Thousands of people each year participate in cultural exchanges and time and time again, it is the experience they have sharing with a host family that highlights the exchange. What is often overlooked though is how the host family is affected. Having the opportunity to share your culture and learn from the
exchange student’s culture provides an intimate exchange opportunity and brings both cultures together. No longer will the media dictate your perceptions about a country or culture, you will have your own firsthand insight. Likewise, your exchange student will gain valuable cultural insight which will shape their new perspectives of the host country.
There are many benefits to hosting, including:
- Giving your family the chance to experience another person’s culture and customs.
- Real, genuine cultural insights that can’t be read in a book, or seen on TV.
- Enriching and enlarging your community.
- Building lasting relationships and make friends for life.
- The opportunity to visit exchange student in their country.
Host families are asked to provide a room, meals, and local transportation as needed for short term cultural exchange trips (2-3 weeks) which occur in Jan./Feb. and in July. Students are between the ages of 13 and 18 for high school exchanges and 18 and up for university and adult exchanges.
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When are the dates of the exchange?
The exchanges typically happen the last two weeks in January and during the month of July. Exchanges are typically two weeks long and are comprised of groups of 10-20 exchange students, plus teacher-chaperones, and a trip leader.
Who are the exchange students and just exactly where are they from?
The students are high school and university aged and the majority come from the San Ramon area of Costa Rica, and surrounding areas of the Alajuela province. Costa Rica, a small Central American country, is located to the north of Panama and to the south of Nicaragua. San Ramon is a small town located about an hour from the capital city San José and is primarily an agricultural town. Coffee, sugar cane, ornamental plants and corn are some of the main products along with an assortment of fruits and vegetable complemented with dairy and beef cattle farms. Most students live in town and have small families with only a few siblings, which is a sharp drop from the previous generation’s families which were much larger on average.
Costa Rica, known for its natural beauty, abolished its military in the 1950s and invested in education. As a result of this students enjoy a lot of the same amenities as North American countries. Their water is drinkable and electricity is everywhere. The internet, cell phones, and even 3/4g networks are prominent throughout the country. With all this access to technology be prepared for a lot of questions about clarifying things they’ve seen on TV or the internet.
What are my responsibilities as a host parent?
As a host parent your responsibilities include caring for the exchange students like they were your own for the exchange period. This means providing them a bedroom, meals, and local transportation as needed for activities. Costa Rican parents, like any parents, are most concerned about the safety of their children while on exchange. They expect that they will be able to communicate with their child daily and will have the means via internet or telephone.
As a host parent you are invited to join your student on any of the scheduled itinerary activities and are the guests of honor at the welcome event and going away potluck.
What can I do with my students on the weekends?
This is a very crucial part of the exchange experience where the students will be away from the group and have unstructured time with their families. Most families take this time to show students their hobbies, visit other family members, and/or go to local events.
Families are not expected to embark on extravagant excursions and the exchange students are not expecting anything out of the ordinary either. Culture activities and language practice opportunities are what most interest the students. A simple visit to a relative or family member that you don’t normally get to see would be a very interesting weekend activity for the exchange student.
What do I have to pay for my student?
Aside from indirect costs of food, lodging and transportation the host parents do not have to pay for anything. All itinerary activities are covered in the student’s program fee and the students will have spending money to do activities with their host family.
What happens if my student gets sick/injured?
All students have travel medical insurance should they get injured or sick. The group will be supervised by teachers from their home school and the trip leader, who will be on call for any such cases when medical treatment is necessary.
I don’t speak any Spanish, can I still host?
Of course you can! Actually the less Spanish you speak the better as it will force the students to use their English, which is one of their primary objectives. Should you ever feel like you can’t communicate something important to your students you can always contact the trip leader or the teachers.
I don’t have any high school aged children / I have no children or young children / I’m old, can I still host?
Of course you can! Not all families are the same and provided you can give a great exchange experience for the students it doesn’t matter what kind of family you have. Students are aware that family types will vary and are looking forward to immersing themselves into all different types of families.
I want to host!
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