Foreign Exchange Students Share What Went Wrong

Foreign Exchange Students Share What Went Wrong

Being a foreign exchange student can be an exciting experience. Leaving the home country for new horizons, learning about an entirely different culture, and integrating into another lifestyle alien to one's own can be one of the most interesting undertakings a human can experience. However, there are times when being a foreign exchange student can lead to a nightmarish experience. Here are several terrifying examples of when being a foreign exchange student led to frightening results.


48. Time To Go Home

My host dad was a total jerk. Unlike the rest of the family, he didn't want to host, so he made sure I feel like an outsider throughout my entire year. calling my traditions weird, calling me lazy, insulting me because I'm from a third world country. Telling me I'm here to waste their money and to give me a budget on my food.

Actually, most of my friends had bad experiences on exchange. One had to change families because her host mom stole her money. My best friend's host mom went through her phone without her consent and sent the screenshots of her conversation with her boyfriend to her family back home and accused her of all kinds of crap so that they could get her out of their house. Sometimes I wonder what placement organizations are even doing.

Livvy Brown

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47. But Great Scenery

I stayed with a brainwashed, hardcore Mormon host family in Utah. High school exchange students are their mission targets. Everybody in the town is Mormon, everything is revolving around the church. The relationship is very tight, everybody knows everything about everybody. They were two-faced, nice on the surface, but looking down on non-members, always passive aggressive. Real Stepford wives. Very creepy and freaky and boring. Worst place for an international homestay.

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46. The Feeding Is Mutual

I'm French, and when I was in high school, I went for a month in England, and then my English friend came for a month in France.

France/England history being what it is, they made me eat disgusting jell-o and boiled mint stew in england, and he ate frogs and snails when he came here. It was a 2 way difficult experience, but we kinda HAD TO.

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45. Silver Lining

My dad was a coordinator for exchange students. One of his charges ended up with a horrible family that treated her like a live-in servant. She was moved to a new family but the old one did things like hold her mail hostage. My dad had to get the authorities involved and work with the postal office to get mail redirected. We felt so bad for her. Happy ending though. Second family was amazing to her and she had almost a year with them. She met her future husband at the school she attended. 3 kids later they are still going strong.

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44. Beware The Overshare

When I first arrived in the United States my host family wanted to give me a very American welcome; they bought me a root beer float. I have never experience such diarrhea since then. They also accidentally insisted I look at naked pictures of them, like 5 min after I landed (they wanted to show me pictures of my flight landing and being friendly but they forgot about these spiced up pictures in their phone). Good people all in all.


43. Public Embarrassment

I'm doing a year-long exchange in Santiago de Chile right now and did not expect the food to be so disappointing. I knew not to expect the huge variety of food that we have in the US but I mean daaaaaaaamn. Chilean food is pretty bland. Chorrillanas and empanadas are good and all, but I can't subsist entirely on them. And I never want to see another completo ever again.

It's also really odd to me that toilet paper usually is not kept in the bathroom stalls. Instead, there is a dispenser by the sink that you have to get the paper from. Not really that bad, but sometimes I do feel a little self conscious when there is a long line and people are watching exactly how much toilet paper I'm helping myself to. I imagine it must be hard for nervous poopers. Actually, maybe that's why there's no spicy food. No one wants to risk the public shame. When you march into the stall with fistfuls of toilet paper, people know what's up.


42. A Very Different Baby Shower

I lived in Morocco for two months with a host family. I speak pretty good Modern Standard, but this family spoke nothing but the local dialect, so I was pretty lost most of the time. One day I was having tea with them in their courtyard and I heard some music. The entire family got really excited and ran out to the street, where there was a huge group of fancily dressed people clapping and shouting and banging on drums.

And carrying a sheep. A hogtied sheep. My family was laughing like crazy so I tried asking what was going on. They told me in broken French that a baby had been born. The men carrying the sheep saw me looking utterly bewildered (I'm very white and very blonde) and put it down about ten feet from me.

And slit its throat.

While I was sidestepping the giant pool of blood and trying to be cool about this because for some reason I thought it would be rude to seem surprised, they invited me to the after-party where they sat in a circle and sang and clapped for hours.

Cultural differences don't surprise me much after that experience.

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41. Thank You All For Being Here

I lived in Senegal and my host brother had a birthday party and asked me to help him plan it. So I did. When we got there he announced to all of his friends that it was actually our engagement party and made me give a speech to tell them how excited I was about our wedding.

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40. A Cultural Wasteland

I'm an English student and I'm doing an exchange year studying jazz at the University of North Texas. I've been here about a month, and I have mixed feelings. I love learning here; I already feel like I've improved loads.

However, I don't like this town (hopefully I'll like Dallas more when I go there next weekend). It seems so soulless and new - everyone driving EVERYWHERE was a massive shock too. People get super surprised when I say I walked 2 miles to a gig. I know I'll start to miss food too, but hopefully I can try and find whatever 'culture' North Texas has to offer.

