Why Host A Student?

Want to do a bit for world peace? Or, just help one child?

Share Your Life—Host an AFS Exchange Student
Each year, AFS exchanges close to 13,000 students, young adults and teachers from around the world who want to experience what it’s like to live and study in another country.
In the U.S. we host more than 2,800 international high school students. The experience of studying abroad in the U.S. is unparalleled.

Why Host an AFS Exchange Participant?
* Enrich your family’s daily life simply by sharing it with a young person from another culture and country
* Introduce a new culture and customs to your children
* See the U.S. and our culture through new eyes
* Develop a lifelong connection with your hosted participant and his or her family
* Help an outstanding young person grow into a more confident and knowledgeable adult
You can have a greater impact on international relations than you ever imagined. Host an AFS high school exchange student and help a young person learn about your America.

Read what the Miss Tennky Area Team AFS Area Chair, Jackie Smiley, had to share about her own family's hosting experiences.....

"Hosting an exchange student makes a difference in the lives of all those involved and it makes the world a little smaller.

For me the interest in hosting exchange students started when I was in high school when I came home with a flyer from my Spanish teacher. We hosted two girls from Argentina, one my Junior year and the other my Senior year. It was an amazing experience and one that I look back on with fond memories. Even years later, now that I am married and have a family of my own, I still thought about those memories and how it changed the way I looked at the world. I still keep in touch with the second student we hosted, and eagerly await the next photos of her children, of whom I think of as my niece and nephew.

I remember that November day, like it was yesterday. A call came from a volunteer wanting to know if we could host a student in need of a new host family. I remember thinking, we just had come off a great experience, and that hosting again may not have the outcome we had experienced before. It was scary, not only because we couldn’t imagine jumping in a few months after all the students had arrived, but mostly because this time the student in need was a girl. Our family, at the time, consisted of my husband and me, one son a senior in high school and the other son in Kindergarten. What do we know about a girl?

I remember making the call to my husband, who was also a bit scared, not only about the student being a girl, but also because she was absolutely gorgeous! We went back and forth with the thought, first thinking we needed to help her if we could, and second thinking what would we do with a girl? We have only raised boys, and simply the thought of it terrified us. We finally decided that her need and our ability to help far outweighed our fear of teenage girls.

When she walked in the door that Sunday evening, little did we know the turn our lives were taking. She was quiet, but polite, and as nice as she was, we could tell she was just as afraid as we were. She had not wanted to leave her first host family, and because of that, we were worried she would not be able to adjust to us or that she would even want to, but boy were we wrong! It didn’t take too long before she found her place in the family; fixing breakfast for our youngest son, looking for advice from our oldest son, and finding a spot on the couch to call her own.

The first thing we noticed, was how quickly she took to our youngest son; holding him in her lap and stroking his hair as we watched movies, and learning to make the “perfect” peanut butter and jelly sandwich for his lunch. The most touching thing she could do, was to console him when he was upset, and how she would let him sleep in her room with her when he was afraid, or just to watch a movie together until he fell asleep. Believe me, there is nothing funnier than having your five year old son talk about sleeping with a teenage girl to complete strangers and watching their reactions! They bonded quickly, and very deeply. It made my heart feel good to see her interact with him, showing someone could love my son the way I do.

As the days and months passed, it was like there was no time before Ruth. She became one of us, and we looked forward to the nightly goodnight hugs and hearing her say, “I love you, Mom and Dad.” It wasn’t until the day she left that we realized her full impact. The gaping hole she left in all of our hearts. Sure, we knew what we were in for, we were opening our home and hearts to a Swedish exchange student for seven and a half months, but in reality, we got a daughter for life. With that, I experienced the greatest feeling of all, to witness my husband as he lit up talking about his daughter, and knowing we all got something special in Ruth.

That hole in our hearts is filled each time we Skype, but with her return for a visit two years after we said our first “see you later” we were once again reminded of how much having her in our lives changed us. We picked up right where we left off, like no time had passed, and bonded with her sister that she brought along with her. To say it was a wonderful visit, is a huge understatement, it was more like the missing piece was finally in place. Although it was much too short, and we would keep them both forever, it did us all good to be back as a family. The tears fell again with their departure, but the love we have for Ruth and Hanna will always remain. We will always have daughters in Sweden, who came for a little while, but stay for a lifetime in our hearts."

Read a Blog Post by three-time AFS Host Mother, Chirs Baxter. They have hosted Giulia from Italy, Simon from France and Sarah from France.

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