What If Our Exchange Student Doesn’t Like Our Family?

Most exchange student placements work out well. The student enjoys the host family and the host family sees the student as part of the family. You might even hear the exchange student referring to their host parents as “mom” and “dad”. In a few rare instances, however, the exchange student and the host family cannot get along. What happens in this situation?

All international student exchange programs have local representatives that work with the students, host families and schools. These representatives are there to counsel and act as trusted advisors to both you and the student. They will make every effort to try to address both you and your student’s concerns. However, if conflicts cannot get resolved, your student might be moved to another host family. 

Having an exchange student removed from your home might make you feel you’ve failed. You should know that this is far from the truth. Even some seasoned host families have had hosting experiences that just didn’t work out. You might be determined to make it work no matter what in concern for your student. Know that in some situations your student might be happier in another home which can be a hard pill to swallow. 

The Process for Matching Exchange Students

For screening and to try to make the best match, the local representative of the exchange student program will interview you and visit you at your home. They will ask you questions about your hobbies, interests, religion, and lifestyle. If the program approves you, they will go through the applications of students to find the best student for you. The local representative will consider the following factors to try to make the best match.

  • How active is your family? If the student enjoys being on the go all day and your family more enjoys staying home and watching television, it won’t be a good match.
  • Where does the student currently live? Are they used to a big city or rural community? What type of experience do they want? Although students can’t be given everything they want, a student who is determined to live in a metropolitan city like Los Angeles is going to be unhappy with being placed in a home in Gaylord, Michigan (a rural tourist town with a population of less than 4,000). 
  • The exchange student has older siblings and is not used to being around younger kids. It might be best to avoid placing this student in the home of younger couples with small children. 
  • Is the student a person of faith? Do they go to church regularly? If a student goes to church every week, the agency will try to place them with a family that either goes to church or won’t mind taking them to church. 

Before accepting a student, the program will send you a packet that will include photos of the student and their family, and an application that tells you about their hobbies, interests and cultural expectations. 

Problems With Host Siblings and the Exchange Student

In most scenarios, your son or daughter is thrilled to be hosting an exchange student. He/she has the vision of them going to the movies together, staying up all night talking and being best friends for life. This is ideal but it is not always the case. At times these new siblings might not get along. It could be minor problems like the exchange student spends too much time in the bathroom or the exchange student rarely talks. Even more serious issues could arise that make for a tense relationship. If this happens, start by trying to talk with the two to improve their communication. If that doesn’t work, try calling the local representative to assist.  

Your Exchange Student Really Doesn’t Like You

Contrary to what some believe, programs don’t move students just because they are not happy. They will require that they try to work out the problems which can result in a valuable life lesson. Don’t be offended if your student tells their local representative about a problem. The local representative is there to help, listen and support. Therefore, your student has done well to seek their advice. 

Let’s face it, some exchange students have a misconception of what a stay in the United States will be like. Although exchange student programs do their best to present a realistic idea of what they can expect, some still believe most American families are affluent. In this case, it may be impossible to please your student because they have a vision of living in Beverly Hills.

Other times, there might be personality, religious or cultural differences that make the relationship tense and complex. Your student may not enjoy the same activities that you do which could also make them unhappy living in your home. 

Are Exchange Students Ever Relocated?

If there are problems, you’ll want to try to work them out. Being patient with your student and them being patient with you will go a long way. Talk it over with your spouse and children and set a timeframe to see if things improve. Most times it will, however, there are those exceptions.

If the decision is made to relocate a student, the move might happen right away or in a week or two depending upon the circumstances. If the relocation is urgent, the student might move with the local representative or with another host family until a more permanent placement is found. 

When you commit to taking an exchange student, you agree to share your lives with them but no hosting experience will be perfect. You are bound to have bumps along the way. Both you and your student will need to work at communicating and understanding each other. Like with any relationship, sometimes a host family and exchange student just don’t click. This doesn’t make you a bad host family or them a difficult exchange student. Sometimes people just don’t see eye to eye.