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39. Too Friendly For Comfort

I had a stalker. Like a legit, stalker. Well I guess a couple. I went to Finland for my Junior year (16-17) and not only had a neighbor in his mid-20's tell people he wanted to sleep with me just because I was from California (and eventually tried to corner me at a house party), but a crazy fan. One night I went out to the local dance club and ran into my first host sister, so I was visiting with her outside and all of a sudden I am tackled by this guy and he asks if he can take his picture with me. I didn't know what to say, so I agreed and he took it with his phone. My host sister went on to introduce him as her classmate and told me he was a huge fan. Apparently all year he had asked when he could come over to the house to meet me and when the newspaper had interviewed me for an article, he memorized everything in it. He started quizzing me about it then and there. It was a bit strange. Especially since my year started just after the initial invasion of Iraq, so I expected a lot of hatred and questions. Granted there were the days that those things happened and when the videos of American's being beheaded were being released online, there were a few guys during computer class that tried to force me to watch them. Perhaps those things didn't surprise me because it was exactly what I had been prepared for.



38. Brought On To Help With Their Rebel Teen

Last year I was on a high school exchange program in Russia. When I got there, I realized that my host parents didn't really want or have the money for a host student, and they weren't interested in learning about other cultures. The reason I had been taken on was to influence my host sister, a girl who was 15, very shallow, and obsessed with boys and partying. I figured that she was still young and hoped she'd grow out of it. I figured that if I worked hard and tried to learn Russian my host parents would warm to me.

Halfway through the year, I had to start paying for food, which is totally against the rules. In a hotel-like situation it's not bad, but when you are living in a family, it alienates you and makes you feel like a stranger in what is supposed to be your home, which is pretty hard.

Seven months in, I had to go home to the US for a month for a personal situation, and I found out that my host sister had stolen around $1000 from my credit card (and I don't have a ton of money other than that).

I switched host families when I went back, and luckily my second host family was really great and I had a good time for the last three months. Also, I know there are a lot of horror stories out there, but never for a second do I regret going on an exchange program. Even in my first host family, I met so many people, learned so many new things (both about Russia and about myself), and I just had a really great time. I would encourage almost everyone to go on an exchange program. It's not always easy, but it's so rewarding.


37. Beware the Pick-Pocket Roommate

I was a foreign exchange student in Central America. My host sister and I shared a room; she decided it was ok to take my clothes, have a smoke in our room, hide the packs in my drawers, then rat me out to her mom (my host mom) for breaking house rules. My host sister also demanded I hang out with her friends and got mad at me when I wasn't "cool enough like an American should be". The host mom also got the crazy idea that I was trying to flirt with her husband and solicit him to be intimate (which I was not) and blamed me for her husband going out and getting a mistress. They eventually contacted the foreign exchange program demanding I be removed from their house and placed elsewhere. It was a really weird few months.

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36. Keeping Mom's Phone Calls Away

I did an exchange in a small town in eastern Germany. Not really a horror story, but a weird experience. I stayed with a very conservative husband and wife—no computer, the phone was "very expensive" (even with my phone card, I was told) so I was allowed to briefly call my parents when I arrived to let them know I was ok and give them the host family's phone number.

I didn't hear from them for several weeks, and I was homesick and having a hard time. When I asked to use the phone, the family suggested I have my parents call instead because it would be cheaper. I walked to an internet cafe in town and sent an email.

The next day the host mom gave me the phone; it was my high school German teacher. She asked if I was ok and then put my mom on the line. Apparently, my mom had tried calling several times, and when the host family heard English or her limited German, they just hung up and didn't say anything to me.


35. Mexican Musical Rooms

I was always so confused by my host family in Mexico. They were constantly switching all of the rooms of the house around, so one week the kitchen would all of a sudden be the living room and I had to track down the new kitchen. This happened every few weeks for the entire year... maybe they were just messing with me.


34. Living With A Criminal

We had a student stay with us who eventually went on to be a notorious criminal.

At the time in small town South Africa (mid-1980s) my parents were part of Rotary and regularly hosted students, mostly from the US. Most were pretty cool and kept to the ethos that came with being an exchange student: helpful, polite etc.

Not Darcie. She was a total jerk. Stole things and tried to blame the maid. Came and went at all hours. She was encouraged to leave and went to another household, where she didn't last long either.

Eventually, she began spending a lot of time with a local obstetrician. Tongues wagged. Darcie began telling people she wanted to be an obstetrician too and that the experience she was picking up was helping shape her future plans. The doctor even let her attend live births.

She left at the end of her year and it was pretty much assumed that would be the last we'd hear of her. Nope. Four years later, the FBI showed up in town and questioned the doctor. Turns out she needed a baby to keep up a lie she told a boyfriend who wanted to bolt. So Darcie attacked some poor woman and did an excellent job of removing her baby. So it seems she learned a few things during her time in SA after all.


33. Annoying Host Mothers

I studied abroad in Rio, which was awesome, apart from the fact that my study abroad program required students to stay in a host family for the length of the program. I and others had a few bad stories:

Apparently, once I was brushing my teeth too loudly, so my host mom passive-aggressively turned the volume on the TV all the way up. I came out of the bathroom to ask her to turn it down and she erupted into a Portuguese tirade.

Host mom unplugged everything in my room the moment I left it. If I needed to charge my phone/laptop, I had to stay in the room, otherwise, she'd barge in and unplug it

I had a chair next to my bed that I occasionally laid clothes on. Host mom hated this and would leave passive aggressive notes on the chair asking me why clothes were on it.

