Where do I start?
- Connect with your school(s). Parents who have children at the same school as your student make great host families, as they have already arranged transportation to and from school for their own kids, and are a part of the school community. Speaking with school officials is a good place to start when looking for families, and we will introduce you to school staff via email so you know who to contact. Though school staff may not be able to point you to host families themselves, they can often connect you with the PTA, Booster clubs, and other parent groups affiliated with the school. It is also a good idea to ask the school official about contacting faculty and staff. In the past we have gotten host family leads from language and history teachers who passed along information about hosting to their students.
- Use your personal network. Ask your friends, family members, colleagues, neighbors, fellow church-goers etc. not only if they would like to host, but also if they know anyone who might be interested and can help spread the word. Getting the word out really pays off!
- Reach out to local organizations. Try looking up your area on Google maps and take a look at nearby organizations – believe it or not, we’ve found host families by cold calling and emailing parks and recreation centers, libraries, and local churches. Libraries and churches may have physical or electronic bulletins to which you can post notices for prospective families, or people may volunteer to forward your email to others. Look on your city’s website or on the local chamber of commerce’s website for organizations and businesses that relate to your student’s interests and hobbies, and reach out to them.
- Think internationally. Contact groups or organizations in your town that are international in focus, such as language schools, language clubs, or even travel agencies or translators. Parents who have their children enrolled in a local Mandarin class might be very excited about an opportunity to host a Chinese student!
- Contact the media. If you’re so inclined, why not contact local newspapers or the local news station and let them know that you’re helping to build an international student program in your area and are looking for host families? It is possible that your community doesn’t even realize there is an international student presence right in their own backyard!
- Ask other international students. If your school’s International Student Program is developed enough, there may be other international students you can talk to in order to make connections. Sometimes international students form a great relationship with an American in their school, and getting the word out to those students might spark a dinner time conversation about the idea of hosting.
Recruit year-round. Recruiting host families during the school year rather than just when the “heat is on” during the summer placement season will help take off some of the pressure. Quest is able to recommend certain schools to our students based on our knowledge of host family availability in a given area, so if we know that you have families ready, it is very likely that we will have students to fill those spots!
Make it personal. When all is said and done, we are reaching out to families about a decision that affects their personal lives. We have been most successful connecting with families when we use a friendly and personal tone. We have also found that we have the most success when we include personal details about our students that families can connect with. For example, if one of your prospective families is musical, or if you are reaching out to the local youth orchestra for help, sharing with them the fact that your student plays the flute might help seal the deal. For inspiration, see the sample email below.
Contact the right people. Do not get discouraged when the PTA president and international student coordinator cannot help you find families. Those are the people who get inundated with requests for host families every day. Try connecting with people who have time on their hands and to whom your request is fresh and interesting. Sometimes the secretary at the local library is going to be more helpful than a school official.
Keep your head up. Often it takes many phone calls, emails, ads, bulletins, etc. to get your first response. But the more you communicate your message to the community, the more likely you are to connect with the right person. So keep your spirits up and keep trying!
Sample Recruiting Email
Here is an email template that you can use in your recruiting. We try to keep our emails short, simple and friendly.
Hi Sample Person,
My name is Katie and I work for a student exchange agency called Quest Exchange. I’ve been trying to touch base with families in San Francisco because we are looking for a host family for a student from Germany who will be studying at Alameda High School next year. I am reaching out to you because this student, Claire, is a dancer! We think it would be wonderful if Claire lived with a family that is active in the performing arts community.
I am wondering if you can help me spread the word to parents in the community. I am including a blurb below about the student and the role of a host family. We would appreciate any help that you can give us to find a host family! Thank you in advance for passing this along to other people in the community and I hope to hear back from you soon.
Grade: 10th – Will stay for one semester
Languages: German, French and English
Interests: Sports – dance – tennis – jazz – scout – hiking
Motivations: Claire’s father studied abroad in the U.S. and Claire would like to follow in his footsteps.
Comments: Claire is honest, independent, and motivated. She is excited to come to the U.S. and she can’t wait to make meaningful connections with a host family and friends.
Host Family Responsibilities
- Create a warm and friendly environment for the student in your home
- Engage in learning about her culture as she learns about yours
- Provide 3 meals a day – breakfast, bag lunch, dinner
- Help student with transportation to and from school – The student will pay for additional costs such as a bus fee when applicable
- Spend time with your student on the weekend
- *Host Families will receive a monthly stipend of $XYZ to cover some of the costs of hosting