Think Globally, Host Locally

by Katy on November 3, 2011 · 14 comments

The past week has been busy with hosting two Japanese teenagers. They flew home this morning, and will be missed. I may not exercise my traveling muscles these days, but that doesn't mean I can't open my house up to a series of foreign visitors. I think the count is up to 16 at this point.

If you’ve ever considered hosting foreign exchange students, I highly recommend you jump on in. It doesn’t have to be a year-long commitment, (we’ve hosted for as little as five days) and you don’t have to wait until your home and family is perfect.

Give it a try, it’s really a great experience!

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Carolyn November 3, 2011 at 11:06 am

Your house is beautiful! What fun for your family!

May I suggest you keep a guest book? I got this idea when staying at my husband’s cousin’s place in Germany years ago. Guests love seeing their photos when they return. (Although, I have to admit I am way behind on printing photos for the book!)


Rachel November 3, 2011 at 1:11 pm

1. I agree with Carolyn, your house is lovely 🙂

2. I love that you do this and that you spread the word about it! I had never even known short-term hosting was something you could do, and what a cool learning/cultural experience for your whole fam. I’m a 23-year-old single grad student so not really at a point in my life where I can do this, but would love to do it someday when I have a family!


Katy November 3, 2011 at 2:19 pm

You would probably be a way more fun host “mom” than I am. Like a host “sister.” You know . . . some of them pay.


P.S. My house is very cute from the angles where you can’t see the paint overspray than we’ve never dealt with.


Bauunny November 3, 2011 at 2:26 pm

I agree! It is generally a lovely experience to showcase our culture, learn more about another culture and move a bit out of one’s comfort zone. We hosted a French student for 3 weeks in August and among other things, it gave us a wonderful excuse to take time to “play”. My daughter is visiting his family for a day this weekend and we still correspond (it is interesting for me and helps him practice his written English skills). While I initially balked at hosting a student for 3 weeks (still spinning from having taken care of an elderly relative in our home for two months with hospice care before she passed last spring and coming off a subsequent busy budget time at my office), I am so glad my husband and daughter talked me in to it. It forced a change in perspective and accelerated “moving on”. The reason I agreed was because I felt we needed to “give back” some of the lovely hospitality my children have experienced in other countries.

Last weekend, my daughter (who is doing her semester abroad in Madrid) visited the Finnish exchange student MY family hosted when I was in 6th grade in the 60’s! What a wonderful experience she had with them — sharing memories and for her, an opportunity to learn about another culture and to experience another culture’s home life. It meant so much to me….it felt like everything came “full circle”.


Megyn @Minimalist Mommi November 3, 2011 at 2:36 pm

How neat!! Do you have any companies/organizations you recommend? Any bad experiences?

It sounds like the perfect way to get to learn about other cultures first hand without having to pay travel fees 🙂


Laura's Last Ditch--Adventures in Thrift Land November 3, 2011 at 2:56 pm

We’ve never hosted an exchange student, but I did have a chance to stay with several families on a trip to Europe as a teenager. It was a very enriching and memorable experience. Even when we had no way to communicate other than my very rudimentary German and a dictionary, I had wonderful time, and think the families did, too.


Karen November 3, 2011 at 3:45 pm

Years ago, we hosted students and their teacher from the U K. They seemed to love seeing the sights of the Bay Area, and we had such fun seeing the sights through their eyes.

We also hosted a group of Australian high school students who were here for a choir competition, and that was also another great experience of shepherding them around to places in San Francisco. They had many questions for us about what Americans think about and do, and so we had great (and sometimes funny) conversations every day.

We enjoyed the whole thing so much that when a friend asked us to take in 2 foreign exchange students, one from Sweden and one from Germany, we had no hesitation. Another great time, and they ended up staying an extra two weeks. I highly recommend that you host students if you are in the position to do so–there is a chance to really connect with people.


Bauunny November 3, 2011 at 4:22 pm

The only exchange program I am familiar with recently is “World Exchange” who brought us our 15 year old French high school student this past summer. I felt that the screening process for prospective families was excellent and thorough and gave us much good information about what to expect and avoid. Before our student arrived, there was also an orientation for the host families which was most helpful — especially hearing from some who had done this before and had anecdotal stories (funny and helpful) to share. It certainly helped us know what to expect and how to respond appropriately. The World Exchange program also sent a “leader” who contacted our student every few days to check in and address any issues (which luckily we did not have). I was impressed with their organization and the person in my area who had been coordinating host families for several years and as “on top of her game”. I think it is probably best to work with an organization that is non-profit, although I have no basis for that. The short-term stays are easiest. We have also hosted choirs (from Germany) and band students. That is fun because they have an agenda and places to go and performances, and you just fill in the extra time (less pressure to entertain them). That said, we have also hosted adults from Rotary exchange program (Russia) ~10 years ago and that was amazing! What fun — exhausting but so interesting.


AnnDenee November 4, 2011 at 2:40 am

Youth For Understanding is an exchange program that’s been around for ages. I was accepted into their program to spend a summer in Germany, but had to withdraw at the last minute.
There are also scholarships out there to cover travel expenses. The company my mom worked for sponsored me and all I would have had to pay for was my personal spending.


Laure November 4, 2011 at 5:21 am

Yes, your house in gorgeous!

When I was a child my family hosted various foreign exchange students – from Mexico and Europe. Once we did a full exchange, where I also went abroad. All of us kids loved it! It didn’t matter if the exchange students were our age or not, we found them all fascinating because they were different.


Becky November 4, 2011 at 7:30 am

As a former exchange student, may I say *thank you* Katy for hosting!

Once our house has a septic system (i.e a “flush”) and is otherwise more complete, my husband I are hoping to start hosting exchange students, too. I hadn’t thought of it as a kind of travel, but I guess it is.


Chris November 4, 2011 at 8:21 am

Hosted a high school student from Bulgaria for one school year. My daughter was still home then, and she made a great “big sister” and tour guide. Had a wonderful time. It was fun being a high school parent again, dealing with back to school night, halloween, prom, etc! This was through PAX/Yes exchange.


Angela@MyYearWithoutSpending November 5, 2011 at 5:02 am

That photo of your son is adorable. He looks so happy.

Thanks for the reminder that you can host short-term. I will never forget when my family hosted a Japanese math teacher when I was about ten years old. I think it was only a week, but he and I became fast friends, despite neither of us speaking the other’s language. It was a great experience for my siblings and I and we will never forget how shocked we were when he burped at the table, apparently to express appreciation for the food. We have laughed over that many times in the years since.


Frugal Down Under November 5, 2011 at 4:39 pm

We don’t host exchange students. But we host Couchsurfers and also take in Helpx. It’s international.

Our family stayed with a Dutch family in Vietnam and on another trip my 4yr old and I stayed with a poor family high in the mountains in a small village in Bali. Great experience for her and I.


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