Hosting / Life in the U.S.

Hosting in the Time of COVID

What can we say about the 2020-21 school year??? It’s certainly …. different. One thing that has (thankfully) stayed the same is the enthusiasm of our host families and students! With more time to spend with family and so many plans canceled, this may be a great time to consider hosting an exchange student.

We asked some of our veteran host families what it’s been like to open their homes to exchange students during this unusual year. Here is what they had to say!

How has this school year been for you and your exchange student so far?

It’s been great! It’s honestly always great! It’s different of course because of COVID. This year we’ve decided to host a student from Italy. We’ve really enjoyed having her here. My daughter is happy to have someone home besides mom!  Jackie, Host Mom in Utah

It’s been different, but it’s been good. It’s still been really rewarding like it has been in years past. The process wasn’t any more difficult than normal. We are happy that we have him. – Angela, Host Mom in Michigan

Elias from Germany (right) with his host brother after having fall scenic color plane ride at the local airport, where they flew over their town and house.
Angela’s son and his host brother, Elias from Germany (right), after having a fall color scenic plane ride at the local airport, where they flew over their town and house.

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to host a student in the fall. The school changed to fully online and that affected the ability for the student to come to the US. Our student will be able to come for the spring semester. We expect it will pretty much be the same, to be honest. We don’t have any children without exchange students. If you want a student, sometimes you have to fight for them. Bronson, Host Father in Illinois

How do you feel in helping realize your student’s dream to study in the United States?

We love it! That’s why we do it every year. We give them homework right away. We make them write down a list of all the things they want do. We might not be able to do everything, but we try to do as much as possible. Being a host family helps you get us out of your box. It breaks up your monotony. It keeps you on your toes and laughing. We love seeing their faces. It’s really exciting and really rewarding. Shawn, Host Dad in Texas

For us, it’s a good thing especially this year. Our kids are some of the lucky ones who got to come here. What this program does is it spreads different cultural awareness for them and us. It’s important! – Kelly, Host Mom in Utah

Chung Ming from Hong Kong (left) and Rafael from Spain (red shirt) with their hosts the McPherson Family on a nice Fall hike.
Host mom Kelly, her family and their two exchange students, Chung Ming from Hong Kong (left) and Rafael from Spain (red shirt), enjoying a fall hike in Utah

We have hosted before and it’s great. I am particularly rewarded in this case as this FLEX student has earned this scholarship. She has worked so hard to make this happen. – Bronson, Host Dad in Illinois

I’ve done this for so long it’s a part of my life. I feel I’ve been benefitting from hosting more than the students. I just enjoy it. I don’t feel it’s a big sacrifice. I’m a single parent so it gives them a feel for a different family dynamic. You have to be patient and compassionate. We take her around town to help her feel more at home. One thing for me is having a long-term connection with them, even when they return home. – Jackie, Host Mom in Utah

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Jackie’s student, Melissa from Italy, on her way to powder puff football during homecoming week

How was the process in ensuring everyone felt safe in this COVID age?

These kids are like any other students. You take normal precautions like you would any other students, like your own children. Everybody has felt safe regarding the coronavirus. – Scott, Host Dad in Texas

Since our student arrived it, it’s been easy. Just wear a mask and practice social distancing. If there’s a risk within the school of too many students being exposed or testing positive, the school will go into quarantine and everyone will be told to isolate at home. – Jackie, Host Mom in Utah

What would you tell potential host families who may be worried about hosting for the spring?

They’re so eager to learn about our culture. They want to learn how American teenagers do things. It’s very rewarding and definitely worth it. Hosting for 5 months is a nice trial to see if you’d like to do it for a longer period of time! – Scott, Host Dad in Texas

The Falke Family with Sam from Japan on the left and Victor from Spain on the right losing the race to the desert tortoise.
Host dad, Scott, his wife, Cathleen, and their two exchange students, Samu from Japan (left) and Victor from Spain (right), losing the race to a desert tortoise in Texas

I would say just do it! It’s our fifth year. the first year is always the biggest thing. Everyone’s so scared and worried. But if you’re not scared a little bit, you’re not living! If you’re not having fun, you’re not living. And this is fun! after the first time hosting, we felt, “Why weren’t we doing this sooner?” We talk to almost all of our students every week. Next year, we’re planning on taking 2 weeks to meet some of our students in Spain. It’ll be a fun time. Shawn, Host Dad in Texas