way to gain much needed perspective on our larger world.

Kudos to you and your family.


Kay March 22, 2016 at 3:59 am

Your house looks awesome. I love the colors.


chigdon March 22, 2016 at 4:59 am

I was an exchange student in high school and it was a great experience. I studied abroad in Slovakia for year. The process was a three year process though. The first year you prep for going, the second you are abroad and the last you are helping others prep for their year abroad. While away my parents hosted a girl as well. My parents still talk to her often and she has recently had her second child and sent us all photos. She has returned and visited us a few times. The experiences I had while abroad were pretty amazing and would not have been possible for my wonderful host families.


JD March 22, 2016 at 5:18 am

My aunt and uncle hosted a student from Finland for a year of high school, and he decided to go to college in the U.S. for a degree he couldn’t get in Finland, so he was here several years. He went with them on vacation, spent holidays with them and sometimes with our extended family, and became a welcome addition anytime they came “home” to my grandfather’s house. One holiday he brought a video camera to film a “traditional American Thanksgiving” for his mother, who taught some kind of Home Ec. for a school in Finland. I was a young wife and mother then, and happened to be the one person at that moment placing food on the large tables set up for my big extended family. He turned the camera on and had me name and give a brief description of the preparation of each dish, which I did to the best of my ability, laughing with him many times. Somewhere in Finland in the 90’s, a (probably) bewildered group of young Finn students struggled through my southern accent to watch this film of a Traditional American Thanksgiving Meal.
He’s back in Finland now, but he still stays in touch. What a great experience!


janine March 22, 2016 at 5:33 am

When I was in high school we hosted a student from South Africa for a short stay and it was a life enhancing experience for me. Our family gained insight into the problems of South Africa and the histories and politics of the Dutch and English settlers. Highly recommend it to anyone who has an opportunity to host these folks.


Alexia March 22, 2016 at 9:12 am

Hey Katy — I’m curious as to how you got hooked into this. Was it through the dual language immersion program your son participates in?


Marilyn March 22, 2016 at 9:43 am

I completely agree that being a host family is a wonderful experience. In addition to all of the positive things already mentioned, I would add that we enjoyed meeting other host families and have remained friends with some of them for many years.


April March 22, 2016 at 2:46 pm

Are those stairs ever a bitch to climb?


MamaMinou March 22, 2016 at 6:39 pm

Hi Katy–one way to host that is a smaller commitment (but still extremely valuable for host family and hosted student) is to be a Friendship Family through the university. (At least the U of O does this–I’m assuming all Oregon universities?). The student only stays with you the first few days after arrival until they can move into a dorm or apartment, but the family remains a point of contact and cultural guide throughout the student’s time. My mom did this while I was growing up and I have many great memories of hikes, holidays, and cultural evenings with students from all over the globe (and when I was a foreign exchange student as an undergrad, I visited the Shanghai family of the grad student my mom was hosting at home!). Once I had kids, my family continued the tradition for several years and it was great. We had to stop when work & school hit a critical time/stress level, but I think will start again when our kids are both off at college. It’s really rewarding and fun, and typically not a big time commitment.


Amanda March 23, 2016 at 4:30 am

If you are interested in travel you might concider home exchange. You basically turn yourself into an exchange student. You have a very exchangeable house and city. We’ve done it for years and had many awesome adventures.


Allison March 23, 2016 at 9:43 pm

We also hosted a number of students while our daughter was growing up and have remained close to several of them. We’ll be going to Japan in June to see a new “granddaughter” having been a couple of other times for weddings and other “grand kids”. It’s awesome!


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