The Hosting Experience: From the Perspective of Exchange Students…

by Brandi Lytle
Photo of a packed suitcase on "The Hosting Experience: From the Perspective of Exchange Students" on Not So Mommy..., a childless blog

If you are a regular here at Not So Mommy…, then you know who Bruna is.  I talk about our exchange daughter often and share about our hosting experience, plus our ongoing relationship with her.  Bruna played a HUGE role in my healing, helping me to redefine momhood.  Because of this, I am passionate about sharing information about hosting, believing that it is one way for childless to experience being a parent and grow their family in a beautiful (albeit non-traditional) way.

Last week, I, along with two other host moms, shared our thoughts and advice about the hosting experience.  (You can read that blog post here.)  This week, I’d like to share another perspective—the student perspective about the hosting experience.

So, I reached out to Bruna, as well as some of the kiddos we met during our hosting experience, asking if they’d answer a few questions to be shared in a blog post.  Bruna and two other young ladies agreed!  Here’s their perspective…

The Hosting Experience:  From the Exchange Student’s Perspective…

*Possible Trigger:  Aidi mentions “kiddos,” as her host family included siblings.

*All information shared with permission.  Students are now over 18.

Introducing the Exchange Students…

We met Aidi and Dea while we were hosting Bruna.  The girls became friends, so both Aidi and Dea spent some time at our house.  Plus, all three girls attended The Agency weekly.  We consider Bruna our daughter.  Aidi and Dea are two of our kids (which Dane and I seem to collect!)  Thank goodness for social media, which helps us stay connected even though we are oceans apart!

Why did you want to participate in a foreign exchange program to the US?

Aidi’s Perspective…

Since I was younger, I’ve always wanted to travel somewhere far and stay away from home for a long time.  I wanted to know how I react to changes, see things from another country’s point of view, widen my mind.  And as for the choice of the country, for this kind of experience, I simply didn’t want to go anywhere else but to the US.

Dea’s Perspective…

I always had positive thoughts about the U.S. because this country helped my people in 1999 and we will be forever grateful.  When I started high school I had talked to my parents about the possibility of studying abroad and one day, it became reality.  I really wanted to travel, visit the U.S., and learn from other cultures and through the Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program, I was able to do that.

Bruna’s Perspective…

Going to the US was something I wanted to do ever since I can remember.  I’ve always had so much passion on studying English and I knew one day I’d have to put myself out there to this crazy experience of being a teenager thousands of miles away from home.  I wanted the challenge and I got so much more than that.

Tell us a little about your exchange experience.

Aidi’s Perspective…

It’s normal to have some expectations before a trip, right?  Before coming to the US I had mine, but my exchange experience was even better than I expected.  I was just happy with my amazing host family, my school, my friends and everything else.  I missed my family and my friends in Italy of course, but I already knew that was the “price” to pay.

Dea’s Perspective…

I was hosted in Greenville SC by a Mainer family, which was a pretty unique experience.  I learned so much about myself and others.  I had so many new experiences like learning how to play the guitar, doing aerial yoga, and being part of an outdoor youth group!  My exchange experience would have not been this amazing without the people that surrounded me during that time.  The host family, friends, teachers, and many other strangers that became acquaintances, they all contributed to an unforgettable year!

Bruna’s Perspective…

It was incredibly not so hard to adapt.  I had a great host family, I made some nice friends at school right on the first weeks and overall, I had a blast during those whole six months.

My routine was filled, but I enjoyed it being that way!  My classes at Greenville High were mostly fun and not that hard to follow, and what helped a lot was having such good, caring teachers.  At home, me and my host family would always have fun evenings watching TV shows, movies and having our meals together.  Thanks to them, I got to see so much of America.  They took me on many trips and truly cared about teaching me all about where we were and showing me the coolest things in every city.

It was the most intense semester I’ve ever had in my life so far and I did miss Brazil a lot while I was there, but it was so worth it.  I could still remember my way to my locker at school and name my favorite dishes at my favorite restaurants, and that shows how this whole exchange program marked my life forever!

Tell us a little about your exchange family.

