by Marc Anderson

5 Advantages of Hosting Foreigners – 25 Tips to Make It Happen

Lovely young couple sitting on public bench

There is a flickering spark in us all which, if struck at just the right age…can light the rest of our lives, elevating our ideals, deepening our tolerance, and sharpening our appetite for knowledge about the rest of the world. Educational and cultural exchanges…provide a perfect opportunity for this precious spark to grow, making us more sensitive and wiser international citizens. – Ronald Reagan, The White House, May 1982.

Have you ever thought of hosting a foreign exchange student or a visiting professional?

There may be more opportunities in your community than you realize. I bet there are foreign exchange students at your local high schools, community colleges and universities who might want to spend an evening or weekend with your family. There are summer programs for foreign students at local higher education institutions, visiting professors and possibly professionals who make business or technical trips to your country from time to time. They may need a host family to live with.

Perhaps a your city or a neighboring city has a sister city or a formal exchange program in some shape or form, maybe there are musicians, artists, health professionals or government officials who are paying a visit to where you live. Sometimes, there are special programs where you can host a student from another region or country for the summer, weekends, a semester or a year depending on the particular program, the student needs and your preferences.

There are 5 main advantages of hosting foreigners:

1. To Build Interest and Understanding. People from different countries often differ in their views and opinions. There are many opportunities for discussions. They will be able to share their country with you and other worldviews. You may pick up some of their language along the way or if already know that language, you can have an opportunity to become more fluent. You may also build an appreciation for their culture: music or art, foods or crafts, language and sports.

2. To Be a Part of Someone’s Life Experience. You have a special opportunity to impact positively on someone’s life despite a cultural difference. This may help the individual in their studying or in their personal life and how they in turn relate to people back in their home country. It has the potential to change their life forever.

3. To Build Your Personal Character. Without really knowing, you are bound to become more understanding and empathetic with another individual. Maybe you begin to see the world through someone else’s eyes? You put someone else’s interest in front of yours. You realize more of what is truly important in life and this opportunity allows you a chance to become more giving and better-rounded, and simply a better human being.

4. For Friendship. You can develop a long-lasting friendship between the student/professional. You may choose to travel to his/her home country and vacation, work or study. This may lead to a deepening friendship between the families and future visits in either country.

5. In Support of Cultural Exchanges. You may become supportive of study abroad organizations, clubs and programs. You might monetary support these, volunteer to work in these programs, or encourage your own family members to be an “exchange” student/professional, etc. You are more aware of the value this brings to individuals.

