By Michelle Krueger, Southwest Minneapolis exchange student host and International Cultural Exchange Services coordinator

This fall our family will host Marilys, an exchange student from France, as our youngest daughter Tora will be a sophomore at Southwest High School. We are so excited as a few years back, we hosted Lola, a girl from Spain and she and my daughter Sierra both attended Washburn High School as sophomores 2019-2020. Living in Minneapolis during George Floyd's murder and the start of the pandemic really opened Lola's eyes to global events as she was right in the middle of them. As young women now, Lola and Sierra are still really close friends. It was an enriching experience for our entire family.

Southwest High School has been so welcoming of our upcoming exchange student (letting her join the cheer team!) and they would love to have more exchange students this fall. Southwest High, Washburn High School, Field Community School and other Minneapolis Public Schools families should know there are still kids who'd love to come to Minneapolis and attend high school this fall.

Exchange students, like Lola and Marilys, arrive on a J-1 visa for public schools via non-profit agencies.

In an increasingly connected world, the opportunity to host an international exchange student offers families a chance to experience a new culture without leaving their home. International Cultural Exchange Services is currently seeking host families for the upcoming 2024-25 school year, and the benefits of such an experience extend far beyond the academic calendar.

What does hosting involve?

Hosting an exchange student is a commitment to providing a welcoming and supportive home environment. Families are expected to offer a room, meals, love, and guidance. More importantly, they are asked to include the student in family activities, making them feel like a true part of the family.

International Cultural Exchange Services assures prospective host families that all family dynamics are welcome. Whether you have young children, teenagers, or no children at all, you can become a host family. The primary requirement is a willingness to open your heart and home to a young person eager to learn and grow.

Sierra Krueger-Wolfe and Lola Diaz Sato at Lakefront Brewery in Milwaukee. Photo courtesy of Michelle Krueger

The upcoming school year brings a diverse group of students to Minneapolis from around the world, including Japan, Poland, Germany, Spain, Slovakia, South Korea, Finland, and Italy.

The impact of hosting

The impact of hosting an exchange student is profound. For the student, it means experiencing life in a new country, improving their language skills, and developing a deeper understanding of a different culture. For the host family, it offers a chance to learn about another part of the world, develop lifelong friendships, and create lasting memories.

Families who have previously hosted students often speak of the experience with great enthusiasm. They highlight the joy of sharing their traditions, the excitement of learning about another culture, and the special bond that forms between them and the student.

How to get involved

If you are interested in becoming a host family, International Cultural Exchange Services provides all the support and information you need. You can visit its website to learn more about the hosting process and the students available for placement. The website also features testimonials from past host families, offering insights into the many rewards of this unique opportunity.