Aidi’s Perspective…

It might be strange to think about having two different families, but my host family showed me it’s possible.  They’ve been able to make me feel at home since the moment I stepped into the airport and saw them waiting for me.  I felt like I already knew them.  When I look back and think about my year in the US, I know that it wouldn’t have been the same thing without them, without the kiddos that played with me every day and loved me like a sister, and without the parents that treated and spoiled me like a daughter.  I look at pictures and think about how I felt.  I didn’t even think about the fact that after my year was over, I would have had to leave.  I just felt good and happy for being there, with them.

Dea’s Perspective…

I’m sure that a lot of exchange students would say the same but my host family was THE BEST.  I lived with a host father and a host mother, and they had two boys who didn’t live with them.  We were not a typical family.  My host dad was raised Catholic, my host mom was raised Jewish, and I was raised as a non-practicing Muslim.  We were a mix of very loud to very quiet individuals.  Strangely, we were great together.  We would always find things to do together and they have supported me since day one.  I am still really close to my host parents.  I’ve visited them many times since and even lived with them again after a few years!  They truly are my family.

Bruna’s Perspective…

My host family was the best part of the program.  As soon as I met them, I knew that they were such good people and we got along so well!  We figured out we had similar interests, especially on cultural stuff, so we’d always visit museums, go to expositions and discuss about all that.  As the days went by, our bonds started to become so deep that we felt how real of a family we had become.  We didn’t have the obligation to start loving each other that much, but we did, and today we’re still connected, we keep visiting and we all know that everything that happened was a great gift in our lives.  Like it had to be like this!

Are you glad you took part in an exchange program?

Aidi’s Perspective…

If I could, I would go back in time and re-live the whole thing.  That exchange year is something I will never regret nor forget.  It’s the kind of experience that’ll shape you.

Dea’s Perspective…

I am really glad to have been an exchange student and would do it all over again.  While I understand that some people might have bad experiences, I think that if you really try there are ways to make your exchange experience amazing.  There were many times when I was sad and things didn’t seem right but I was determined to not let those things bring me down.  I grew so much as a person during that year.

Bruna’s Perspective…

Yes, I am so glad I actually got to do this because I feel like it’s changed my life and who I am completely.  Besides the big family I got, the places I’ve seen and the moments I’ve lived, I grew up to a much more self-conscious, respectful, curious and grateful woman.  Everything I’ve been through these crazy six months reflect on the persona I am today, and I couldn’t be happier of living all of this.

Why is it important for people to open their homes to foreign exchange students and participate in the hosting experience?

Aidi’s Perspective…

Who knows me knows that I just love the US, and I love Americans even more.  You guys are great people, and in this case you prove it opening your homes to students you don’t know.  And with your kindness you make those students feel at home, even if they’re far away from their family and from everything that is known to them.  A host family is the key to the exchange program.

Dea’s Perspective…

There are many reasons why people should open their homes to exchange students and I could spend hours listing them all.  However, there are some that I think are worth mentioning.

First of all, an exchange student is a friend for life.  It’s been five years since I lived in Greenville SC and I still keep in touch with my host family; my host mom visited Kosovo, my host parents were invited to my sister’s wedding and now, I am going to my host brother’s wedding!

Having an exchange student in your home means learning a new thing every day and teaching them a new thing each time.  It means sharing your culture, tradition, language ,and values, but also being open minded to the differences and appreciating the similarities.  If you want your life to change and if you want to change someone else’s life, host an exchange student and you won’t be disappointed!

Bruna’s Perspective…

Because it’s awesome to be part of someone’s realizations.  Also, when you have a foreign inside your house, you start to think about your habits and daily little traditions that take place on your home.  Besides, it’s a two-way street kind of relation.  Exchange students will bring a lot of their own cultures and points of view.  At the end, everyone wins with this experience!

My Thoughts…

Though I know these young women quite well, I was still amazed by their responses.  The insight, maturity, emotion…  It’s just incredible!

Bruna and Aidi were concerned about possible spelling and/or grammar mistakes, asking me to correct any that I found.  But I didn’t change what they wrote.  Their English is impeccable, which has been a common trait among all the foreign exchange kiddos I have met.

School will be starting in the United States in approximately 5 – 7 weeks.  So, fabulous ones, now is the perfect time to seriously consider hosting a foreign exchange student.

