As a host family you will be asked to accept the foreign student as a member of your family, and provide a loving home for the duration of his/her stay in this country. Some of them will be here for a whole school year, some only for 5 months. You should think of your student as your son or daughter, not as a guest. This generosity, however, does not extend to money matters. While it is the responsibility of the host parents to provide room and board, the students are expected to pay for all other expenses out of their monthly allowance provided by their natural parents. REFLECTIONS INTERNATIONAL students are covered by health and accident insurance, any additional medical costs will be paid by the students or their natural parents. Foreign exchange student programs are very much encouraged by the U.S. government, and the IRS permits you to deduct $50.00 as a charitable contribution for each month a student lives in your home.
The first step is to fill out the Host Parent Application form and the Host Parent Agreement form and send it back to us. In addition we need two letters of reference. Once we receive your letters of reference, we will schedule a personal interview with you in your home at a time that is convenient. This allows us to get acquainted, and it also gives you the opportunity to ask any questions you might have.
Once you have been accepted, we will make every effort to find a student that is a perfect match for your family. We recommend you start corresponding as soon as you receive your new son's or daughter's address. You may want to send photographs of your family, your home, the school, whatever you think might be helpful in getting acquainted.
Our experience as a host family: Hello I would like to tell you a story about me and my husband Jim. When Jim retired in 2001, we moved from Southeast Wisconsin to Southwest Wisconsin. During those 13 years we have been approached several times to host a foreign exchange student. I have had past experience with other family members hosting a student so I was very willing to open my home. Jim wasn’t so eager. There were some questions and doubts. “What in the heck are we going to do with a 16 year old living in our home?” “Weren’t we too old?” “Hasn’t it been too long since we raised children of our own?” He was sitting on that proverbial fence.
That was until last year when we had the opportunity to meet a wonderful young lady from Germany who was staying with a family from our church. Needless to say she broke through Jim’s barrier and he was open to give it a try. We asked our friend for the contact information for Reflections International. All it took from us was a simple email to start the procedure. After reading the profiles we told Hartmut we wanted to host a girl. We were pretty excited and a little scared. We would be responsible for someone else’s child, someone else’s daughter. She will be our “child”, our “daughter”. How do we tell our children? Will she be happy here and not too homesick?
So we could get to know each other better and to include her in the preparations for her stay with us we emailed and Skyped during the 1-1/2 months before “our German daughter” was to arrive. At one time we showed her the house and her bedroom. We talked about some of the activities she may be interested in while here in America. We told her about our county fair that is held in September and she could enter items for competition. She submitted entries that she brought with her from Germany. Her drawing won 1st Place and Best of Exhibit in the category. We were so excited for her. She has also been able to participate in a lot of high school activities. This was something she wanted to try since she didn’t participate in any extracurricular activities at her school in her hometown. She is a member of the high school band and is currently on spring break in Florida at Disney World. What a great opportunity for her since this high school band trip only happens every 3 years. Regrettably, March is almost over. The time is going too fast. We have so much yet to do. We have so much more of Wisconsin and America to show our German daughter - family vacation, Door County, bike ride on the Elroy-Sparta Trail, fishing trip on the Mississippi River. So much to do yet…..we wish she could stay longer but we know that is not possible. She said she will be back. Yes! Bring your family and we can show them (y)our beautiful Wisconsin!
This is our first time hosting. Being an American host family has been very rewarding for us. Our experience in one word, BLESSED. People would ask us why we would do this. If you had the chance to grant a young person the opportunity to see what life in America is like, wouldn’t you want to do it too? We are in awe of these young people. To leave your family at 16 years old and live with complete strangers for 10 months in a foreign land takes a lot of guts and trust. I guess it can be turned around onto the host family too. To open your home to a complete stranger-teenager from another country you would ask yourself, “What are we getting ourselves into”? There are some similarities in the life of a teenager in the 2 countries, but there is also the reward of giving them an “only in America” experience. All our worries were for nothing. We are learning something new every day. Not only something about our “daughter”, but we are also learning something about ourselves. She will be our German daughter forever and we will always be her American mom and dad. Our door will always be open. We look forward to our next daughter or son and welcome the opportunity to revisit the ones that will have moved onto the next chapter of their life. This could be the greatest time of your life! It’s up to you.
A huge thank-you goes out to Hartmut for giving us the opportunity to be a host family. Reflections International is a great organization. Being able to select the student that fits your family is very beneficial. Jennifer has been wonderful with her words of encouragement and suggestions. We have gained 2 friends in the process.
Geri and Jim Wilson, Lone Rock, Wisconsin