Arrival of 2017 German group © Greg Engle

Because you have the opportunity to include a temporary family member, who’ll eventually become a lasting friend and part of your family! It is a chance to learn something about the German culture and get to know a foreign child in a one-of-a-kind manner. While getting to know the German culture in your own home, you can share your own story, traditions and customs. If you are open to new experiences and willing to support a young adolescent on her/his way to self-reliance and self-discovery, you are made for hosting! It does not matter whether you live in the city or in the suburbs; all that matters is providing guidance and love.

One has to be willing to take in a child as part of their family. Whether it means taking him/her to sport practice, arranging educational matters with the school, or giving rides to friends’ houses, you will have more responsibility and time to invest with a host child staying in your house. After some time you probably will look at him or her the same way you look at your own children. Although in Germany students are more independent and self-reliant, in Buffalo they will be dependent on you since they cannot take public transportations to go wherever they want. Experience has taught us that it is important for the host child to get involved at school. That way s/he won’t be sitting at home, waiting for the host family to get home and text her/his family back in Germany all the time. Perhaps every single host child has been getting homesick at some point of their High School trimester, but rarely did the homesickness last.

Hosting around Christmas © Andrew Gardner

Hosting will have an impact on your wallet since you are responsible for feeding him or her for four months. But financially you don’t have to worry about anything else. They are equipped with a credit card and buy school supply, clothes, and toiletries all on their own. For the most part you will have to invest time, but it will be repaid with gratitude, friendship and love.  He or she might turn to you with home sickness, problems at school or lovesickness. Like with your own kid, you’ll know how to deal with it and grow as a family from it. When December and the date of departure approaches, you’ll see how dear s/he has grown to your heart and how hard it’ll be to say goodbye.

German students’ motivation for this exchange program mostly is the improvement of their language skills and curiosity. They want to know what life in the USA is like, experience American culture and celebrate American holidays. Therefore, it might not be the best idea to invite her/him to Octoberfest or other German festivals with the intent to do any favors. They know what German holidays look like and are interested in getting to know your lifestyle and folklore. Take them along to family barbecues, celebrate Thanksgiving with them and enjoy the Advent season while still having him/her around. You should not change your daily routine but just integrate the host child into it. There is no need to hesitate in correcting them, either.  Although the first couple of days can be a little difficult, both parties will get used to each other’s accent and the German students are going to lose their accent after some time anyway. For them to become fluent in English it is important to correct them.

Saying goodbye © Greg Engle

As you can read in the statements from former host families and participants of the program, many of them are still in contact and have gained a life-long friendship with strangers. Take a chance and become friends with strangers from Germany! Hosting does not only bring a foreign culture and a sense to adventure to you, it also teaches you a sense of global unity. While the student makes the world seem smaller, hosting teaches you acceptance, gratitude and therefore enhances your own world.