Becoming Host Parents and redefining “momhood”

Greenheart Exchange is always on the lookout for host families for our awesome international high school students coming to live the USA life.  All kinds of people host for all kinds of reasons, and we love to hear about what brings families to commit to hosting a foreign exchange student. Brandi and her husband, Dane, decided to host after a 10-year infertility struggle and the experience helped Brandi redefine her “momhood.” Here’s her story.

Embracing a new journey

I had accepted that after a 10-year infertility struggle, I would never get pregnant or have kids of my own.  I was embracing this new journey.  Dog Mom.  Wife.  Aunt.  Teacher.  And then, I went to a cooking class with my husband to learn how to make pork chops and apple turnovers. And my life changed.

We were joined at our table by a lady with curly brown hair and a teenage girl.  We learned that they had just moved to town.  The teenage girl was a foreign exchange student who would be attending the school where I taught.  And the lady was her host mom and also a local coordinator who assisted and supported other host families and exchange students. After some conversation, the lady gave us her card and said, “You’d make great host parents!”

Becoming Host Parents

Dane and I looked at each other…  Had we finally found a way to have a kid?  After class, we decided that we could do this!  So, I emailed the coordinator, filled out the application, and waited to hear if we were approved to be host parents. Not long after, we were approved, and it was time to pick a kiddo!

Our local coordinator sent us some student applications, but we struggled to find our perfect fit. We wanted someone who loved dogs. While kids can be moved to another home if they aren’t a fit, Dane and I felt strongly that once we agreed to bring a student into our home, that kid was there to stay. And then, we received “the” application.  She was holding a puppy in her profile picture!

And so, we said, “YES!” to Bruna from Brazil.  I started emailing Bruna to get to know her a bit better before she arrived.  We even Skyped with her and our nieces.  I was so excited and so nervous.  Looking at Dane, I questioned, “Are we ready for this?!”  I could not believe we were finally going to have a two-legged kiddo in our home.

Arrival and Becoming a Family

On December 28, our dream came true.  Our host daughter, Bruna, arrived to live with us for 6 months.  We hugged, we took pictures, and we brought her home (without her bags because they were lost…)  And that is when the adventure really began!

Now, I realize that a foreign exchange student is not your own child.  You do not adopt this kid and she has loving parents back in Brazil.  But when you decide to host, you welcome her into your home and treat her as your daughter. And so, you are a family.

We had an absolutely incredible experience with Bruna during her semester in the United States. She helped us look at life through new eyes and see the magnificent wonders around us.  And we have continued to develop our relationship since she went back to Brazil.  She has visited us, and we have visited her.  Her Brazilian family is amazing, and her parents openly share Bruna with us, accepting us into their family with open arms!

Our hosting story is not unique.  Friends that we made while hosting keep in touch with their kids, too.  And their exchange sons and daughters have returned to visit them, as well. Hosting grows your family, expands your world, and helped us embrace a new path.

Some Tips from Brandi on hosting

Brandi has a video on her website about the hosting experience. Here are just a few tips she shares in that video.

  1. Hug your exchange student the minute they arrive. Hug them every day. They are far from home, far from their parents. Let them know you are there for them.
  2. Do NOT treat the kid like a houseguest. The kid will be with you for a while. From the get-go, give them some chores so they are truly part of the family and part of your home.
  3. Make time to do some of those family activities you’ve always wanted to do—road trips, family reunions, festivals, experiences that show your exchange kid the USA. And include the little day-to-day things too–make s’mores, watch classic movies together, shop for prom dresses, go bowling…
  4. The kid is a teen. Your home has rules.  They are strangers when they come into your home. Accept that there will be awkward moments and difficult conversations. This is a relationship like any other. Talk about expectations, have honest conversations, and treat each other with respect.
  5. You will see your space through new eyes. Watching your host child adapt to life in the USA, you will get to hear about their world too. It’s an incredible experience to see everyday things through their eyes.

Thank you, Brandi, for sharing your story.  If you’d like to read more from Brandi, please visit

If you are interested in hosting an exchange student, please visit today.