When Terry and Carol Miner first had the opportunity to host an exchange student in the mid-1980’s, their immediate response was “Yeah, sure – why not?”

Now, a cross-country move and three adult children of their own later, the Miners are still hosting international students. At this point, they’ve had seven or eight in their home, including two this year – but Carol says there have been many more over the years that felt like they were part of the family.



Chloe and Vicky ice skating; Carol and Terry Miner with their former student, Giada, after her graduation ceremony; Chloe, Vicky, and the Miners puppy, Bella. 

“With this experience, often there are other exchange kids that go to the same school, so you get not only yours but a whole host of others. In our case it’s been kids from Russia, Chile, Germany, Italy . . . all sorts of places,” said Terry.

Like many other volunteer host families, the Miners have formed an “extended family” that reaches around the globe. They keep in touch with many of their former students, and have even crossed the Atlantic to visit a few of their students’ families in Europe. 


The Miners host through International Experience (iE), a nonprofit organization that helps facilitate these experiences, and provides hands-on support throughout the entire exchange. Created by the US Department of State is focused on academics and public diplomacy. It gives students the opportunity to experience everyday life in the US while pursuing their education in an American high school for one to two semesters. Students walk away with a deeper understanding of American society, while also getting a chance to share their own culture and traditions — a cultural exchange that often has a lasting impact on host families and communities as well.


Jinli Shen with Elvira from Denmark.

Jinli Shen, a Local Coordinator (LC) in the Madison area, has been working with iE for just over four years. Originally from China, Shen said it’s rewarding for her to support international students as they navigate a second language and a new culture in the U.S. 

“The relationships with students are the best part,” said Shen. “I had students from last year come to me and say, ‘Jinli, I’ll see you soon again.’ It just forms an extended family.”

These “extended families” include both students and host parents like Rebecca Black, who host a student from another country for a full school year. It’s true that it takes a village to raise a child – and thankfully, these host families are supported from the time they make a commitment to host to the time they say goodbye at the airport five or ten months later.


Throughout each student’s stay, iE provides support through frequent check-ins from a nearby LC like Shen, along with thorough preparation before their student arrives in the U.S. so they know exactly what to expect. 

Black says prior to their student Marta’s arrival, she and her family were “too excited to be nervous.”

But, she says, they also recognized that it would be an adjustment for her family of three to expand from one ten-year-old daughter, Olivia, by adding a teenage girl from Spain to the mix. 

To ease the transition, both the Blacks and the Miners said establishing boundaries early on is a good rule of thumb when managing differences between cultures.

Still, though, both families said any issues were few and far between and lined up with their experiences raising any other teenager – things like reminding a student to clean their room or change the laundry were the most common. 

“Their host family becomes their second family, and you really do become like another grown-up family member for them,” Black said.


Vicky and fellow exchange student Chloe baking with the Miner family.

For the Miners, sharing the cultural landscape of the U.S. with exchange students as they gain confidence outside of their comfort zone is what makes hosting such a rewarding experience. 

Terry does his best to impart life skills like changing a tire or fixing household items, while Carol has enjoyed baking with their current students, Chloe and Vicky. 

Marta with Olivia, Rebecca, and Chris Black on a trip to Disney.

For everything they invest in their exchange students, both the Blacks and Miners say they receive a lot in return, too. “Overall, it’s just an incredible experience,” said Terry. 

Black said hosting has helped her family explore their home through a new lens, as they’ve planned visits with Marta to places like Cave of the Mounds and the Mall of America.

“I think a great host family is someone who has a curiosity about life,” said Black. “They really want to welcome someone in and be a part of their life, but also have a curiosity about the world around them and are willing to make those experiences happen.”

Mandy McClellan, iE Director for the North Central region of the US, said “We have a wonderful, welcoming community here that really shows some of the best parts of the US and its people. Working with dozens of students and families each year and seeing the positive impact of student exchange time and time again, I would encourage families — no matter the size, age, makeup or activity level — to consider hosting an exchange student.”


Visit to learn more about hosting an exchange student. 

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