Pros of being an American host family for exchange students include learning new cultures and helping students from across the world learn and grow. Cons include becoming attached to your exchange student, paying to support the student and dealing with cultural divides and language barriers.
Hosting an exchange student can be a wonderful experience, but families should be prepared to make major changes in their home to accommodate someone with a different cultural background. Host families are expected to provide all the meals for their exchange student. If the family frequently goes out to eat, these costs add up quickly. Some families also find that dealing with teenagers across the cultural divide can be difficult. Exchange students might treat the host home like a hotel, keeping to themselves and having their own hours. Host families should explain the rules very clearly up front. Finally, in many cases families become attached to their exchange student, and saying goodbye is difficult for the entire family.
There are many wonderful reasons to host an exchange student, and host families report that they and their own biological children learn about other cultures without leaving home. Families find it is fun and rewarding to help students from other countries learn better English and American cultural customs. Some organizations pay families to host an exchange student, which offsets the costs and makes hosting more affordable.