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What Does It Mean to Be a Host?

The Office of International Services Friendship Exchange Program is designed to assist newly arrived international students in their transition to life in the United States and more specifically, Huntsville, Alabama, and The University of Alabama in Huntsville. As a host individual or family, you would help our new international students by becoming a friend and resource to the student as they experience our American culture. Our host program is not intended to be a long-term stay in your home; instead, it’s perhaps a lunch or an invitation to a family meal so that the international student can experience a rewarding American family connection.

Who Can Be a Host?

UAH faculty, students, alumni, staff, administrators, and their families are welcome to host an international student. The best hosts are those who enjoy meeting new people and who can spend time with their student at least two to three times a semester.

What is the Relationship Between Hosts and International Students?

The relationships that develop between hosts and international students tend to foster a new appreciation for how others live and view the world, and can contribute to achieving one of the principal values of the cross-cultural experience: cultural self-awareness. Cultural self-awareness allows us to see that our way of doing something is but one of many different, equally “natural” ways. The ability to accept those differences helps in building relationships with people from other cultures.

How Does the Relationship Develop?

During a brief dinner at the beginning of the semester, you will be introduced to the international student with whom you have been matched.

From this brief meeting you can:

  • Exchange names, addresses, and telephone numbers
  • Recognize the student’s English proficiency and ease in social situations
  • Learn the pronunciation of his/her name and what to call one another. (Keep in mind that the student may feel uncomfortable calling you by your first name.)
  • Use this time to extend your first invitation. (In some societies it is considered impolite to accept the first invitation. If your invitation is refused, tell the student you will call to set up another date. Because understanding each other over the phone can be more difficult than speaking face to face, it might be helpful to send a reminder).

Creating an interpersonal relationship is the emphasis in this program, but students may also appreciate any of the following*:

  • Take students shopping
  • Invite students to a family dinner
  • Meet students from time to time for coffee
  • Take students sightseeing around Huntsville
  • Have lunch with students on campus
  • Take students to or from the airport
  • Lend students things they forgot to bring from home
  • Invite students to socialize at a local hangout
  • Invite students to come to a party you are hosting
  • Invite students to a holiday dinner
  • Get together to play tennis or another sporting activity

Program Limitations

  • Students are financially responsible for themselves. Do not feel any obligation to pay the students’ expenses when you socialize together.
  • There are employment restrictions on student visas. Always direct the students to UAH’s International Student Services before suggesting employment options to them.
  • Students may have problems with their visa or with immigration issues. It is best if you direct them to UAH’s International Student Services rather than get involved.
  • If students are having major medical, financial, or personal problems, direct them to UAH’s Office of International Services so that they can make the appropriate referrals.

How Do I Become a Host?

Becoming a host is easy! Ready to apply? Simply complete this online form and we will be in touch! If you have any questions, please contact

Students, if you are interested in being hosted by a local family, be sure to complete our online form and let us know!