Being a host family leads to character development in all

Building character can be a growing experience not just for the international student, but also for the members of the host family.

Respect, responsibility, caring, honesty and trustworthiness are character traits that come into play when hosting an international student. The host siblings can gain these traits throughout the hosting experience by interacting with someone from another culture. These traits are important with everyone you come in contact with, but when you add cultural differences, using the character traits you have to help make their stay meaningful is another way of growing a positive character.

It is too easy to think you understand cultural differences, but then not take them seriously. It leaves your international student vulnerable to ridicule and misunderstandings. Host siblings and parents have the responsibility to see that their students have a smooth transition into the family, school and community. It takes a lot of patience because many issues come up. International students can be critical of our politics, the way we dress for school or the way we spent recreational time, our social activities or music we listen to.

It is not always easy for the student moving into a new home with a new family, especially when the students first arrive. They are dealing with culture shock and are clinging to behaviors and views they brought with them because they are comfortable with them.

As observed in an article by Mary Arnold of Oregon State University in the Journal of Extension people who hosted through the Japanese Labo program feel they have gained in caring about people who are different, being responsible, sharing with others, cooperating with others and accepting differences in other. Strengthening character in this way is a very rewarding as well as a growing experience for the family and the students they host.

Learn more about hosting through the Michigan 4-H Program by visiting the Michigan State University Extension 4-H Youth Development program.

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