about hosting an exchange student

About the exchange students

Who are the exchange students and where are they from?

Exchange student are usually between 15 and 18 years old. They have different motivations to participate in an exchange program and have different hobbies, and passions. The exchange students come from countries around the world, from Norway to South Africa, from Australia to Chile.

How long will the exchange student stay with their host family?

Exchange students usually participate in an exchange program for a couple of weeks, a semester, or a school year. The majority of exchange students participates for a school year. The duration of the exchange student in your home depends on your availability and preferences.

Do the exchange students speak my language?

One of the goals of the exchange program is for the exchange student to learn your language. They also speak English (some more than others), which will help in the initial days after arrival of the exchange student in your home.

WILL THE EXCHANGE STUDENT ATTEND SCHOOL?The majority of exchange students attend high school during their exchange. Some exchange students are slightly older and attend college, vocational education, or volunteer work.

how are the students prepared for the exchange experience?

Exchange organizations prepare the exchange students in different ways for their exchange. The organization in their home country provides them with rules and guidelines, they meet other students going abroad at the same time at an orientation, and they learn about cultural differences and how to approach such situations.

When does the exchange student arrive?

The arrival of exchange student differs per country and program. A majority of students arrives in July-August and December-January each year for semester and year long exchange programs. A minority participates in short-term exchange programs, their starting dates differ.

Brazilian host mom and daughter with their exchange daughter

Benefits of hosting for my family

In which ways will my family benefit from hosting an exchange student?

Your family will have a lot of fun, sharing your daily life with an exchange student. You will see your community through your exchange son’s or daughter’s eyes and discover that things that are normal for you, might be new and amazing to others. Your children will realize that their peers across the world are growing up in a different way. But above all, both your family and your exchange son or daughter will overcome stereotypes and realize how much people from different background and cultures have I common.

Why do families welcome a teenager they don’t know into their home?

Families don’t all have the same reasons for why they choose to host a student. Reasons include a desire to expose one’s children to a new experience, building long-term friendships, and learning about other cultures. 

Why should my family host?
In today’s globalizing world we realize that the world is becoming smaller. But at the same time people across the globe are still unaware about different cultures and customs. This creates challenges in school and work environments, communities, and at political level. What we don’t know usually scares us. An exchange experience shows the exchange student a realistic truth about their host country. The host family is a key component for the exchange experience, since they welcome the exchange student into their home and through their family structures, community involvement, interests and customs the exchange student is really able to get involved, instead of looking at the culture from an external “tourist” perspective. Host families are able to learn about the world and its diversity without leaving their home, they are able to educate their children, get involved in an adventure and create an emotional bond with a young person for life.

Chinese host family with their exchange son

Host family requirements

What are the requirements for hosting an exchange student?

Host families are willing and able to provide for an additional family member in terms of a separate bed, a place to study and three meals per day in a safe, supportive and secure home. Host families should have realistic expectations of what life with a teenager is like and be willing to help their exchange son or daughter adapt to their family’s daily life, and culture. Host families are willing to show their exchange son or daughter the way in their hometown and encourage participation in school and community events.

Does my child need to participate in an exchange program before we can host an exchange student?

No. The word "exchange" refers to exchanging customs, traditions, ideas, and cultures. However, if your son or daughter would like to participate in an exchange program, that is possible.

Can we host two exchange students at the same time?

Yes, you can. Especially families without children, or families that no longer have children living at home (off to college) choose this option. They have different motivations for this. Some families feel that it is nice for the exchange student to have another student in the house to experience the exchange with, to learn from one another, to encourage each other and to discover the surroundings and community events together.

Is it boring for the exchange student to live in a host family without children?

Don’t worry about the fact that the exchange students will not have any brothers or sisters to live with. The exchange student will participate in your local high school or college and will be able to meet plenty of young people at school and during extracurricular activities or sport engagements. If you feel you would like a companion for them in your home, you could consider hosting two exchange students at the same time.

Will the exchange student be okay with having just one host parent?

Most exchange organizations inform the exchange student of a placement with a single parent beforehand, so he or she knows what to expect. Some students might already be more familiar with single parents, because this is quite common in their home country as well, for others it might be a new experience.


Yes. Host families are as diverse as the exchange students they are hosting. A few examples of host families include (but are not limited to): single parents, same sex couples, couples with children (of any age), couples with children no longer living at home, couples without children.

I have a fulltime job; will the exchange student feel lonely?