A friend of mine lived with an elderly lady who would make him put everything he had on him, including shoes and his backpack, in plastic bags as soon as he entered the apartment.

Another friend was put in an apartment with no running water and tried to move to a different host family. Host mom ended up physically blocking her from leaving the apartment and only stopped when the police were called.



32. Are You Going To Pay For That Sandwich?

I had a friend who was a foreign exchange student from Japan. Her first host family treated her horribly. They would just forget to pick her up from school/sports practices and they would cook for the whole family except for her. She would have to make a sandwich or something and then pay them for the materials she used. Thankfully, she got moved to a much nicer host family after that.


31. Caught Pony-Handed

One of my friends hosted a kid from Germany, and my buddy is super Mormon. One day, my buddy's mom walked into the kid watching suggestive "My Little Pony" content. Needless to say, he didn't last long at that house.

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30. Reincarnating A Certain Youth

I'm Italian; I spent a school year in the US to learn English. Host sister and her best friend believed that they were the reincarnations of Hitler and Goebbels, they kept all sorts of secret diaries and weird stuff. The one chick even said she has this "mysterious" scar on the back of the head where the bullet came out or something. For Christmas, I got subtly threatening Christmas cards saying not to dig where I was going to find something I didn't like.

They may have been just kids (17- to 18-year-old kids) doing weird teen things but from their diaries, etc., it really felt like they full on believed it. The one chick had spread the rumor that she could speak German despite having never studied it, so, of course, me being somewhat fluent at the time, tried to speak German to her. She just opened her eyes up real wide and kept saying, "Please don't make me do it, don't make me, you wouldn't like what happens don't make me do it stop..."


29. Don't Leave The Spanish Host

I was a foreign exchange student in Cataluña, Spain. I was stuck up in the flat most of the time and anytime we left the apartment was for my host brother to have a beverage or a smoke. My host brother and his friends refused to speak in Spanish and would always speak Catalan; additionally, my host brother and his friends kept berating me for cash because I'm apparently a rich American (I'm middle class at best). One time we were at a public pool and they kept pestering me for cash I decided I was going to walk the five kilometers home. I told my host brother I was leaving and he thought I was joking. When I turned up at the flat an hour later, my host family and the program coordinator were very angry at me and I got lectured on how I should stay with my host family at all times. Apparently, I can fly 3000 miles on my own, but can't go outside. What a load of garbage. If I go back, I'm staying in a hostel and not going through a program.


28. Babushka's Wild Nightlife

I studied abroad in Georgia (the country, not the state). This isn't a horror story, per se—my host family always treated me well, despite the language barrier/my shyness that really kept us from bonding, but they were pretty weird nonetheless.

So the family was made up of a babushka, her daughter who was in her mid-twenties, and her granddaughter who was a toddler. I was there to learn Russian (some Visa issues displaced a lot of us from our original program in St. Petersburg) but the family was clearly more comfortable speaking Georgian and would do so when not speaking directly to me. Couple that with my already horrendous understanding of the Russian language and my three months in Georgia were a hell of a ride.

After a couple of weeks there, I started to figure out that the babushka was four hundred pounds of pure, unbridled hotness to the typical Georgian man. She spent a lot of time on this website that was a weird mixture of MySpace circa 2005 and Tinder with a nice stoic, post-Soviet flare to it. She was constantly talking to guys with ages very clearly displayed and ranging from 20 to 25. Her ringtone was Blurred Lines, which made me happier than I can possibly convey.

Babushka wasn't just chatting the guys up, though. Oh no. She got more action than anyone I've ever met. She always left her bedroom door open at night and when I got up for school in the morning I'd pass by on the way to the bathroom. I saw at least two or three different naked men in bed with her each week.

I had coffee with the neighbors on a regular basis and they told me they were in on it. The husband would meet young guys at his job and the wife would set them up with the babushka I lived with. She'd even have the daughter and granddaughter sleepover at her apartment if babushka planned on it getting intense.


27. Uptight Norwegian Host

I met a girl from Norway who was in a house where the mom would yell at her if she touched the magazines on the coffee table and they were really rude to her about being a vegetarian and they would purposely leave without telling her to go places and leave her out. Also, the whole program kinda messed her over because the idea was that she got some sort of scholarship to come over to the US and complete some of her credits, but they made her go to a private school where she couldn't fill any of her credits and ended up having to go back home and spend an extra year in school as well as pay back the scholarship.

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26. Fighting Between Mother And Daughter

Oh boy. My roommate was absolutely horrible. I was in my third year of Spanish at my university and went to study abroad in Spain. My roommate had finished one semester and decided that she spoke well enough to go (she didn't) so there was a big communication gap between her and our host mom. Sometimes, I would try to clarify things because our host mom was clearly confused and understood no English at all. This was something that my roommate had told me she was appreciative of until she flew off the handle and told me that I didn't need to speak for her and she could do it for herself. Okay, fine. So I stayed out of the conversations between them even when there was confusion.

My host mom didn't like my roommate one little bit. My roommate would constantly come in at two or three in the morning or sometimes not come home at all some nights. Like one time she took a shower at two in the morning and our host mom was furious, but my roommate just yelled at my host mom saying she should be allowed to determine her own schedule, blah blah blah. By the way, my roommate was the oldest student on the trip at 25, I was 20. She acted incredibly immature. She kept her side of our room a mess and then when she misplaced something, she would yell about our host mom stealing her stuff until she found it and realized she was the one who lost it.

