It’s a bad idea to host international exchange students. It’s not fun at all. There are MANY reasons why you shouldn’t even consider it.
#5. You’ll Have to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone
Seriously, who wants to have a stranger from across the world in your house? What if they’re weird? What if they think that YOU are weird? Will you be able to understand them? You know that they “speak English” – but they do have funny accents – you know, different than our funny Southern accent.
They eat weird things too – are you going to have to try new foods? And what if they don’t like BBQ? – as if that is even possible! And there is also the ultimate risk – the possibility that they turn into ‘traitors’ – I mean, what if they get here and decide to cheer for Auburn instead of Alabama at our fall football worship services/games, because they like the jersey colors better? They think soccer is called football, for goodness sake!
Can you just imagine the embarrassment? Could your family survive these challenges?
#4. Curious Locals Will Ask Questions
People are going to ask the exchange student questions like:
- “Did you just say that you are from, ‘Georgia the Country’?” (Thinks this kid is tricking them, and does Google search to read up on the Republic of Georgia.)
- “Do you have cars in your country, or do you ride camels/elephants to school?”
- “Why did you learn three different languages?”
- “Do you think that I would like your country?”
- “Can you teach me how to dance like that?”
So much interest – so many questions!! You will learn a lot just by being around them – passive learning about geography and other people. And the Student Ambassadors also give cultural presentations to classmates as part of their exchange.
Why? What if our kids even want to learn MORE? OMG!
#3. You Will Look At Your City with Fresh Eyes
It’s going to be like you are on a staycation for 10 months. You’re going to want to take the occasional weekend to show them the beautiful natural wonders and resources that we have here – visit the shopping mall, go to a festival – blah blah blah. YUCK.
The fall leaf color change is a pretty spectacular event to a kid who has only seen tropical plants and palm trees – those kids are easily entertained! A hike through forests or foothills is amazing to a child from a desert region. You drive by those big rockets every day, but you are going to want to visit the Space Center, again. The kid is going to think that Alabama really is beautiful, and they are going to sing that annoying song – you know the one that I’m talking about – ‘Sweet Home Alabama’. Has everyone in the WORLD heard that song?
#2. You Might Inadvertently Change The World
Who wants that responsibility? These Student Ambassadors are here to learn about community service and volunteerism. They are asking our children and their classmates if they want to help. (Seriously? It’s everything I can do to get mine to take out the recycling bin, but now they want to do community service?)
Our children may get more involved in helping other people – they are going to start seeing the people of the world around them differently.
Volunteerism spreads like a head cold! You are going to have to drive them to community service events sometimes. You are going to see the kids around them infected/inspired to get involved, then they remember how good it feels to give, and the cycle just continues!
#1. Spread Peace and Love
Even more contagious than volunteerism! You grow to like the kid and consider them family, and they you. They make friends here. Everybody learns about each other and realizes that we are much more alike than we are different.
The kid goes back to their country and talks about what they did here, and the kindnesses shown to them by total strangers – The Americans. Knowledge is a powerful peacemaker. Our kids have a great time learning and growing to love this person – we all tell stories of hilarious misadventures caused by differences in languages and customs, and we tell of our “children” across the world and how much we love and miss them, but still keep in touch.
And the love just continues to grow as generations of families here and afar hear the stories and experience the change. Kids grow and become adults who give more consideration to how things affect other people. The epidemic of love and peace continues – stronger than anything else there is.
Don’t Even Think About Signing Up
If none of these reasons scare you, the Student Ambassador program is currently placing students with volunteer host families and Alabama schools for next year. The students come with an allowance for their personal items, health insurance, and their school fees are paid.
There is no ‘ideal’ host family – they come in all kinds; traditional, and non-traditional, younger and older, and even single retirees make great host parents – enjoying having an interesting companion to share their America with!
There are very limited slots available in our schools for these students, so it is important to secure their placement as soon as possible. The current students in the program have had a great year in Huntsville and Madison schools! For more information on the programs and the students, you can call 205-542-6165 or email UNAbhamal@gmail.com for referral to a hosting program that interests you!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rebecca Kinney is an international community coordinator who works with high school exchange students – student ambassadors from other countries who come to the U.S. on scholarships from the U.S. State Department Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) and Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) programs. She is also the president a United Nations Association chapter here, and mentors both exchange students and American students in community service and leadership programs. There are also opportunities for our U.S. students to go on exchange to other countries.
As a hyper-local website focused on all aspects of parenting in and around Huntsville, AL, and the Tennessee Valley, Rocket City Mom occasionally asks local parents to submit their stories for publication. This is part of our continual effort to represent varied viewpoints and experiences on our site. However, these articles should not be seen as necessarily expressing the views of Rocket City Mom Media Group, LLC.