Can Same-Sex Couples Host Exchange Students?

Studying abroad can be a scary experience for a student. A kind and loving host family can help to ease a student’s fears and make them feel safe and secure. To be good host parents, you must be willing to open your hearts and become the exchange student’s family away from home. This is the most important attribute of a good host family. 

A frequently asked question is “Can you as a same-sex couple host an exchange student?” With many programs, the answer is yes. One of the goals of foreign exchange student programs is to promote understanding and peace across the world. Thus, most exchange student programs welcome diversity and work diligently to promote inclusion. 

Although some programs desire to welcome LBGT families to host, there have been some obstacles along the way. This includes a conflict with the country’s policies and families that are not comfortable with having their children live with a gay couple. 

Parents From the LBGT Community Have a Lot to Offer

Many students coming from overseas will have an idyllic view of the American family. They might think they are coming to a family with a husband and wife, one dog, a cat, two children and a large home with a white picket fence. Instead, they are presented with you – a family with two dads or two moms. Is this really a big deal? No it is not.  In truth, all host families are not the same but have varying lifestyles. Foreign exchange student programs exist to provide students with exposure to a different culture and life experience. What better way to do that than to live with a host family with same-sex parents?

Students from the LBGT community are also underrepresented when it comes to studying abroad. Consequently, many programs have launched campaigns to recruit these kids. Often, LBGT teens don’t want to participate because they are afraid that they might not be accepted by a host family. Having more LBGT host families available like yours might encourage more of these students to consider this life-changing opportunity. 

Where the Exchange Student is From Will Likely Make a Difference

Local exchange student programs work in conjunction with exchange student programs in other countries. Although your exchange student program might welcome you as a host family, you might not be accepted by the sister program. This is a strong possibility if you want to host a student from a more conservative country such as Russia, Saudi Arabia or Nigeria. You will likely not encounter this problem, however, with some less-conservative European countries like Germany, Switzerland, Sweden and the Netherlands. Keep this in mind when you are applying to become a host parent.  International exchange student programs should know this information and be able to guide you in the process.  

Student and Family Can Reject You

If you’re working with a reputable program, your local contact will go through their pool of available students and select a few for you to consider. She/he will choose them based upon their interests, goals and family background. You’ll then review these applications and choose a student that you think will fit in your family. 

Likewise, you will complete an application that will be shared with your prospective exchange student. The packet will include photos of your family along with information about your career, hobbies and community involvement. Note that it might be the policy of the program to tell the family that you are a same-sex couple. For other programs it might not be. Don’t be afraid to ask whether the family will be told. Often it is best that they know in advance. This way the student/parents can decline living in your home if they are not comfortable.   

Even if you are rejected by a student, don’t be discouraged. One student may not be open to living with you but another will appreciate the knowledge they’ll get by joining your family. 

Problems With Other Students

Unfortunately, some children of same-sex couples are teased or bullied. Even though these are young adults, this can make their stay a little more complicated. If this might be a problem in your community, you might want to talk with the local program coordinator to decide whether hosting a student is a good idea. 

Requirements for Hosting an Exchange Student

Before being presented to a family, you’ll have to be accepted by the exchange student program. To accept you as host parents, you’ll need to have a steady income and a room in which the student can comfortably stay. They’ll also want to know the student will have a place to study and enjoy a little quiet time. After reviewing your application, the local coordinator will tour your home and call the references that you provide. Your references will be asked about the stability of your home, your relationship as a couple and whether your reference believes you will be good host parents. Lastly, a background check will be conducted which will include criminal records but will not involve financial or credit checks. You should be aware that your local school must also be willing to accept the foreign exchange student for either a semester or a full academic year. Without school approval, your application will not be accepted.  

There are many different types of “good” host families. Some have children, some do not. Some are younger couples while others are retirees. In that list of “good” host families are numerous LBGT parents who have shared their hearts and homes with a student.