My roommate and my host mom got into screaming matches daily by the end of the trip. I just kept my mouth shut. My host mom told me on many occasions that my roommate was the worst student she has ever had and she had been doing this for a little less than a decade. She would say she acted like a child; that her eight-year-old grandchild acted more mature than her. Mostly, I had to agree.

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25. Grandpa's A Little Too Nice

I'm from the US and went to study abroad in Chile back in 2011. I had a great host mom. My friend's host family was also great too, however, stuff started getting weird toward the last month of my stay. Her host family was an older couple (not married). Probably late 60s early 70s. Both were widows and I don't know why they didn't remarry. Anyway... the grandpa started being really affectionate with me. At first, I thought it was just the Chilean culture, as people show affection differently. He'd give me multiple kisses on the cheek and comment on how I had the body of a ballerina. I didn't really think much of it. One night I slept over at my friend's host family's house. I wake up in the middle of the night because I had to pee. As I am walking to the bathroom (which was right outside the bedroom door), the host grandpa is up for whatever reason. He's like, standing in the doorway of his bedroom whispering my name while walking towards me. I told him I just needed to go to the bathroom. He starts kissing me on each cheek and then starts to basically make out with me using his tongue and all while rubbing my body and almost getting down to my butt. I pulled away and was like, "I just want to go to sleep!" He finally was like, "Oh okay." So I go back to bed and I get up the next morning and told my friend everything that happened. She felt so bad because she said she heard something in the middle of the night but didn't really make much of it. I told her it wasn't her fault anyway. I was really shaken up about the whole thing though and went back to my host mom's house and told her everything that happened. It made her SO angry this happened to me that this man essentially violated me. We contacted the university I was studying at and my friend wound up moving out of that house and my host mom took her in to stay with us for the remainder of our study. A couple weeks later, we met up at a cafe with just the original host mom of my friend. She was always a super nice older lady and I never had a problem with her. My friend and I explained everything. I later found out she separated from the grandpa due to this. Overall, studying abroad was AMAZING other than that.


24. Learning Indonesian Medical Vocabulary

One month into my stay in Indonesia, I got dengue fever, and then three months after that, I survived a near-fatal (accidental) poisoning and was medically evacuated with brain damage.

As an aside, I still totally recommend exchange student years, and as a bonus, my Indonesian medical vocabulary is much better than anyone (non-Indonesians) that I know.


23. Having A Party Before She Passes Away

I studied abroad in Central America, as have a few others in this thread. It's worth noting that culturally, people generally tend to live with their parents until they're married, so there is a level of independence young adults from the US are accustomed to that can come across as strange in this part of the world.

So I was sleeping with the neighbor. The host mom really wanted us to be in love. We weren't. She would tell the whole goddamn neighborhood that I snuck in early from his place most mornings. It got to the point that neighbors I'd never interacted with were nudging me and winking any time his name came up.

One time, said-neighbor and I left for the afternoon because my host mom had a meltdown—her son's wife snubbed her (don't remember what happened exactly, it was stupid though). I came back to find her sobbing in the corner of the living room with various and assorted family members sitting around looking bored/exasperated. Apparently, she had called them all one by one to say goodbye because she was planning on ending her life on some of her medication. Her niece asked if they could hide her huge drawer of various and assorted medication in my room. Then she asked if I was sleeping with the neighbor.  After having a full-blown Catholic guilt sermon in the living room, they went out and bought a metric ton of drinks and got inebriated.


22. Religious Differences And A Pony Accident

Not really a nightmare, but when I was in Germany, I did not expect the whole family to hold hands and start praying before dinner. The grandma gave me the stink eye until I held their hands too, and I didn't even know the lyrics. I just stood there wondering what was going on. Then I fell off a pony because they had me ride it without any saddle and I fell on some rocks.


21. Extra Protein

I studied in Argentina for a year and lived with a host mother. This woman was very kind, but was nearing 70 and had poor hearing and sight. Also, there was an ant infestation in the kitchen that eventually spread to my bedroom as well.

Long story short, for several months I had to pick through all my food to remove ants and I woke up several times with ants crawling on me. This is terrible for anyone, but I hate bugs above all things so it was a bit of... an ordeal. Finally, after months of constant pestering, I got the point across to my host mother that I was going to move to another host family if the ant situation wasn't resolved. Again, this lady was nice, but she was old and not really proactive. She did finally realize there was a problem and let me put ant traps and ant poison all over the place.


20. Misunderstandings in the Hostel

I didn't live with a family, but I was supposed to study in Germany for a year. I stayed for one month.

I almost didn't get onto the plane because I didn't have a visa yet, as I'd been informed incorrectly by my counsellors. I ended up getting a horribly overpriced refundable ticket to show I had a "return ticket" without the visa to stay longer. Anyway...

I showed up in Bielefeld, Germany (don't let anyone tell you it doesn't exist—it does, and it blows). I called the flat owner/manager who told me that the room I'd confirmed with her months prior wasn't actually booked. Neat. So I stayed in a hostel that was full but had converted its gym to a sleeping area with lots of cots, but with no locks or lockers for my belongings. They had a really neat indoor koi pond though.

