What is a welcome family?

A welcome family provides a home and a warm welcome for a student for a few weeks to a couple of months. During this time, AFS-USA works to identify a permanent home for the student in the same community. By becoming a welcome family, you’ll be the first family an exchange student meets when they arrive in the U.S. and be able to experience many “firsts” with the student.

Exchange student and their welcome family at the Columbus Airport holding welcome signs

What’s it like to host an exchange student?

Host family and exchange student holding a flag that is a combination of the Swiss and US flags

Hosting an exchange student can be the experience of a lifetime! Through hosting, you’ll increase cross-cultural understanding and awareness in your home, school, and community.

There are great benefits to welcoming an international visitor, no matter who you are. For example, families with young children may discover that an exchange student can be a role model and inspire curiosity about the world. “Empty-nester” households may find great joy in adding another member of the family and learning about a new culture.

Can I be a short-term family and still get the benefits of hosting?

Yes! Even a short experience can impact your view of the world. In just a few weeks, you and your exchange student can make a memorable connection and share cultures.

The flexibility of being able to host for a short time can mean the difference between having to pass on the experience and opening your home to the world. Plus, families who wish to extend the length of hosting after the initial “welcome” period may be able to do so.

Will the student and my family get along, knowing it’s only temporary?

Exchange students are generally thrilled to begin their exchange year in the U.S. They understand the impact welcome families have by helping them to arrive on time and get acclimated to American life.

What kind of impact do welcome families make?

By becoming a welcome family for an international high schooler, you’re helping to make a young person’s study abroad dream a reality. Here’s what a few AFS students have to say about the life-long impact of their welcome parents.

Kiran from Pakistan wrote this heart-warming letter to her “welcome” host mom Linda on Mother’s Day:

“Happy Mother’s Day mom. I [want to] let you know how blessed and lucky I feel to have found a mom like you. You stayed by my side and looked after me through thick and thin. You are someone who never gave up on me no matter how hard situations got. I feel lucky to be blessed with three moms at a time who made a foreign country feel like home. There is no way I could have asked for a better friend and mom. I love you and thank you so much for giving me your love and support.”

Lukas from Germany was also eager to express his gratitude to Bernice and Ron, the first host parents he met in the U.S.:

If you’d like to learn more about the students who will be coming to your area this fall, please visit afsusa.org/host (each AFS student has a short bio so you can learn more about their interests and personality, to see if you’ve found a match for your family)!