Reap the rewards of hosting a year-long student

Be a host family for an international student for the school year and take advantage of the learning experience for both the host families and the students.

June 28, 2012 - Author: Renée Applegate, Michigan State University Extension

Michigan 4-H International Exchange programs  acknowledge hosting as an educational opportunity not only for the student experiencing a new culture but also for the host family and host siblings. The program focuses on life skill development including problem solving, self-confidence building, flexibility in new situations, communication, responsibility, respect, understanding and tolerating others, decision making and adjusting to others’ needs.  Hosting a youth gives the entire family the opportunity to build on their life skills.

Once the host family has dealt with the initial introduction of the youth to the family, school and community, they then have to make some adjustments themselves as school starts.  They have to adjust to one more individual’s needs as they make plans for the family.  They may have one more high school student to fit into the family sports schedule, homework time, family chores and family social calendar events and activities.

Host families talk about the changes that happen to them as a family.  As they plan out their everyday routine, they start to question how they spend their time. With a new person in the family, they question the TV programs they watch, how much time a week they eat as a family or how are they take part in community activities.  Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter are examples of times that host families start paying attention to their own culture and many families make a special effort during these times to show their student how their own cultural traditions have developed.

As host families process their experience, after the tearful good-byes and getting used to a home that’s quieter and less cheerful, they see that their lives have become richer and deeper.  They have gained an understanding of people who are different in culture, language, thoughts, values and beliefs, and yet have found common ground and a way to communicate.  They have grown their family not only by the one individual they hosted, but they’ve seasoned their world view of all peoples of the world.

For more information on Michigan 4-H International Exchange programs, visit the Michigan 4-H website.

Tags: 4-h, family, global & cultural education, life skills, msu extension

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