How I expanded my family to include girls from around the world

One of the many things I do is host at least one foreign student each summer through EF Educational Homestay Programs. My daughter and I have hosted since she was 18 months old (that was in 2010). Since then, we have hosted at least two students each summer. Now we host at least two at a time (it’s great having two teens to entertain each other and my child):

  1. Wen Wen from China 2010 (an adult chaperon
  2. Masha from Russia 2011
  3. Sonja from Austria 2011
  4. Linnea from Sweden 2012
  5. Tasha from Russia 2013 (adult chaperon)
  6. Katherina from Germany 2014
  7. Carrinea from China 2014
  8. Wendy from China winter 2015 (adult chaperon)
  9. Noora from Finland 2015
  10. Timea from Slovakia 2015
  11. Minava from Hong Kong 2015
  12. Gyulnara from Russia 2016 (adult chaperon)
  13. Elina from Germany 2016
  14. Laura from France 2016
  15. Johanna from Finland 2017
  16. Chiara from Italy 2017
  17. Collette from France 2018
  18. Martina from Italy 2018
Me and my daughter with Masha from Russia in 2011.

It’s been fun watching my daughter bond with these students from around the world. At 2, my daughter called Masha from Russia “Russia” the whole time she was with us.

And she quickly became best friends with Sonja–though she certainly loved each and every student and adult we’ve hosted.

My daughter and Linnea from Sweden at the Fourth of July celebration in Atascadero in 2012

My journey to becoming a host mom (it still feels weird calling myself “mom” to these teens, though the longer the host the more I actually become old enough to be their mothers!) began when I was 16 and spent a month in Russia with 9 others from my school. We all lived with volunteer host families in Rossosh, Russia, and spent our days touring schools around the area. I was 16 then and finishing my sophomore year of high school.

The next school year, my family hosted Tanya from St. Petersburg, Russia, for a semester. During that same semester, we hosted Oksana from Rossosh for a month.

Two years later, I went and lived with Tanya’s family in St. Petersburg, Russia, for five months. I was 18 year old.

After my daughter was born, I knew I wanted to host an exchange student, but a year, or even a semester, was too long. When I heard about EF in 2010 from a friend, I decided a month was doable and I requested a course leader so I could get my feet wet.

That was it. We haven’t stopped hosting, and now host two students at a time, and sometimes host during two or more programs a year.

In 2015, I started working for EF as a program leader and recruiter. That means I seek out families willing to host a student (or more, up to four at a time) during the program, and then spend the four-week program going on all the activities with the students, being the local leader to make sure the program runs smoothly and that all the students get to the right place at the right time, and more.

Now, I am a site director of the North County International program. The North County program begins on June 18 when the students arrive, though they won’t meet host families until the next evening. We have varying arrival and departure dates.

  • July 18-30: China
  • July 18-Aug. 6: France
  • July 18-Aug. 13: France & Italy
  • July 25-Aug. 13: China

Host family responsibilities:

  • A warm friendly welcome
  • A clean, comfortable well-lit room, with sufficient heating, a bed or air mattress that can be provided, ventilation, natural light, storage for clothes and use of a table or desk
  • Bed linen and towels which should be cleaned by the host family on a weekly basis
  • Regular access to the bathroom as per a member of the family
  • A key or access to the home at anytime
  • Transportation to and from a local bus stop in the area, where EF will provide the student transportation to and from the school;
  • Breakfast, a packed lunch and dinner
  • Access to laundry facilities at least once per week
My family with Laura from France and Elina from Germany in 2016

Our hosts come in all shapes and sizes and we welcome such diverse families as single parent households, empty-nesters and families with small or grown children.

Each day, the students will get English and cultural lessons with a full activities program that students will take part in every day and in the evenings too as well as excursions on the weekend.

Host families will attend a mandatory host family orientation prior to arrival to help them get ready for their students’ arrival.
As a “thank you” to volunteer host families, EF has a passport program, where a host family gets one sticker for each student it hosts. A family can host up to four students at a time, no more than three children of the same sex sharing a room. One bonus sticker can be earned by submitting the host family application by March 15. Once five stickers have been collected, they can be redeemed for $200 in reimbursement for travel; 10 stickers can be redeemed for $500 in reimbursement for travel. Families that host can also get a $200 discount or rebate to use for any EF Language Travel product.

In addition to seeking host families for this summer’s program, we are also seeking groups to talk to or to distribute fliers. If you are a part of a group or organization and would allow us to come talk or give you fliers to pass out, please contact me.

For more information, email me at