Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Hosting an Exchange Student

Three years ago we hosted an exchange student from Paris.  She was a lovely 14 year old girl who bravely traveled with her English-language class of about 15 other teenagers to the U.S.  I really admired her courage and sense of adventure, to leave her home and stay with a family she had never met, in a foreign country.  The exchange was arranged by Compass USA, an organization that offers homestays, educational programs, and tours to provide students from around the world the opportunity to live the "American experience."

Spending time with our exchange student from France.

Housing an exchange student exposes your family to new knowledge, new customs, and new friends.  Living together, even for a short while, can help us understand our differences and encourage intercultural awareness.

Compass USA arranges 1 to 6 week homestays, so if you're on the fence about hosting and just want to briefly try it out, they're the perfect group to contact.  You will be able to prescreen the students and choose one whose interests and age match your family's.  What I especially liked about our experience was that the student group's daily activities were pre-organized and I only had to provide transportation to and from the meeting place on weekdays.  On the weekends we were asked to incorporate her into our ordinary plans, so she could get a "slice of life."

My son and daughter truly enjoyed the two weeks we spent with our French exchange student.  They liked the company, the "sisterhood," and helping her learn our culture and language.  We baked chocolate chip cookies, went to the beach, and watched movies at night.  Although we have no regrets about taking her in, we had hopes we would gain a lifetime connection to Paris (and perhaps an invitation to visit!) but her communication with us eventually dwindled and then stopped altogether.  Not everything always goes as expected, and that's okay.  I imagine she's a busy, happy teenager running around Paris!  Lucky girl.


  1. I like the fact that it was only for a short period of time. I'm one of those people on the fence so the Compass USA arrangement sounds perfect.

  2. I've always wanted to do this, but I'm afraid that our location wouldn't be on the hit parade for visiting students...


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