I managed to find a grocery store and some food to eat after nearly 48 hours of hardly anything and no promise I'd have a place to live. Eventually, the flat manager got it sorted out, but I was required to pay a much larger deposit than I was prepared for with the limited amount of cash I had on me at the time. Still, it was a place to sleep and get settled.

A Polish girl living in the same flat helped me locate the city train, and a random Greek stranger taught me how to use it to get to the university. Between both of us fumbling through what little German we could use, it worked somehow and I got to orientation. I was informed that my German education coordinators for my program were on holiday for the next week or two. I had no access to my rent/food/education stipend and at that point, I had about 40 euro to last me until my coordinators showed up, or my family could wire me money to the bank account I was to set up.

While at the bank setting up an account—it was in 2008—I was informed that the world suddenly had a lot of financial problems. My money took longer to transfer to the account than it should have, and I was getting really desperate for some help.

I've never been so debilitatingly depressed in my life. I had to decide whether to spend the money on food or spend the money on train tickets to get to classes they wouldn't even let me enroll in since the coordinators weren't there to provide me with my stipend.

Many people told me to stick it out, that it was just culture shock that I was depressed, and that it would get better. While I wish I would have been able to stay for a year, it would've been much easier under better circumstances. I'd like to go back as an adult and experience any part of Germany that isn't Bielefeld.

I stole cookies to eat from the other flatmates that I rarely ever saw the same time I was home. I apologize to any of you if you were needing those cookies. I really needed them.


19. Walking Into A Horror Movie

I was a foreign exchange student in France during high school my senior year. My host family had four kids aged nine, thirteen, fourteen, and sixteen (or close to that). They also hosted another exchange student at the same time from South America who was seventeen.

I didn't mind all the younger kids. They were fun to play with and I "helped" them write for their English classes. However, my host dad worked in another country bordering France as was only around every other weekend which left my host mom to take care of six kids all the time.

We lived in a small village and it was a good 25-minute drive into the larger town we went to school in so we were very isolated on nights and weekends.

My host mom got pretty stressed out after a few weeks, but I could tell it was really important to her that people see she was capable of handling it. At home she didn't hide her frustrations at all, she would get pretty red in the face and upset at her younger kids and yell.

About a month in, I was brushing my teeth in the morning and I hear my 13-year-old host brother yelling. The seventeen year old student and I ran out of the bathroom and saw my host mom putting him in a cop-lock and pushing him up against the wall as he screamed and cried. It's something that's well ingrained in my memory. She wasn't even phased when she noticed we were watching with our jaws on the floor.

After we got to school, the seventeen year old student and I were talking about what to do about it. I told him I'd ask my French friends if physical punishment is normal. After asking around, I got a lot of heck-no's and decided I needed to talk to the regional leader of the exchange student organization.

The leader was a cruel lady and everyone seemed to think so (my host dad included). She was an older woman in change temporarily for the year while the younger lady who usually ran it was working abroad. I called her and told her what I saw and that my host brother and I were pretty scared and didn't feel comfortable. She told me that it was just part of French culture, I said that's not what my French friends said, she said they were wrong. She told me that my student friend and I needed to be culturally understanding and that we were having a hard time adapting. She said we needed to be more grateful that we had a nice family with kids and left it at that.

After I'd made the phone call, I noticed my host mom had been acting very coldly towards my student friend and me. She didn't get mad at us and yell or ignore us completely but she wasn't interacting with us like normal. This just made us feel more uncomfortable, and I had my suspicions that the wicked-hearted regional leader had told my host mom about the call.

About a week later on a Friday night, I could tell my host mom was acting very strange, she seemed really stressed out, frustrated and disconnected. That night for dinner was rice with tomato sauce (usually she made great food) and she told us we weren't eating at the table and we could feed ourselves. I saw her sit down with a bowl and I noticed she grimaced with pain. I was eating in another room when I heard her scream louder than I'd ever before and my 13-year-old host brother ran past me yelling in fear. My host mom walked into the room and her face was beet-red, she was filled with rage. She looked at me briefly, said nothing and went upstairs to where my host brother was hiding. My host brother ran back downstairs with my host mom close behind holding a cordless phone. Eventually, she got a hold of him and took him outside into the garage. Soon after he came back inside crying. Three hours or so later, my host dad was home even though he wasn't supposed to come home that weekend. He said his son had called him and everything was fine. He told us our host mom had severe back pain sometimes and had to take heavy medication for it. I have no clue why it never occurred to them we might want to know that.

I called the regional leader back and told her my student friend and I were scared and we wanted out. She said before they start looking for new host families she would meet with us and our host parents to talk it over and clear things up.

The meeting was just a few days after the garage incident. All of my host siblings, my student friend, my host parents, and the leader were there. I was asked to explain why I was uncomfortable, so I told it all as I knew it and insisted it wasn't normal in France. My host mom knew I was right, and she started crying pretty hard. It was the most uncomfortable two-hours of my life, but it was decided we'd be leaving after there were new host families for us.

Just two days later the student friend told me we needed to talk, one of his friends' families had decided to host him for the rest of the year. He said he'd be leaving Friday and he was really sorry to leave me there.