Want more information about the hosting experience?

  • Check out all my Host Mom blog posts here
  • Watch my 46-minute webinar about our hosting experience here
  • For links to websites with more information about hosting, click here
  • If you have any questions about hosting a student, please feel free to contact me.

*Not So Mommy…™ does not endorse any particular exchange/host programs nor have I been paid to link them on my site. Please, do your own research, ask questions, check references, etc. in order to choose the program that will best fit your needs. 

Fabulous one, I truly hope you’ll consider hosting a foreign exchange student.  As I said at the beginning of this blog, I believe it is a beautiful way to experience the everyday moments of being a parent…

If anything I wrote resonates with you, please tell us about it in the comments!

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Jolea November 30, 2023 - 11:49 am

I just sent our exchange student back home last month and I stumbled upon this blog as i ready my son to make the journey to Italy next year as an exchange student! It is so good to hear how these young women have stayed in contact with their host families. Our host student became another son to me and I miss him terribly. We have communicated twice a week since he left and I hope we are able to maintain our close mother-son bond. I loved being the constant in his new home and could see that he would look to me for the security he needed. As a high schooler I, too, was hosted by a family in Australia and am so sad that social media was not around to help us stay in contact. Just wanted to reach out and let you know how wonderful it was to hear the impact their experience had on them.

Brandi Lytle November 30, 2023 - 4:48 pm

Thank you for reading and commenting! Hosting is such an enriching experience. I’m glad you are staying in touch with your exchange son 🙂

Mali July 19, 2019 - 2:38 am

As you may know, I was an exchange student. What I would have liked to know was how Bruna found it going into a family without other children/students. That’s what has kept me from hosting here – I have no contact with a school, and none of my friends have children the right age. (And when they were, the time wasn’t right for me to do it.) Which means that I’m not very accustomed to being around teenagers/young adults (all my nieces and nephews live a long way away). And I would fear they’d be lonely or feel too isolated. If we’d had kids, I would have hosted without hesitation.

Brandi Lytle July 19, 2019 - 11:59 am

Mali, I will ask Bruna how she felt about being assigned a family with no children. Dea was also in a family with no kids in the home, though her host parents had grown children. So, I will try to get her perspective, as well.

Though I was a teacher at the time we hosted Bruna, we did not have any friends with teenagers in South Carolina. The wonderful thing was that other hosting families became our community while Bruna was here. And one couple in particular has become lifelong friends to us!

I truly understand your hesitation, however, and think it is wonderful that you want to make sure the student has a wonderful experience. I’ll do a bit more research, asking the girls’ opinions and get back with you…


Dea Saraqini July 19, 2019 - 12:28 pm

Hello Mali,

While I lived in a family with no teenagers, they had also JUST moved to South Carolina (from Maine) so we they didn’t just not know any young adults, they didn’t know ANYBODY. The good thing about that is that my host mother and I would always go to places together and meet new people together. We went to different events, volunteering, festivals, and even a cooking class where we met Brandi!
I also tried to make an effort to meet other teenagers at school which would have been easier if I had a host sibling to help me out. However, it was not impossible! My host mother would drive me to my friends’ houses or any meeting place. By the second semester I wasn’t even taking the bus regularly anymore because one of my friend’s would drive me to school.
I totally understand how it can be much harder for some people to get to know others all on their own, but I think that as a host mother you can still help especially in the beginning. You can go with your exchange student to register for classes and you might meet another family there, or go on walks around the neighborhood and find out who else has teenagers. Anything is possible 🙂

Brandi Lytle July 22, 2019 - 12:25 pm

Thank you for giving your perspective, Dea! You are such an amazing young woman! 🙂

Sherry July 15, 2019 - 3:09 pm

I feel so very fortunate and blessed to call Bruna my granddaughter. Reading all the perspectives and thoughts was so eye-opening. I wonder if I would have had the courage to do even a fraction of what these girls did. Love the blog!

Brandi Lytle July 16, 2019 - 10:15 am

They are all very brave young women! I’m quite certain I did not have the courage to leave home during high school to study in a foreign country. Their willingness to try new things continues to amaze and inspire me…


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