Hosting A Foreign Exchange Student Leads to Interesting And Positive Results

Foreign 3As a teenager could you imagine impacting the world by living with a family on the other side of the ocean? Allowing a teenager to live with you would certainly be an interesting experience. Every year from January to August organizations around the world ask for families to volunteer to give a teenager a home for a year. As a volunteer for Youth for Understanding Intercultural Exchange (YFU) we run orientations during the summer for families that have volunteered to host. Families who have never hosted before are thinking this will be a experience to be part of.  They can’t imagine the impact this teenager will have on so many people in such a short amount of time. The misconception with student exchange is only families with teenagers can host. The truth is a there is no typical family.  As an organization (YFU) and all other organizations have to follow requirements set forth by the government. What are some of those requirements? Background checks need to be completed for all adults in the home, the student needs to have their own bed (but can share a room with a same sex sibling), the family needs to provide 3 meals a day and be there to support the student throughout the year. As an organization it is our job as staff and volunteers to train families and students at orientations and be a support throughout the year. Students can be placed in homes ranging from young couples to a retired Grandma. How has Student Exchange changed not only my family but this community? About 45 years ago my Aunt brought home an Exchange Student from Finland who was attending Godwin Heights and told my Grandparents that she needed a new Host Family. My Grandparents were interviewed and the student moved in for the rest of the school year. Fast forward to 25 years ago and my Dad reads and article in the Grand Rapids Press about Exchange Students needing a home for the next school year. For the next 10 years we added a new member to the family every other year who would attend Wyoming Park. Part way through each year the student became a true member of our family. You could no longer tell who the outsider was so much so that my husband does not know our family without our former students. Three years ago my husband and I were running orientations for families when we decided it was time to welcome a 6’4″ German boy into our home as our only child. It wasn’t long before I became that Mom rooting for her boy at the Basketball games (Go Godwin!) and the next year becoming the Soccer Mom for an amazing Italian boy. Foreign 2 Ask yourself some questions. Do I have room for a student? Could I feed another person? Can I be a soccer parent (or any other sport/activity)? Three years ago my husband and I decided the answer was yes. Maybe you know what it is like to live in another country. We are always looking for volunteers who are willing to talk to students and families as well as help with orientations. We have the chance to change the world. If you are interested, just let me know.   Just leave me an email under this website comment site.



2 thoughts on “Hosting A Foreign Exchange Student Leads to Interesting And Positive Results

  1. This is such a very awesome experience. I look forward to meeting my 2 kids coming this August. Truls from Norway and Joseph from Sweden. I have had such great experiences in the past and 2 of my kids are back this summer to visit Ken from Japan and Kang from S Korea, and Riikka from Finland will come this fall too! YEA It is a truly life long connections.

  2. Thanks Laura for your nice comment. Can’t wait to hear about how your foreign exchange experience goes. Warmest Regards, Colleen Pierson–Citizen Journalism Supervisor

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