The first thing we did was speak to a local family who already hosted a student the previous year. She gave us her contact information for the agency. After contacting the agency we were assigned a representative. The representative was delighted that we were interested and emailed us our host family application which consisted of four pages.
The first page asked for simple family information such as the family address and names of each family member residing in the home. For each family member over 18 we provided a date of birth, cell phone number, email as well as our employment information, education, and hobbies. For family members under 18, we provided names, gender, date of birth, and interests.
Page 2 is where the questions became a bit more thought-provoking. We, as a family, decided to host a foreign exchange student and put a lot of thought into how it would impact our lives. However, there were so many questions we had not even considered… Until we stumbled upon page 2. Questions pertaining to weekday and weekend curfews, internet usage and homework rules forced us to sit down as parents and really come up with a set of rules that would apply. Next up is the home description. Is it a single family home, townhouse, condo, or apartment?
Now for page 3 of the application. At this point, you should know if your student will have their own bedroom in your home or if they’ll be sharing a room and with whom they will be sharing. You will provide that info on this application along with any amenities to which the student has access to, such as their own private bathroom or shower.
Another question you’ll have to consider is which personal expenses you’ll expect the student pay for it. This was a question we really had to think about. As the host family, you will not receive compensation. However, you should not go into financial debt as a result of hosting. In the end, we answered that we expected entertainment, school lunches, and clothing be the responsibility of our student.
Now on to page 4 of the application. You will answer whether or not you have any pets and which kinds along with if they reside indoors or outdoors. The reason for this question is that some students have allergies that will prevent them from living in a home with certain animals. Also, some students may have fears of specific animals like snakes, spiders or even dogs and would not feel comfortable living in a house with those animals.
Diet is an important topic to consider when expecting to host a foreign exchange student. You’ll need to decide if you feel comfortable hosting a student who follows a particular dietary restriction. You will be responsible for providing three square meals each day. So, are you willing to cook special meals, such as vegetarian or vegan? You also be asked if you expect your student to follow any dietary restrictions while in your home. This would be any restrictions or special diets that your family follows.
Next in the application is the high school information. You’ll provide the school name, address, contact name and phone number, school website and the number of students. To find this information, you can contact the school principal. We googled our school name to find most of the info. Also in this section you’ll be asked if you are willing to provide transportation for extracurricular activities after school or in the evening. A foreign exchange student is encouraged to become involved in sports and clubs in addition to attending school events, so it’s important to be aware that hosting will involve some extra driving time for the host family, as the students aren’t allowed to drive any vehicle while in the United States.
Next, you will provide community information. You’ll choose whether it’s considered urban, suburban, small town, rural, or farm. Information needed will also include your town’s population, nearest major airport and distance, airport code, nearest major city and distance.
Again, we used Google to find the answers for our town. You’ll be asked to briefly describe your neighborhood, including points of interest. For example we wrote “ Our town is small and quaint with a golf course, two gas stations, two schools, a Dollar General Store. There are also several farms in our neighborhood.” In addition, you will need to know whether or not there are areas in or near your neighborhood that should be avoided and if so, describe them.
There’s a space on the application where you’ll write approximately when you would like the student to arrive at your home, if your application is approved, of course. we chose early August because school started on August 22nd, and we wanted plenty of time to get acquainted with our student before school started. There is definitely an adjustment period. Upon arrival, so it’s best to schedule time between arrival and the school start date. We recommend at least 7-10 days based on our first hand experience.
Next, you will list two references that have known your family for at least 12 months. If yours is a single parent family or without children at home, a third reference is required. Relatives couldn’t be used under the Department of State rules and regulations. We chose two of our daughter’s teachers that we had known for several years. I always make it a personal rule that I contact my references and ask permission before listing them. Our application asked for their name, phone number, and address. Both of the references that we listed ended up getting a call from the agency.
Lastly, we were provided with about three-quarters of a blank piece of paper to write a host family personal letter to our potential exchange student. At this point, we didn’t know anything about our student because this is the beginning process. We decided to allow our fifteen-year-old daughter to write the letter. She wrote about what her and her friends do for fun, what sports are available to play at her school, and shared her excitement to meet her and create a lifelong relationship. To end the application, all family members sign and date the app and send it to the appropriate representative.
I hope this was helpful for you. Please continue reading What Happens After I Apply For a Foreign Exchange Student?