I was there for two long and lonely weeks before I finally found a classmate who was eager to host me temporarily until I found a family for the rest of the year.

Afterward, I found a new host family that was just amazing, I still go see my host brother from that family every year and we have plans to travel together long-term after we're done with college.


18. "It's Not Mine, It's That German Kid's"

My family hosted a boy from Berlin while I was away at college.

My parents didn't appreciate the fact that he expected to be allowed to have complete independence, or finding a smoke in his (my) room, so he ended up finishing up the exchange program living with another family.

It was kind of nice because if my parents ever found anything "bad" in my room, I could just pretend it wasn't mine and say "maybe the exchange student left it here by accident."


17. Hungarian Child Prison

My Hungarian friend is a foreign exchange student and his host family is really mean. They make him do chores and clean the bathroom and babysit their kids. He hates it so much that he spends all his time at friends' houses (he slept over at mine for a couple weeks).


16. Teaching A Foreign Teenager Chores

Maybe babysitting the kids is a bit much, but chores are just part of being a member of the home.

My parents currently have an exchange student who has never had to do chores in his life. My mom had to teach him to wash dishes and do basic things like making grilled cheese. (He is 16.) He has to do chores while he's there because that's how my parents roll... and when I was there over Christmas, he was whining about it left and right. These people have you in their home, feed you, bring you to school, take you on trips... and you're going to be a pain like that? (Please note that my parents get no compensation for having him there.)

My mom said that it's pretty frustrating, but as a host parent, part of her job is to make sure that the student leaves with a better sense of the world and an ability to take on more responsibility than they were able to before. Doing chores is part of that. ("Chores" means stuff like doing dishes and sweeping the floor... nothing I wasn't doing at age 10.)


15. Life With Nine Roommates Was Actually Not Too Bad

I lived a year with a family with six kids in England. We had some problems with adjusting at first, as my room was tiny and living with nine people is just messy sometimes. At first, it was horrible but then I realized that I was just a spoiled kid and started to adjust. In the end, we all got along pretty well and I'm glad I didn't change the family.


14. Inexperienced Hosts Trying Their Absolute Best

I'm currently living with an older Moldovan couple who fluctuate between offering to help me find a husband and hating my existence. Here are some highlights:

The lamp in my room burned out. I told host Tata and he promised to get a new lightbulb. For some reason, he rewired the lamp and it started smoking when I turned it on.

Host Mama regularly tells me that I need to find a husband so I can be intimate and be happy.

I like pizza so host Mama tries her best to make me some but it's usually a really thick bread with Russian ketchup and goat cheese with toppings that have included hot dog, goose, pickled tomatoes, and beets. Thank you for your effort, Mama Gazda.

Host Tata asked to borrow my fire extinguisher, he's kept it in his car for five months. I have no idea why.

Recently they gave me a half-used bottle of Gloria Vanderbilt perfume for a gift.

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13. Crazed Philadelphia Christian Woman

When I was 16 I lived in the USA for a year in Philadelphia. When my host family asked what my religion was (because they wanted to know where they should drop me on Sunday) little innocent European me told them that I was atheist but that I didn't mind going with them to their church to see how it is.

The mother went insane at me I thought she was going to throw me out shouting about how I'll rot down under and all, but instead, she decided to make me go to Sunday school. I bailed out and got a new host family, best people in the world!

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12. Prepare Before Visiting Peru

I'm currently in Peru and have been for six weeks now. I'm taking Spanish as well as volunteering in an orphanage for 12 weeks in total. My program is terrible and leaves a lot to be desired.

When I arrived, nobody was at the airport to pick me up. My cell phone didn't work so I had no way to call my host family or the program coordinator. After about 20 minutes of me looking lost and crying in the Cusco airport, a flight attendant offered to help me and called my host family, who came and picked me up. Apparently, they had the wrong flight information for me.

The family expects me to be home when I'm not working or at school but they never are. The mom will show up fifteen minutes before I need to leave for my classes, plop a plate of food in front of me, then watch TV in her bedroom. They also don't refrigerate anything except some dairy products, which is why I think I've been constantly sick for the past month and a half.

About a week in, I was listening to my host mom tell a friend of hers about all the problematic students they've hosted over the years. She didn't say anything about me (thank god) but she did mention a student who assumed he could do laundry at their house. I, naively, had assumed the same. The next day I asked where/how I should do my laundry. My host mom just told me to ask someone at the school for recommendations.

My program sent me information about my host family (names, ages, address) only five days before I flew out. They also said the house had hot water and internet. This happens to be a lie, for the most part. There is hot water from about eight a.m. to five p.m. From five p.m. until seven p.m., there is only cold water. After that, there is no water, at all. The family has an "internet stick" which they plug into their laptop. They do not let me use it, not even on my first day when I wanted to let my family know I arrived safely. The program I came through, United Planet, seems to have overcharged me and done very little once I am here. The coordinator is rarely available, things are scheduled and canceled at the last minute, and there seems to be a big lack of communication within the administration system.

All that being said, I love the work I do here with the children. I'm glad I came.


