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Monday, April 07, 2014

Experience the World at Home: Host an Exchange Student

Magy And Host Family

When NSHSS Claes Nobel Educator of Distinction Connie Hood learned about the opportunity to host a U.S. Department of State-sponsored exchange student, she enthusiastically responded. Connie and her husband Chet are having a wonderful time introducing their guest daughter Magy to the United States. 

Magy is from Bulgaria, chosen through a highly competitive, merit-based selection process to participate in the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program. The YES program, begun by Senators Kennedy and Lugar, advances mutual understanding between the United States and countries with significant Muslim populations, with students of many faiths and nationalities from over 40 countries in all around the world. The program also includes an exchange program for U.S. students, known as YES Abroad, which offers study abroad scholarships.

For Connie, hosting is a natural choice, as her family has been involved with international exchange and hosting since the 1950s. “Our dinner table had strong personalities, divergent points of view, and multiple languages,” says Connie of her families’ association with international exchange.

This tradition of learning and growing through contact with other cultures is continuing with their current hosting experience. In Connie’s words, “We all learn together. Chet and I have learned so much more about points of view in Eastern Europe.” According to Connie, Magy has enjoyed many new experiences in the United States, from attending her first rodeo, to traveling around with the Hoods around their home state of California, to nurturing her love of music.

“Magy’s application mentioned that she loved music, but she had very limited experience. She is now taking piano lessons and now I wake up to Chopin. My friends and I are strings players and we’ve taken her to many concerts, including a New Year’s Eve chamber music party. Magy is now playing beautifully, motivated by all the artists here.”

Connie believes hosting demonstrates “that people really have more in common than they believe.” Her advice to families considering hosting includes, “Listen hard, breathe deeply. Be very aware of the student’s basic needs. Treat him or her like your very own.”

You too can bring the world into your home by hosting an exchange student. Visit to learn more about hosting and to have a local representative contact you with more information.

In addition to the YES program, the U.S. Department of State offers several other exchange programs including the Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) Program, which brings students from Eurasia; the Congress Bundestag Youth Exchange Program, a two-way exchange with Germany; the American-Serbia and Montenegro Youth Leadership Exchange (A-SMYLE); the National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y), which teaches critical languages to U.S. students, and various Youth Leadership programs. Learn more at