The exchange student will attend the local high school or college and will spend most of the day there. After school there is homework and some time to relax, since participating in a new school, and learning the local language is intense for your exchange son or daughter. It is completely fine if the family members just get together in time to prepare and eat dinner together.

Is our family expected to speak English before we can host an exchange student?

No. One of the aims of the exchange students’ exchange, besides learning about your family’s customs, traditions and culture, is to learn the language of their host country.

Can we host an exchange student if we don’t have children (living at home)?

Yes, host families are very diverse and reflect families across the globe. If you have children or not you are welcome to host and exchange student.

American host family with their exchange daughter

Becoming a host family


The YFU experience corrects impressions and stereotypes by offering host families and students the opportunity to see the world up close. YFU has a long track record of success. Since they were founded in 1951 they have exchanged more than 260.000 students. YFU’s dedicated volunteers are embedded in communities across the world to provide each program participant a safety net of support. Many of the YFU staff members started as cultural exchange students, volunteers or hosts themselves, and their work is as much a calling as a job. YFU is a confederation of 50 plus countries, working together in trust and partnership and embracing the same standards of quality. YFU is supportive of host families, students, and natural families, every step of the way.


Exchange organizations create a profile for each exchange student. When host families are interviewed and approved to host they can view exchange student profiles to see which student could fit well into their family. As soon as your family selected a student and the placement is processed, you will receive the contact details to starts communicating with your future host son or daughter.


Please explore the hosting opportunities with different exchange organizations. One of the oldest, non-profit exchange organizations that offers hosting experiences is Youth For Understanding (YFU). Please connect with the YFU organization in your home country to learn more.

Dutch host father with his son and exchange son from Thailand

During the hosting experience

How long will it take before the exchange student will be able to speak our language?

Most exchange organization offer a post-arrival orientation for the exchange students, where they attend language lessons. In your home previous experiences have proven that the sooner you start speaking your own language with your exchange son or daughter, the faster he or she will pick up the language and advance. However, no student is the same so their pace will differ.

How do we handle cultural differences between our family and our exchange son or daughter?

Both your family and your host son or daughter will be fascinated by cultural differences, yet reassured by how much people have in common. Communication is key when trying to address cultural differences on both sides. Please keep in mind that both the exchange student and your family are participating in the exchange program with the best intensions. Please include your contact person for support and assistance. 

Will the exchange student call me mom or dad?

You are completely free to decide how you want to be called by the student. That could be mom or dad or the student could call you by your first name for example. Discuss this together after the student’s arrival.

What kind of support does the host family receive while hosting an exchange student?

Hosting is not always easy. Communication is key to be able to understand each other’s perspectives in different situations and to solve misunderstandings. During the exchange, a contact person will support both the host parent(s) and exchange student. He or she will ensure that both of you have a good experience. During the year several events are organized so you are able to share experiences with other host parents.

Swedish host family with their exchange son

Legal, medical, financial & more

Am I the student’s legal guardian while I am hosting?

No. The exchange student’s natural parents remain legal guardians. The exchange organization through which you host your exchange son or daughter takes legal responsibility during the exchange program.

Will we have a relationship with the exchange student’s natural parents?

Most host families have contact with their exchange son’s or daughter’s natural parents a few times during the exchange duration. It is nice for natural parents to have an idea about your family, since they trust you to care of their child. However, exchange organizations do not encourage very frequent communications between host parents and natural parents, because cultural differences and miscommunication occur quite easily in online communications. If an issue needs to be discussed with your host son’s or daughter’s natural parents, please contact your contact person. He or she will make sure that the exchange organization in the host country (your country) will communicate with the exchange organization in the student’s home country. They will discuss the matter with he student’s natural parents.


The exchange organization through which you are hosting your exchange son or daughter will provide you with his or her medical overview. In this overview existing medical conditions (if any) are mentioned as well as any medicine use. Your exchange son or daughter has a medical insurance either through their natural parents (with global coverage) or through the exchange organization. It is a good idea to discuss with your exchange son or daughter where he or she keeps his or her insurance card, in case you need it one day.

How much does is cost to host and exchange student?

The costs of hosting an exchange student are similar to the costs for a typical teenager for the length of time that you host. Calculate adding a family member for your 3 meals a day, using the shower and electricity in your home. Your exchange son’s or daughter’s natural parents will pay for all travel costs, program fees and health insurance. They also provide the student with a monthly spending allowance used for school expenses, social activities, clothing, sports, local travel and other essentials.

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