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What is it like to be a Host Family?

Every year, the Lipscomb Academy Homestay Program provides global students and host families with an experience they’ll never forget. 

The Homestay program gives international students an opportunity to come to Lipscomb Academy and experience life in Nashville for a semester, or a shorter amount of time depending on the student’s preference. Lipscomb families can apply to host global students and welcome them into their home as a temporary family member. 

Some students find the transition easy while it takes others a little longer to get used to the new environment. In senior Caroline Jackson’s case, she was able to adapt pretty quickly to having a new student live with her and her family. Jackson’s family hosted Natalia Davidson, a sophomore from Guatemala, last year. Jackson describes Davidson as “another little sister” and says that she was very adaptable to their lives. 

“To convince other students, I would say it really helps open up your worldview, and you get to have another sibling in your house, which is really fun,” Jackson said. “I would really encourage you to do it because it’s a blast.”

Davidson said that the Homestay Program expanded her view of the world. 

“My favorite part is that I got to meet a lot of new people and to see other parts of the world,” Davidson said. “Not everything is the same, and [in Nashville], people have different mindsets and they are all very welcoming.”

According to Jackson and Davidson, the memories that come from the Homestay program are unforgettable. Jackson says that her favorite memory of hosting Davidson was taking her downtown and laughing together, while Davidson said her favorite memory was screaming songs on the way to Chattanooga on a road trip. Jackson describes being a host family as a very meaningful experience, and a choice that could really alter the way we see the world.

Despite the great reviews, it can still be difficult to find host families. Elizabeth Williams, director of global learning, says that one of the biggest reasons for the increased need for more host families is the increase in the number of global students coming for short periods of time throughout the year. This is not a negative thing, as the program is drawing more global students to Lipscomb Academy, according to Williams.

In order to make this process possible, Williams says that she has to go to conferences, do screenings beforehand, visit the applicant’s houses, and more. According to Williamsm, the steps in the process of approving host families are as follows:

  • Step one is getting a potential host family to apply or have a meeting in order to get to know the family.
  • Step two is visiting the homes of the families.
  • Step three is doing a fingerprint background check on the adults in the family.
  • Step four is getting the family to complete a waiver. 

Williams also says that to find global students, Lipscomb has partnerships with several exchange organizations, such as Faces in Our Cultures, in order to go to international student recruiting conferences and meet with agents of international students.