Student exchange organizations are always looking for host families, and the definition of “family” is very broad. The application process is rigorous, but those interested are encouraged to apply.

After filling out an online application and participating in an interview, families must pass a criminal background check.

“You need to be ‘open-minded and flexible.’ This is the perfect host family description,” says Candace O’Malley of AFS, a New York-based nonprofit that oversees intercultural exchange programs across the country.

“Whether you’re a family with children in the home already, a family whose children might be off to college or older and out of the home, families that don’t have children, single people who want to host, members of the LGBTQ+ community, we welcome all people to host,” she said.

Every exchange student needs a host family, an accepting school, and a local volunteer known as a “liaison” to support them. Placements are based on where accredited exchange organizations have volunteer teams and schools that are willing to take exchange students.

“As a host family, you’re responsible to feed and transport your guests, but that’s all,” says Raymond resident Kathy Hansen of Greenheart Exchange, another national exchange student placement organization. “Exchange students’ families pay for everything else when the kids come over here.”

One suggestion from the pros: Early connections between the student and the host family make the adjustment easier for both.

“Kids arrive in late August to start school, but their applications can be (submitted) in September, October, November, etc. of the year before,” Hansen says. “If families accept a student early in the year before they come in, they have the whole summer to get to know them. That really helps a lot. If families don’t pick a student until August, there’s none of that getting to know each other through months of Facetimes and calls.”

To learn more about hosting an exchange student in Maine, call Kathy Hansen at Greenheart Exchange at 207-653-1007 or Jenna Powell at AFS at 646-530-3088. Email inquiries can be directed to or

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