Since I have been an exchange student I have always asked myself, how does the whole thing work? How do they find host families? How does the Local Coordinator (LC) know that I want to be an exchange student? What is the reasoning for families to take on that big of a burden? In the following article, I am trying to give you a little bit of insight into how exchange programs work.
Like I have written in my previous article the company that you choose in your country does not necessarily mean that this company does all the work in the destination country. They work with big partners (e.g. CIEE) who have been organized in the country you want to be an exchange student for many years.
The decision has been made! You signed the contract to be a future exchange student.
Future exchange students decide with their families they want to go abroad with company A. Therefore they conclude a contract with company A where you and your family agree to the amount of money you/your family have/has to pay, the requested area you want to be placed at (optional), the country you want to get to, the extras you negotiated, etc. I will go more into detail about that topic in the future.
Filling the forms with life.
Once you or your parents have signed the contract you have to fill out a lot (and I mean a lot) of paper or online forms. That information will help LC’s to find the right family for you. Filling out all those checklists and forms can take a while.
Tip: You might want to let someone read over the text you have written. Someone who speaks and writes english texts on a regular basis. I asked my english teacher to do that for me. This ensures that the text you have written is readable for an english speaking person. Remember they usually only speak english or the national language of the country you want to be an exchange student at.
This is the first part of becoming an exchange student, but there are a lot more steps to take before you are heading to your country of choice.
Let’s discuss the questions I asked at the beginning of this article.
How does the Local Coordinator (LC) know that I want to be an exchange student?
Once you have filled out all the forms your information will end up in a big database of the partner company. You might have noticed that the company providing all the online forms is not company A you/your family have/has signed a contract with. Company A sourced the collecting process and all the necessary on-site tasks out to the partner company. They are the ones who are in charge of finding you a family and therefore need all the information from you to find the perfect match. Once you are in that database 100 if not 1000 LC’s can access this database.
How do they find host families?
As shown in the image above, LC’s build their local community network over the years they have worked as LC’s. Over time they know how and where to asked families to become host families. They are known for working with exchange students in their area. If a family is looking to become a host family they contact the LC, they asked friends to give a recommendation. For example, the LC could go to a church, talk about the exchange program, and promote him- or herself as the contact person for exchange programs to find potential host families in their area.
What is the reasoning for families to take on that big of a burden?
I think that differs from host family to host family. Some host families do it as a community service. A few host families think with caring for an extra child they get some kind of prestige and respect from other families. Some host families might do it for the connection to a different country. If a host family does not have kids they might do it to have a child in the house. Some host families do it because they want to learn about a new culture. What I want to say with those assumptions, it depends on the family. Every family is different and so are their hopes on what they want to archive with you staying there. Keep in mind they don’t get paid to be part of this exciting journey of being a host family.
Note: This is my personal oppinion on why families accept an exchange student into their home.
I hope this gives you insight into how exchange programs work that I promised at the beginning of this article.