How to make a foreign student feel welcome in your home

A student exchange program is a program in which students from a school or university study abroad. Often, students live with a host family abroad.

You are a member of a host family and the student will soon be there. You wonder how it will be. Here are our tips to welcome him or her.

There are students you get along with immediately. And there are others with whom it is more difficult to get along well.

But in the end, most of the time, things go well. However, you have to respect a few simple principles.

In the rest of the article, we assume that you are going to host a girl.

Have her participate in your activities

To make her feel at home, you really need to take care of her, even if she does not completely match the idea that you had originally.

Have her participate as much as possible in what you do:
- Are you about to go out? Invite her to join you even if it is only to buy some bread!
- Are you listening to music ? Invite her to join you.

If you are invited to a party during her stay, do not leave her behind. Introduce her to your friends.

Make sure that she understands what you are saying!

Does she not ask any questions or show interest in anything? Do not assume that she is totally indifferent to what is going on around her. If she seems withdrawn, it may just be that she does not understand your language well!
Talk to her slowly. During a group conversation, take the time to translate what is being said.
Remember that she is there to learn your language and that it is not easy to be in a foreign country, in a family that you don't know, with different habits.
Do everything you can to put her at ease.

Consider her wishes

Ask her about her tastes, especially food.
If you find that she eats very little, try to find the reason. Maybe she doesn't like what you offer her but doesn't dare tell you.

We cannot imagine the number of food-related problems she might have. It's best to ask her at the beginning of her stay what she likes and doesn't like to eat. The idea is to avoid a bad experience because of the lack of breakfast cereals! Food is an integral part of the culture. It is important to help her discover your local specialties.

Have moments of relaxation with her

Ask her if there are particular things she wants to do. For example, she might want to visit museums or exhibitions. Find out what she likes. There's no need to suggest that she go out every night or accompany you to your dance training if that's not really her thing!

Make her feel at home

Remember to offer her a chance to communicate with her family, especially if it's a long stay. Put a computer at her disposal and, if possible, give her a room for herself, for example yours.
It is important that the young person have a space of her own, where she can be by herself.

What if it goes wrong?

If, despite all your efforts, she still does not feel at home, ask her about what is wrong. You can also contact her parents, but make sure they don't worry.
Sometimes the cultural gap with the host family is so wide the foreign student cannot adapt.
However, this is quite rare. Exchange program organizers try to choose families with profiles that match the students.
The host family will have to answer many questions before being able to participate in the program, especially if it is long-term.
If the student behaves badly, does not respect household rules, or does not obey the parents, report it immediately to the exchange organizers, or even to the student's parents. There is no reason to accept everything.

Again, fortunately, those cases are extremely rare.

In the end, hosting a young foreigner is a very rewarding experience ... and may open the door to a future pleasant stay abroad for you!

How to participate in an exchange

If you are a student yourself, you can participate in an exchange if a teacher, most often a language teacher, organizes the exchange.

You can also organize your own exchange.

Many specialized organizations can take care of this for you.
Do a Google search to find public or private organizations near you.
If you want to organize the exchange yourself, here are some websites you can use:
- Find a person on You can select a member based on gender, age, location, or the languages he speaks.
- The Rotary Club also organizes exchanges.

How about you? Do you have experience hosting foreign students? Did you encounter difficulties?

Please share your experience by leaving a comment below.

This article may also interest you: You will host an au pair at home. How to make her feel welcome

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jessica3 profile picture jessica3July 2023
Prepare the room where the student will stay, ensuring it is clean, comfortable, and equipped with essential amenities like a bed, desk, and storage space. Consider adding some personal touches like fresh bedding, a small welcome note, or a guidebook to your area.