11. "I Don't Believe In Toilet Paper"

Not a foreign exchange student, but we had a Saudi student assigned to our apartment (university-owned). He had never been out of Saudi Arabia before in his life. He was Halal, we tried to be accommodating at first, but that didn't last long. He expected us to live halal as well, no drinks in the apartment, no pork products and no women he didn't approve of. He also wanted the heat cranked all the way up, he couldn't stand the cold (it was winter in a northern state). He also stated that he was horrified how free women were here and we shouldn't let them drive.

Anyway, after about a week the three of us were completely fed up with this guy, so we just started doing things just to tick him off. We started finding any excuse to cook up bacon and get inebriated. We also disabled the thermostat with a small piece of electrical tape so he could move the little lever but it wouldn't do anything.

Also, apparently toilet paper isn't halal and he was annoyed that we didn't have bidets in this country. So he bought a large pack of water bottles to squirt up his butt. So the bathroom was always wet and half empty water bottles everywhere.

Fortunately, his program only lasted a quarter, so we only had to put up with for 3 months. But he hated us and Americans by the time he left.

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10. Host Mom Shares Too Many Secrets

I was good friends with a Korean exchange student who was living near me in Australia. The host mother was pregnant and my friend had heard from her that it wasn't her husband's child. The husband had found a rubber wrapper on the couch and the wife blamed the Korean boy when it was likely the wife as she was having an affair. We were 15 at the time and I was no longer allowed to come around as they were a very Christian family and would not have children being intimate in their home... They were also very horrible to him, but he wouldn't speak up. I ended up talking to our school and they arranged through the agency to find him a new home.


9. Arriving At The Worst Possible Time

I arrived to my host country to the news that the host family I was assigned to just a week before arrival was no longer available (I presume someone died/they got divorced).

So I got placed with my new family who only had one rule: no one was allowed out of the house after dark. At that time of the year, "dark" was eight p.m.

I stayed for 12 long days (and nights) until I moved out with someone else on my program with host family issues. My new friend's host father had a terminal disease and she only found out the day she moved in! That host family didn't want to change anything in their routine and thought it was 100% fine to bring a student into this sensitive time in their lives.


8. Kicked Out In Week One

I was a foreign exchange student in Japan and another student was kicked out of their host house in the first week for coming home an hour late.

Another student's host mom was a serious troublemaker and smashed their TV one morning.


7. One Of Us

I was a foreign exchange student, living in the US. The first family I was "placed" in, and I use that term loosely, were Mormons with little to no source of income.

I was forced to attend their three-hour long services, my host mother would cry and shame me if I tried to stay home. This later included one-on-one "cleansing" lessons with the churches Elders.

They lived half an hour out of town, and I had to take the bus an hour and a half each way to school every day.

I was not allowed to be in a car with anyone under 25. They would not even drive me into town without me paying for gas. I had to pay to go to school because I missed the bus and couldn't stand the thought of being stuck there all day.

The only meal they provided me with was dinner. Breakfast and lunch was cafeteria food, and I had to buy anything else myself.

I played football, which obviously had practice, so I had to catch a special late-bus that didn't quite take me all the way home. It was about a seven-minute drive away from "home". They wouldn't pick me up for this, and so every day I had to shamelessly beg other people who lived where I did for a ride home. Someday's there were none, and I had to walk the few miles. In the dark. In an area known for mountain lions and occasionally bears.

One of their daughters returned home to visit, and I was forced out of my room. Everything I owned and had with me was taken. I was forced to live out of a cupboard and sleep on the couch for two weeks.

My host mother worked for the exchange company that placed me and got $600 a pop for each student she hosted.

I moved about fives months into my year-long stay, and my second host-family treated me like one of their own, and I had the most positive and enjoyable exchange experience I could have hoped for. I love them like my second family and have visited them again already and have plans to do so in the future.


6. Rooming With The Devil's Cat

I was an exchange student in the US. We had two cats and one dog. One of the cats hated me. It had a habit of peeing in my bed, sneaking into my room when I wasn't looking. I had to always keep my door shut. One day that demon spawn of a cat snuck in while I was grabbing a pop—I left the door open for 90 seconds tops. It hid under the bed while I was having my drink and browsing on my laptop. When I left I made sure to close the door behind unknowingly trapping the cat inside. I came back two hours later, opened the door and that wretched cat just darted out.

What had little Gilbert left me you might ask? Well, not only had he covered the entire bed in pee, but he had also taken a sizeable poop on it as well. When I started cleaning and taking care of the mess, my host mom freaked and blamed me for not closing the door.

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5. The Flu Can Be Treated With... Magnets

My host dad was super into homeopathy and had a home business of using magnets to heal ailments. When I got the flu, he had me lie down on his table and then he jiggled my feet for an hour while listing every single body part I have. Every so often, he would pause and then place a magnet on me. Afterward, he told me that he talked to my body and my body told him I need more B6 vitamins. It did not heal my flu.


4. Exchange Students Triggering Nausea

I know this is odd, but it's very true. When I was pregnant with my daughter, we hosted an exchange student from Japan and did many things with the group of girls she arrived with (it was a short-term gig, about three weeks). Because it was very early in my first trimester, I was very ill in the morning most days, which happened to coincide with the time I would have to drive her to the activities the group was doing, but I'd drag myself out and do it. She had a good trip, and we enjoyed her visit, except for the several weeks after that: every time I'd see someone Asian, it would trigger my nausea. That wore off over time, thank goodness.

