Wise Words on Being Family

Every year, Greenheart works with hundreds of international exchange students and the awesome families who volunteer to host them. And every year, we get a few frustrated calls from kids or parents requesting a new placement. Sometimes, move requests are justified and of course Greenheart will do everything we can to make changes happen for the safety and happiness of our students and host families.  But often times we get calls when it’s a minor issue, with just enough irritation to make it feel like a mountain of a problem.  

Rob Douglas, one of our Regional Directors, recently shared his cool-headed, rational, down-to-earth way of thinking about these tense moments.  His soul-searching questions have been shared at orientations–and his wise words follow:  


  • Do you always get along perfectly with your own family?
  • Do your parents let you do whatever you want, whenever you want?
  • Are your own siblings perfectly agreeable with you all the time and never even a little annoying or frustrating?
  • Do you never disagree with your natural parents, and do they always give you exactly what you want all the time?

Orientation room:   Laughter. Smiles.  Murmurs of “No!” “No, of course not.” “OMG no!”


So WHY do you expect that your Host Family here in the USA would be any different?

Imagine going to your natural parents, your brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, and declaring “Sorry, I just cannot do this anymore. I want a NEW FAMILY. This isn’t working out. I’m just not happy.”  How silly would that be???

Remember this. Your host family CHOSE you! Your own family didn’t even do that, did they?!?!?! 😊

Your host family might not be perfect; but your family isn’t either.

They might frustrate or annoy you sometimes; but your family probably does sometimes too.

They most certainly won’t do everything exactly how you want it; but your own family doesn’t either, right?

Your Host Family is your American family. Just like your own family is in your home country.

PLEASE treat your American Host Family the same way you would treat your own family. Have the same expectations for this family as you do your own. Do not expect to get a new host family because you disagreed. You are not moving just because there is an argument.

We will help you. We will work through it. Greenheart will be there and support you, absolutely.

Please try it.  Talk it out, agree to disagree, and work through issues that arise, together!

Thanks Rob for these wise words!

Thanks to all of our Local Coordinators who work with our amazing host families and awesome exchange students every day to make sure everyone is having a good experience.  If you think the Local Coordinator role is the job for you, please visit PlacewithGreenheart.org.

If you want to host your own foreign exchange student, please visit HostwithGreenheart.org to learn more and apply.