What is a Host Family?

Home away from Home

Host Families are volunteers

Going to another country as an Exchange Student means a lot of adjusting: new customs and traditions, new area and school, new friends. And a new family?
What is your relation to the Host Family, why do Americans decide to welcome international students in their homes, and do they get paid for that?
First of all, they do not! All the Host Families are volunteers. They do not get any financial benefit from hosting a student from overseas. Most of the experienced Host Families say that the main reason for doing so is the unique experience they get from opening their home to an Exchange student.
Spending a year back to back with a foreign student brings a lot of joy and discoveries to the Host Family members. For them this is a wonderful opportunity to see their own country from a completely new angle and learn a lot of new things about it along with their student’s cultural journey. An Exchange Student becomes so much more than a guest to their family – they become a new family member. Learning how to live with an American family is an important part of a cultural exchange. Not only is it an opportunity to get to know the USA from a local’s perspective but also a great chance to build a life long relationship and make the warmest memories together.

What is expected of you as an Exchange Student?

Usually the main thing a family is expecting of you is to be open to them and share your experience and impressions. When Americans decide to host a student from another country, they hope to learn about the foreign culture just as much as a student does. That is why it is so important to communicate with your Host Family. They are really curious about customs and traditions in your home country, especially the ones that are completely different from their own. Speaking about you being open to your Host Family, do not ever hesitate to ask questions! It is always better to ask to repeat something than to get it completely wrong or be left in doubt.
Another important thing is making yourself a family member, not a guest. Host Family is going to be by your side at all times while you are going through all the stages of cultural shock and adjusting to the new. They are not only your home to stay at but your support system and people you can trust and rely on. You will celebrate Christmas and Thanksgiving, have breakfasts and dinners, and plan the winter break together. Do your best at enjoying the time with your Host Family and appreciate everything they do for you. If there is any kind of misunderstanding, resolve it by having a conversation – there is no better way to communicate a problem than talking about it right away.
Following your Host Family’s customs and rules is another major key to building a good relationship. When people welcome you to their country and to their home, they expect you to be respectful of all their traditions and regulations which include but are not limited to doing household chores, respecting the curfew, taking part in family’s daily life etc. Always remember to be respectful of all the belongings you use in the house, too.

What you get from staying with a Host Family?

The biggest advantage of staying with a Host Family is the complete integration into the casual life of Americans. Your experience will not consist of watching people live their lives “American way” – you will be one of them doing it. An Exchange Student is not a tourist or a visitor but a family member from the minute they are picked up from the airport. From that exact moment, they are a part of an American community which they enter through the Cultural Exchange Program – more specifically, through their Host Family.
For a lot of Exchange Students, their Host Family becomes their “home away from home”. The care, conversations, fun weekends and cozy evenings by the fireplace become even more meaningful for those who are temporarily away from everything they are used and attached to. Host Family also makes the adjusting process a bit easier by providing a student with support and basic guidelines. Even overcoming language barrier is so much easier when there is someone by your side to answer questions, explain things and translate the untranslatable. Your Host Family will become your caring guide to the new environment and always be there to help.

You learn Problem Solving in real life

You learn Problem Solving in real life
Entering a new family whose customs are different from those you are used to involves a lot of adjusting. In order to communicate properly and avoid misunderstanding, you should learn how to correctly express your opinion, compromise and negotiate. For many of the students this is their first time building a relationship with adults who are not their parents, which can be a little challenging. You have to be 100% responsible for what you say and do, have flexible views, be polite and ready to compromise. However, you should also know your boundaries and not let anyone break or invade them.
It is drastically important to remember that, although you are not a kid, you are still underage and your Host Family is fully responsible for your safety and security. This is why you should follow all the guidelines and recommendations they, or other authoritative adults, give you at all times. Also, do not forget that your independence level might, and is likely to, be different from the one you had back home. First, in the United States most teenagers are not given as much freedom as in some other countries. This means you will be independent and away from home on your own but can still face the limits you did not have before. Second, there are a lot of people responsible for you, a lot of rules created to keep you safe – they are this way for a reason. Adjust to all the regulations and try to live a life of an American teenager while you’re on program. Do not insist on making things go your way – this is definitely not the goal of the Exchange Program.

Choose a program:

The program provides an opportunity for high school students to live in the USA for an academic year, staying with host families and studying at public schools
Canada is an excellent choice for education and personal growth, thanks to its high-quality secondary schools, supportive and safe family environments, and comprehensive housing options
Support in obtaining scholarships to study in public or private schools in the United States, with a high school diploma upon successful completion
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