Sunday, August 4, 2013

Top 10 Reasons to Host a Foreign Exchange Student

Hosting our exchange students this summer has been a really great experience! Here are my top 10 reasons why I think you should consider hosting!

#1 You get to be a hometown tourist, seeing your neighborhood in a whole new light.
Chances are, you will want to show your student around town, and he or she will be excited to see everything! There are probably some local sights you've been wanting to check out, and having guests from out of the country will give you some extra motivation to finally do it!

#2 Speaking of motivation, having house guests will encourage you to finish up some projects around the house.
I'll admit, we didn't get all the projects done that we wanted to get done before our students arrived, but knowing they were coming gave us an extra push to do big cleanings in the kids' bedrooms and to majorly straighten up our upstairs. Because the grown-ups don't hang out upstairs much, that area of the house tends to get left to the back burner. And although my house is trashed now, I did do a heavy duty cleaning before our guests arrived.

#3 Learn about a different culture.
Getting to know kids from China has been a fascinating experience. Hearing about life in China is so interesting! Even trying to say words in Mandarin while they laugh is fun! This is the kind of thing it's kind of hard to learn without actually visiting a country, and even if you visit, there's a good chance you won't spend this much quality time with the locals.

#4 Know you're doing a good deed.
Consider for a moment what it would be like sending your child thousands of miles from home, away from family, in a country where no one speaks his or her language, and where they do things quite differently. Now think of yourself and your own family. You're good people, right? You know you can be trusted with someone else's child, right? If you take in an exchange student, you know that one student is in good hands. You are doing this kid and his family a huge favor. You would probably hope someone would do the same for you and your child in a similar situation.

#5 You will want to be on your best behavior.
Maybe you have a tendency to yell or to easily lose your patience. Maybe you tend to be really grumpy in the morning, or to be a little too critical. Chances are, having one or two extra people in your home will make you think twice before making a snide comment or raising your voice, and will give you that little extra patience you need to make it through a frustrating moment.

#6 You might gain a friend for life.
Of course I don't have first-hand experience with this yet, but I certainly hope to maintain communication with Tina and Ken. I've already told them we'd love to have them in our home again if they return to the U.S. Last year I met a family who has hosted numerous foreign exchange students from all over the world, and has kept in touch with most of them. The mom and dad were getting ready to celebrate a milestone anniversary, and some of their former exchange students were traveling to the U.S. for their party! Isn't that inspiring?

#7 You'll be giving your children an amazing gift.
So many people go through life thinking very little about anything outside of their own little circles. It's easy to get in a comfortable spot and stay there. But the world is full of different cultures and unique personalities! There is so much to do and see and learn and experience. Having foreign guests their own age will give your kids a new perspective, even if they don't realize it themselves. I would love to show my kids the world, and hopefully someday I can, but right now having exchange students in our home is kind of like bringing the world to us. I don't think this is an experience they will ever forget.

#8 You will be forced to communicate.
Unless you're cool with weeks, or even months, of awkward silence, you will be extra motivated to communicate concisely and clearly. I'm sure many foreign exchange students speak excellent English, but if they've never left their home country before or practiced our language outside of the classroom, it's likely that they will stumble a little along the way and that they'll be unsure of themselves at first. You'll have to slow down, speak up, enunciate, think of easy ways to convey your meaning, use hand gestures, write things down, and perhaps enlist the help of a foreign language dictionary or a translator app.

#9 You will broaden your horizons.
It will be great for your kids, but don't forget about yourself! After all, the older we get, the more we get stuck in our ways. Creating relationships with children from other countries will also help you to see the world differently, and will give you a better understanding of cultural differences. You will become more open minded. How can you not? In your mind, you might have a view of what it's like in another country, of what the people are like. But when you actually meet someone, invite them into your home, have real conversations, cook for them and do their laundry, suddenly your old impressions are not important. You will instead see the other country as being made up of real people, not so different from yourself and your family.

#10 It's fun!
I can only speak from my own experience, and I do know of at least one other person who did not have such a wonderful time with an exchange student (not from our program), so I understand that it's not the same for everyone. But in general, your exchange student is the kind of person who wants to get out in the world and meet new people and experience different cultures. That's why he or she is here! On the other hand, if you're hosting then you're the type of person who is open to new experiences and enjoys learning about other cultures and meeting new people. That's why you're hosting! This is a win-win situation, and with the right attitude the combination spells FUN! It is FUN getting to know someone new. It is FUN watching your kids flourish in a new situation. It is FUN to show someone around and play tour director. It is FUN to laugh over mispronunciations and misunderstandings. It is FUN to introduce others to your culture.

Hosting exchange students has been one of the most rewarding things I've ever done. It was on my Life List, and something I have always wanted to do. I am so grateful for the opportunity, and look forward to doing it again. I hope my top 10 list helps encourage you to consider hosting as well.

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