25 Tips to make the foreigner feel more accepted:

Business woman presenting map with famous cities and landmarks

  1. Write to them or contact them ahead of time if possible. Arrange to meet them and bring them to your home. Introduce yourself and any other family members to them ahead of time. Allow contact if necessary in case they have questions about what to expect, what to bring, etc.
  2. Supply them with a personal space.
  3. Try to make them feel welcome. Learn something about them, their interests, how to pronounce their name and a few basic expressions.
  4. Give them a brief tour of your neighborhood, city/town so they feel more comfortable of where they are.
  5. Encourage them to ask questions when they don’t’ understand something (money system, calendar, directions, etc.)
  6. Offer to take them places for day-to-day living experiences (the store, bank, post office and library).
  7. Supply them with needed English help (dictionary, thesaurus, etc.)
  8. Help them secure any needed technological devices (phone, computer, etc.)
  9. Spend time with them. Teach them games, show them favorite movies or shows, provide a newspaper or magazine that you enjoy, take them to popular places (movies, beach, restaurant, mall, museum, art gallery, etc.)
  10. Business woman presenting map with famous cities and landmarks
  11. Make them part of the family by assigning 1-2 simple chores or task (bringing down the laundry, doing the dishes, taking out the garbage, maybe walking the dog). Include them in conversations.
  12. Do not stereotype or verbally talk down. They may need you to talk a little slower or to repeat something, but do it in a manner to be helpful and understanding of the language barrier not to be condescending.
  13. If you don’t have a child their same age (for a student exchange), you could arrange a neighbor child or invite someone from their exchange school over. Take a few of his/her new friends to the movies or the mall. You could opt to have a gathering at your house of people who might enjoy meeting a foreigner. Maybe there are families who have traveled or lived in that country; maybe there are other hosts in the area; maybe there are adoptive parents who would really enjoy meeting someone from a particular country; maybe there are recent immigrants or others in the area for any number of reasons who would really relish the opportunity to get to know someone from another culture.
  14. Take them to local festivals or a restaurant that may specialize in ethnic foods.
  15. Show them where certain basic toiletries are that they can help themselves to at any time. Do the same for some healthy snacks or drinks if they need that in between meals.
  16. Discuss how much little things cost that they might need/want: postcards and stamps, stationery; phone calls; souvenirs, bus tokens, etc.
  17. Figure out a system for doing the laundry and a meal schedule.
  18. Include them in family decisions (sometimes): where to go for dinner, what to serve on a certain night of the week, what show to watch as a family, what game to play, where to go for the weekend, etc.
  19. Include them in family decisions (sometimes): where to go for dinner, what to serve on a certain night of the week, what show to watch as a family, what game to play, where to go for the weekend, etc.
  20. Include them in family decisions (sometimes): where to go for dinner, what to serve on a certain night of the week, what show to watch as a family, what game to play, where to go for the weekend, etc.
  21. Have some type of contact with the family/organization of the foreigner just in case there is an emergency, etc. Encourage them to email, Skype, contact on a weekly basis.
  22. Don’t resent giving your time, energy and even financial contributions. You may need to be more of a chauffeur, or take more of your personal time to develop a relationship, and even spend more of your family’s money for food and recreation as one extra person has now become part of the family for a length of time.
  23. Encourage your foreign student/professional to contribute to the community: maybe they give a talk at the library or at a local school, maybe they help you with some volunteer work, etc. It is always a win-win situation.Be open to helping others have the quality experience you did in hosting. Share information with individuals, relatives and families so they may, too, get involved in a similar experience so… the flickering spark can light, elevate ideals, deepen tolerance, and sharpen an appetite for knowledge about the rest of the world.
  24. Encourage them to write to the local paper about something positive about the community (i.e. what they learned, how they were accepted, etc.)
  25. Be open to helping others have the quality experience you did in hosting. Share information with individuals, relatives and families so they may, too, get involved in a similar experience so… the flickering spark can light, elevate ideals, deepen tolerance, and sharpen an appetite for knowledge about the rest of the world.

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Here’s hoping that you will be able to have an educational and cultural exchange and that… the precious spark will grow and you will be more sensitive and a wiser international citizen.

Please write to me using the comments section below and share a story of when you might have been an exchange student or visiting professional. Or maybe you have hosted foreigners on some occasion. Perhaps you have always thought of traveling or of hosting. Share those thoughts as well. Did you feel that precious spark? Are you more sensitive? Are you a wiser international citizen? Thanks for sharing.

For specific programs involved with hosting a foreign student, travel/exchange experiences, and/or volunteer opportunities, go to:

AFS http://www.afsusa.org/

AIFS Foundation – Academic Year in America http://www.academicyear.org/landing/index.asp?gclid=CJqT4ZrvzbgCFWyCQgodpDoAHA

Aspect Foundation http://www.aspectfoundation.org/host/index.html

ASSE International Student Exchange Program http://www.asse.com/

Ayusa http://mkto.ayusa.org/ayusa-we-are-ayusa-lp.html?gclid=CM2S-tHvzbgCFQnhQgodugMA6Q

Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs Exchange Programs http://exchanges.state.gov/us/hosting-volunteer-opportunities

CCI Greenheart http://www.cci-exchange.com/content_right.aspx?id=596

CIEE USA High School Program http://www.ciee.org/highschool/

Foundation for Foreign Study http://welcome.effoundation.org/?gclid=CJm-7dHuzbgCFeU5Qgodn2gA6g

ICES – International Cultural Exchange Programs http://www.icesusa.org/host-families/?gclid=CI70gaPxzbgCFSVxQgodyGcAKA

Yes Canada http://www.youthedservices.ca/yes-canada-hosting-an-exchange-student.html

YFU/USA Intercultural Exchange Programs http://www.yfuusa.org/

About the author:

Marc Anderson is the co-founder and CEO of TalktoCanada. Since founding the company in 2006, he has grown it to over 25 staff with operations in 50 countries. Marc spends his time outside of TalktoCanada travelling, playing with his son and working on new business projects.

  • Christian

    Invaluable discussion , I am thankful for the info . Does anyone know if my company can get ahold of a fillable CA Conditional Waiver and Release on Progress Payment document to fill out ?