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3. A True Nightmare

God, where to start. I've done both. I was an exchange student when I was 16, I graduated from high school early so my family and I agreed an exchange would be a good way to get more life experience and mature before starting university. WELL... in the time I was away in France, I lived with divorcing host parents and witnessed an actual physical fight between them that scared me so much I locked myself in my bathroom. I developed bulimia and extremely unhealthy body image issues to cope with the stress of exchange life, which was only compounded by the comments of my second host mum who constantly told everyone she could about how much I ate and how I loved to snack between meals. My local coordinator demonised me and made REPEATED comments about me being her 'difficult student' and that I was the one she worried was going to get pregnant (this becomes important later, but is soooo out of line, I'm basically a nun with boys, back then I wouldn't even kiss a boy, let alone do anything that would end with me getting knocked up!!!). But the kicker, the worst, and the reason my exchange is the one thing that I would change if I was allowed to turn back time just once, was one of my classmates. He was a manipulative, psychopath who recognized just how vulnerable I was with no close friends, no parents, no trusted adults, and he used it to make me reliant on him, and he manipulated and abused me for months. 3 years later and I'm only beginning to unravel all of it and realize just how deep my scars are.

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2. Out On The Street

When I was thirteen I studied for a year abroad in Europe; this wasn't with a program or anything (my parents find that too protected and not immersive enough). Instead I'd stay with friends of friends or some remote work colleague. My time in Denmark and France were amazing, but when it came to studying in Spain I didn't have the same luck. I got paired with a family that seemed fine - until I came home from school after the second day (Monday) and found all my bags packed and on the front door step for me. No note, no explanation, just a wooden cross laying across my suitcase. Later I found out they'd kicked me out for sleeping through mass on Sunday. Had no idea I was ever expected to attend, nor was I ever asked if I was even religious (I'm not...).

The story goes on. After this incident I wound up staying with the principal of the school I was attending. She had a 3 year old son, Kenny, who would NOT eat anything but frosted flakes. This is not an exaggeration. A few weeks into my stay Kenny also, inexplicably, began to speak in some foreign language. When we asked him what he was saying he just responded with an enthusiastic, "swahili!" The mom, Gabriella, had no idea how her son seemed able to speak pretty comprehensive Swahili, with which he had had no exposure (to her knowledge). About a year after I left Spain I got an email from her with the heading: EUREKA!! Apparently the housekeeper who had worked in her house until Kenny was three was from Tanzania, and only spoke Swahili to him while she worked. Gabriella never bothered to inquire when she hired the woman. Kenny, from the age of three, spoke better Swahili than English or Spanish. Some parents....

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1. You Get What You Pay For

Came to the US from Germany as a high school student and for the first few weeks, it was awful. Dirty and awful, to be exact.

Now this was sponsored by a partnership program, so I got the chance to do something my then unemployed single mom would never have been able to pay for. This was MY chance of a lifetime, right? And I was already the first in the family to attend grammar school in Germany (Gymnasium, its called here), and the only one of all my friends back home to achieve that. All I ever got as presents was books, and one singular language-trip to South England once. So I was poor. I applied for a full year as exchange student with a letter written in English, by myself. And wouldn't you know it, I won one of only three full year scolarships.

So, no pressure, right? Right ...

First host family (your read that right, "first") was friendly but - well - incredibly messy. I mean, to the extreme. There was not a single clean spot in the entire house. And by house I mean a very small house that somehow still had two stories. So no extra room for me. I had to stay with the two sons of the family in their room. Again, all of them were extremely friendly and forthcoming, but my god that house was dirty.

The moment it hit me that I wouldn't be able to stand it was when I wanted to shower and change into fresh clothes, about an hour after I had arrived. The bathtub - standard white - had different shades of brown ALL over it. The curtain was a mix of blue and yellow and brown, with blue being its original color still visible at the seams. I did not dare touch anything, it was that disgusting.

Now the funny thing is that back home, I used to be the messy one in the family. But this right here was way out of my league. The floor of the bathroom, full of dog hair and stains of all kind. Every corner of the house - and I mean that quite literally - had dirt in it. I'm not kidding. Everything was basically either somewhat lightish-brown (middle of stairs, door handles, middle of tables), but black all around due to massive amounts of dirt and filth, all of which was quite sticky, too.

It was then it dawned on me that my partnership program was a program entirely run by well-meaning amateurs. They had never bothered to check out the host families.

So what did I do? They had not given me any telephone number, nothing. So after not showering, I went back downstairs to talk to the entire family, including grandpa and grandma that had come over to see the German, and ask them for the number of my partnership organization. Turns out there was no official number, but only one woman that was generally regarded as kind of the organizer. She had a German sounding name too, so let's call her Fräulein Schneider.

So without telling my host family why, I went back up with the number and phone in hand and called Fräulein Schneider. To no one's surprise but mine, the Fräulein wasn't to be reached at that moment. Next I called my mother at home - I am in tears at this point, and quite audible sobbing onto my extra bed upstairs. But my mother couldn't afford to do anything, and she couldn't get in touch with the organization either. I ended up stuck there for the whole year.

So there you have it.

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