Hosting an exchange student can be an experience that is both educational and rewarding. Families that decide to host these students not only get to teach them about the American way of life, but also get to introduce their own kids to life-long friends, and immerse themselves in another culture for the night, a whole semester or an entire school year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
We delved into the world of foreign exchange hosting, and the benefits that some local families reaped – and we’ve rounded up some of the best foreign exchange student programs for host families. Get involved, or learn more, by reaching out to one of these foreign exchange student programs and organizations that will match you with the right kid, and provide you with support if you hit any snags.
This program was founded in 1981 and is sponsored the American Institute for Foreign Study Foundation, a not-for-profit organization founded with the help of the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy. As one of the largest high school and homestay programs in the United States, AYA will hook host families up with a student from one of more than 45 countries that will fit into that family’s lifestyle, and offer a 24-hour support hotline.
For more than 70 years, this non-profit organization (formerly known as the American Field Service) has offered its international exchange program in more than 40 countries. Each year, they bring more than 2,100 students, from some 80 countries, to the United States to experience our culture, and share their cultures with the families that host them.
The Academic Year in the U.S.A. Global Youth Exchange was founded in 1981 and operates in hopes of developing global leaders by developing their leadership skills, intercultural awareness and exchanging knowledge by having them experience the culture of others. All families – whether married, single, young, older, with or without kids – are invited to host kids for five to 10 months, as long as they can provide them with a house, three meals, reliable transportation and the time to listen.
Share your home with a high school student, scholar or teacher for a long-term arrangement that spans the semester or academic year, or for the duration of week-long training programs. Hosts must pick up their guests from the airport, provide them housing for their whole stay and three meals a day.
This non-profit is a branch of Greenheart International, and has been matching up high school students and U.S. families for short and long-term hosting arrangements since 1985. They offer intern, trainee and summer work programs for international students, too.
This non-profit and nongovernmental organization is the oldest and largest study abroad program and has been serving families since 1947. These days, they work with more than 340 U.S. colleges and over 1,000 U.S. high schools to match more than 35,000 international students with the perfect family and school for them.
This 50-year-old organization has more than 450 offices in 116 countries from around the world, and offers programs in language training, educational travel, academic degrees, cultural studies and geography. They screen families and students to match them up and provide outreach and 24-hour support to host families and students all 365 days a year.
This U.S.-based non-profit international exchange organization has more than 25 years of successfully pairing up students with host families under its belt, and has matched up more than 5,000 students and families over this period of time, with 500 of these students being hosted right now. They are sponsored by the U.S. State Department, and aim to provide an experience that will not only transform the lives of the exchange students, but the families that host them, too.
Since 1991, this group has been promoting peace in the world by advancing cultural awareness through its student exchange program. Host families must provide each student with meals, and room and board while the student is responsible for their own spending money and personal expenses.
This 501c3 has a relationship with more than 345 high schools in Michigan and has provided exchange programming for more than 30,000 exchange students since its founding in 1982. Host families must provide their students with a bedroom, three meals a day and a warm and nurturing environment in which the student can learn about American culture while sharing their own. Students will handle all other financial responsibility, including medical care.
This is a newer program that was established in 2002, in response to the events of Sept. 11, 2001, by the U.S. Department of State and is sponsored by the Bureau of Educational & Cultural Affairs. They aim to provide scholarships to high school students, ages 15-18, in countries with high Muslim populations. They match students up with host families so that they can learn about and engage in American culture for up to one academic year. They also offer a similar program, YES Abroad, which was established in 2009 so that American students can have the same experience in select countries like Egypt, Indonesia, Lebanon, Turkey and others.
This local division of Rotary International, which includes Michigan, Canada, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina, offers short- and long-term exchange programs for international students between the ages of 15 and 18. Students are often placed in two to four different homes for up to three months during a school year. All types of households and families are welcome to host.
PAX was formed nearly 30 years ago in a private home with the dream to enable young people from around the world to experience the culture of others. Today, it serves more than 1,000 participants from more than 70 countries and 600 high schools to place them in. Students in the year-long program arrive in mid-August and stay for 10 months while semester-long students stay five months and arrive in mid-August or mid-January.
The STS, or Student Travel Schools, Foundation is a not-for-profit organization with more than 30 years of experience connecting and placing international students with host families here in the U.S. The foundation is approved by the Department of State, accredited by The Council on Standards for International Educational Travel and uses a “personal and caring approach” when placing its students.
This Iowa-based nonprofit’s mission is to provide its students with an “Exchange with a Purpose” through publicly-sponsored projects that aim to improve cooperation among people of different cultures. The program was founded in 2002 with a merger staff from internal program departments, the National FFA Organization and the Russian Rural Youth Union, and works with over 3,000 students and 300 teachers.
In 1951, 75 German teens were selected by Army of Occupation to live in the U.S. with American families for one year. Those 75 students kicked off the start of this program, which has placed more than 250,000 students from more than 60 different countries in American homes. Families of all different backgrounds and locations are welcome to host with 24-hour support for their volunteer families.
Photo by Lauren Jeziorski
This post was originally published in 2015 and is updated regularly.