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A family, couple or individual that would like to become a host family can do so with a number of organizations. These may be structured through local schools, and there are also many that operate outside of schools. Each organization can have slightly different requirements for those who want to become a host family, and it’s advisable to make sure these programs have proven reputations.
Before deciding to become a host family, it’s important to consider what will be involved. For instance, how long will an exchange student stay, what kinds of financial obligations are involved, and what types of supervisory responsibility will be required?
It can help to come up with a general checklist regarding readiness to host, which may include the following:
When people feel they meet these requirements, there are many ways to become a host family. Families or individuals should next choose organizations that are reputable and apply to them. Most organizations expect written applications and then conduct a formal in-person interview. Some may inspect premises where students will live, and others do perform background checks.
Typically, lengthier stays may involve greater investigation. Some families only host for a few weeks, and requirements to host can be minimal. This can be a great way to determine if the family would like to host another student for a longer period of time.
During interviews, it’s important to ask details about hosting. For instanc, sometimes families are reimbursed for care costs and other times they are not. Most foreign exchange students have medical insurance, but host families may need to do some work on behalf of a exchange student who needs extensive care while visiting, including understanding insurance coverage. As with all kids, exchange students are just as liable to get injured or need a hospitalization.
It can also help to know what kinds of support students receive from the program organizing the exchange. Some may have access to services or get-togethers. Other students will need to participate in special projects or events that may require transportation.
Individual students may also vary in what they can bring. A well-funded host family may have kids with much more pocket money than the exchange student has, or a wealthy student is better off than the host family siblings. Those who wish to become a host family should consider that some students may have more needs than do others, and ought to be able to help address this by providing some spending money for example.
When people plan to become a host family with preparation, research and consideration, hosting a foreign exchange student can be a terrific experience. Many students form familial bonds with their host families and stay in touch for years to come. This is more likely to occur when a family sees hosting as an opportunity to parent with care and to enthusiastically help a child explore a new culture.
We had an exchange student from Germany for six weeks and learned quickly that being a host family meant being a real family.
She arrived with a dental problem. She was in so much pain and tried to downplay it until it became obvious we needed to take her to a dentist immediately.
Luckily, our dentist is phenomenal and has a state-of-the-art office with the best equipment imaginable. He was so taken aback by the poor treatment her own dentist had given her prior to her trip to the states, he gave her a free root canal.
Her insurance covered everything but our dentist's good will and fair treatment made her trip more than just a fun visit to America. She fell in love with Americans and has since returned several times.
Our exchange student became more than just a visitor, she became family. This is how it goes when you open your door and heart to a student.
My family became a homestay host family for a student from Hong Kong for a month during one summer. Our student was used to living in an apartment, playing video games and watching TV but said in his letter that he loved being outdoors and loved nature.
I'm sure he thought he loved both nature and the outdoors but he wasn't used to either. While on a group field trip to a local ice skating rink, he broke his wrist.
When I called his mom, she admitted that he wasn't used to much activity and was very clumsy. I felt really bad for him because I understood that his attempts to live more fully came hard to him.
While he was in his cast (we did take him to a specialist who set his wrist) we still took him on kayaking, canoeing, boating, and paddle board adventures that had been pre-planned. We made sure he just got to ride and didn't have to use his broken wrist for any of his fun outings.
What we learned as a host family: Make sure you communicate with your student prior to his/her visit and understand their insurance benefits before they arrive.