What is a host family?

Before you leave home as an exchange student you may already have been in contact with your assigned host-family. Even if you have not, the exchange organization is supposed to have forwarded details on where the family lives, how many family members there are, their ages, contact information and host parent occupations. Included with that information are probably pictures of the family and their home. I do not know if all exchange organizations follow this guideline.

You might be told that you are going to a temporary family (see below). Other times the exchange student is that a representative will function as host family until a permanent family is found (see below).

Opprinnelse ukjent
Source unknown

 

What is a host family?

A host family is a family that has promised to allow you to live with them for the duration of your exchange student stay. There isn’t really a template for what a host family should look like:

  • Mom, dad (with or without children)
  • Mom (with or without children)
  • Dad (with or without children)
  • Dad, dad (with or without children)
  • Mom, mom (with or without children)
  • Old, youngish, young

The host-parents should be at least 25 years old. Any younger than that and they might well end up being friend and not boundary maker. I do not think there is an upper age limit. However:

  • The host family should be without mental or physical issues that would keep them from being able to fulfill their role as care-taker.
  • The host family should be in a financial situation that enables them to take in another family member.
  • The host family should be able to accept that the exchange student might have different theological, political and cultural views than themselves (goes both ways).

Temporary host family

A temporary host family is one that is supposed to last very few weeks until the exchange organization has found a permanent host family. If the exchange student is lucky, the temporary family willingly becomes a permanent host family (24%). But in most cases this is not so. If a temporary host family is pressured into becoming a permanent one, it is fairly easy to see how problems might arise. (USIA study)

Finding a host family that is willing to take a student in for ten months is not a simple task. Rotary has solved this by having the exchange student stay with several host families (approx. 3).

Representative as host family

At times the only option available to a new exchange student is being placed with their representative until a family is found. Sometimes the representative becomes the permanent host family. (CSFES finds this highly questionable) Some exchange organizations will then assign you a separate representative to avoid conflict of interest. Sadly, in the case of conflict the host country organization will usually side with the representative.

Host family as guardian

Your host family is your guardian. They are supposed to keep you safe during your stay, make sure you do your homework, give you chores (just like the other family member), feed you, give you boundaries and make you part of their family unit.

Does the host family get paid?

Sometimes yes. Sometimes no.

Some exchange organizations are volunteer based organizations. In such firms the host family does not get paid no matter where you live. Other exchange organizations pay or do not pay their host family depending on what type of exchange program you choose.

Different countries have different rules. In the US there are both variations based on the type of visa the exchange student has (J-1 vs F-1). In Norway there isn’t a regulation about this, but many of the exchange organizations do not pay their host families.

Host family requirements

Most (probably all) exchange organizations have a set of rules they are supposed to follow regarding how they pick who gets to be a host family. The requirements I have seen with the firms whose brochures I have looked at state that they have a background check of the host family. These include:

  • References from extended family.
  • References from acquaintances.
  • Home visitations.
  • Candidate interview.
  • Financial status check.
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3 tanker på “What is a host family?”

  1. Hei. Jeg er på utveksling i USA akkurat nå. Jeg fant i morges ut at farfaren min døde brått. Det er veldig vanskelig, og kom som et stort sjokk.. Er det mulighet for å få dra hjem i begravelse? Jeg har lyst til å komme tilbake igjen liksom, men jeg trenger å ta farvel sammen med familien min..

    1. Uff da. Så trist for deg og dine.

      Ta kontakt med representantene dine i Norge og i USA. Si selvfølgelig fra til vertsforeldrene dine (regner med at de allerede vet). Forklar situasjonen for dem. Send helst en email til dem. Det kan være lettere for deg å forklare situasjonen på den måten. Du må «søke» om lov og det skal holde med en mail.

      Jeg har sett at flere utvekslingselever får reise hjem for sånne triste hendelser.

      Lykke til og masse gode tanker.

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