There are many exchange student agencies in the United States. These agencies often have relationships and consortium agreements with similar entities in other countries. Each of these organizations has a list of opportunities for high school kids to study abroad. Some also facilitate internships, educational or GAP year programs for college-age students.
High school students typically study abroad for one semester or a full school year. Other programs could last a little shorter or even longer (although these are not as common). Students interested in more of a cultural exchange might stay in the United States for just a few weeks or the summer.
High School Student Exchange for a School Year
The most popular student exchange program is for high school students interested in studying in the United States for a school year. With this program, the students will arrive in the United States two weeks before school begins. They will stay with the host family from that time to the end of the school year. This means that they will be able to celebrate Christmas, the New Year, Easter and many other holidays with their host family. Some will even stay up to two weeks after school ends to travel or spend a little of the summer in their adopted city. As the host family, you’ll be expected to provide the exchange student with food and shelter. Parental responsibilities like guidance, nurturing and supervising is an important part of being a host parent. High school exchange students come from a variety of countries including Brazil, China, Germany, Spain, and Thailand.
High School Student Exchange for One Semester
A one-semester exchange student can come to the United States in either t/he fall or winter. They are here to study for just one semester and will stay with you during that entire time. This is typically from August to later January or from late January to early June. Some students will choose to come to the United States for just one semester because of fear. That is, they feel safer signing up for half of the year because they are concerned about getting along with their host family, excelling in the classroom and finding friends at school. If they are enjoying themselves, can they extend their stay in the United States? Absolutely. Most exchange student programs will let the students sign up for a second semester as long as their natural parents approve. Usually, the student will want to remain with their host family. As long as you agree, this is a wonderful opportunity for the student to experience more of the school, city and country. It will also let you enjoy their company a while longer.
Exchange Students and the F-1 Student Visa
Most of the students studying in the United States are on a J-1 Visa. The J-1 Visa is issued through an exchange student program and allows students to study in the United States for either one semester or a full school year. There is, however, also an F-1 Visa that allows foreign students to study for a longer period of time in the United States. Unlike the J-1 Visa, it is available to students in varied grades as well as college-aged students. The F-1 Visa is connected to the school that the student will be attending and foreign students are required to pay tuition to the school. Once the student on the F-1 Visa comes to the United States, they can stay as long as they are enrolled in their sponsor school. Once the program is complete, whether it is a high school diploma or college degree, they must return back to their home country. They are allowed a couple of months after finishing their education to tour the country or tie up any loose ends. That said, if you host a student on an F-1 Visa, they could be staying with you for a few years. However, host parents of F-1 Visa students are compensated for their room and board.
Summer Exchange Student Programs
Students who want to spend just a summer abroad can do so through a variety of exchange student programs. Summer exchange student programs will typically last from 4-6 weeks. If you’re hosting a summer student, you’ll be expected to house and feed them during this period. You’ll also include them in your daily summer activities whether it be playing sports, going to an amusement park or swimming at the beach. The students also occasionally go on organized trips with the exchange student program and you just might be invited to go along. Summer exchange students come from Korea, Japan, Costa Rica, France, Germany, and many other places.
As you can see, if you’re interested in hosting an exchange student, you have numerous options. You can host a student for as short as a few weeks to as long as a few years. Check with your local exchange student program to learn more about becoming a host parent/family.