Why you Should Consider Hosting an International Student

By Amanda Garner


This year marks our third year as a host family at Harrisburg Academy. We’ve enjoyed being family to Jaime from Madrid, Spain; to Jacobo from Valencia, Spain; and this year, to both Carlos from Cordoba, Spain and Lars from Stuttgart, Germany. You may wonder why we are always wandering around the school with an army of international students, so I want to share our experience in hopes that it might inspire others to the joy of international hosting.

Here are the top 3 reasons we host:

1. CONNECTION. Through hosting, we are more connected as a family, in the community, and in the world. Partly because of language challenge (and partly because every human can work on communication) we are more aware of our need to communicate and we make a point of daily communication rituals that benefit the whole family team. Further, through the kids we’ve hosted, we’ve learned a lot about the upper school, cheered on the soccer team at nearly every game for three years, and chaperoned the upper school canoe trip and ski club annually. In addition, we’ve connected outside our bubble by creating family around the globe. We connect regularly with our former students and their families. This year we even made a special trip to Spain to see our first host student and he will return to spend Christmas with us this year.

2. ADVENTURE. Because we are constantly seeing our world through the lenses of someone who is an “outsider,” we have the pleasure of looking at all experiences from a fresh perspective. We are constantly exploring—and every place we go is new again for our family. We love that this gives a chance to revisit all the incredible nearby destinations like DC, Philly, Pittsburgh, NYC, etc. with a new sense of adventure.

3. UNDERSTANDING . We also value the opportunity the hosting experience gives us to explore other cultures. We get to learn about foods, holidays, traditions, education, politics and other differences that give our family so much insight into the world. Likewise, we get excited to share our unique traditions and outlooks (like a Thanksgiving turkey or our love of the outdoors).

The above reasons are certainly enough reasons to consider hosting, but there are hundreds more (we love having built-in comedians, and raucous family game nights). To close, let us persuade you with this: the most challenging part of hosting has been how much we miss the young people who have become family to us after they return home—but that challenge has been so far surpassed by how much we love our growing family. Our home will always be theirs. As someone once said, “Good friends are hard to find, harder to leave, and impossible to forget.”