Exchange program standards need reform

Gia Berklund

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   Expecting to join host families prepared for their arrival, exchange students instead often find themselves placed in homes that fail to meet the status quo.

   National exchange student program, LPI Learning, arranges the majority of exchange student programs. The organization offers two types of programs, J-1 and F-1; while the J-1 program does not pay the host family a monthly stipend and focuses on a short-term, inclusive experience, J-1 exchange students stay up to several years to gain an American education that allows them access to post-secondary schooling and the family earns a monthly stipend to help offset the expenses of hosting.

   LPI Learning states on their website,, families must follow a list of criteria provided in order to host a child. According to the site, CSIET (Standards for International Students Exchange), a not-for-profit organization, provides the rules and expectations for host families.

   CSIET provides two similar standard lists, one for long-term students and one for short-term. With a total of nine standards listed, no specific requirements for the host families sit anywhere among them; background checks for household members above the age eighteen showed to be the only concrete rule.

   Standard six, which covers student placement, uses vague phrases like “select host families on the basis of criteria appropriate to the program” and “personally interview all prospective host families in their home”, which shows a lack of commitment to the exchange students. Closer to home, exchange students at Southside stand as proof for the sub-par standards. Italian exchange student Lorenzo Incoronoto revealed his personal horror story. 

   After arriving in the States, Incoronoto’s host mother greeted him with a room infested with bed bugs and failed to provide him with three meals a day; the home environment also led Incoronoto to gain insufficient sleep, and soon after being placed with her, he transferred into the care of a different family. Another student, Hanbit Lee, found himself placed with a family whose schedule did not have time to accommodate an exchange student; he also struggled to overcome a language barrier that made communication with his hosts difficult. After one semester with the family, he found a home with a different family. 

   While convincing major companies to up their standards of care sounds out of reach, setting precautions on a local level remains highly achievable. CSIET states in standard six that housing accommodations need to be disclosed to the student, their natural parents, and the school principal. Administration must take a closer look into the homes approved for students travelling to the United States. With even this small precaution put in place, preventing situations as seen with Incoronoto and Lee becomes much easier. 


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Exchange program standards need reform