International Student Services

Division of Student Services

Host Family Program - FAQs

FAQs for Host Families

What is the Reed College Host Family Program?

Who are the host students?

Why should I apply to be a host family?

What do host students/scholars and families do together?

What is expected of host families?

What is NOT expected of host families?

What is the application process?

How are families and students/scholars matched?

What if I have concerns or the host family relationship is not working out?

What is the Reed College Host Family Program?

  • Reed's Host Family Program is a non-residential friendship program.  It is a cooperative effort between the office of International Student Services and volunteers in the local community.  Our goal is to introduce international students and scholars to a local family who will befriend them, introduce them to the local community, support their student or scholar's experience at Reed, and enjoy the opportunity for cultural exchange.  
  • The term host family can be somewhat misleading. Reed's international students and language scholars live on campus and therefore there is no expectation that host families will provide room and board.
  • Host families provide a "home away from home" for students whose famlies are often very far away and often play an important part in helping international students adjust to Reed and the U.S.  The relationship begins when families and students and scholars communicate over the summer and coordinate welcoming their student or scholar to Portland by picking them up from the airport, bringing them to campus, and helping them settle into their residence halls.
  • The program is structured for students in their first year. Many families and students stay connected beyond the first year and throughout a student's time at Reed. However, there is no obligation for the host families after the first year.

Who are the host students?

  • Every fall Reed welcomes a large group of degree-seeking international students (who typically stay at Reed for four years), as well as several exchange students (who typically stay at Reed for a year), and eight language scholars (who stay at Reed for a year). Our students and scholars come from more than 40 countries from around the world. Some of them have experience of living in countries/regions other than that of their origin and they are familiar with multiple cultures. For some, coming to Reed is their first visit to the U.S., while others may have lived in the U.S. previous to coming to Reed.

Why should I apply to be a host family?

  • As a host family you will have the opportunity to interact with a student with an international background, and build a meaningful relationship throughout their time at Reed. You and your family will learn about your student or scholar's country, culture and language, and you can share Portland and American culture with them. Often students/scholars become integrated members of their host families, and it is not uncommon for them to continue their relationship after they graduate/leave Reed.

What do host students/scholars and families do together?

  • Host families and students/scholars establish and define a relationship that works for both sides. Many get together at least once per month. How individual host families and students/scholars spend their time varies, but some of the most common activities are:
    • Dinner at host family’s house/off-campus.
    • Holiday celebrations such as pumpkin carving for Halloween, Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas activities and celebrations.
    • Visiting attractions in the Portland area, such as attending a sports event or going to the theater together.
    • In addition, International Student Services organizes three on-campus events throughout the year to bring students and scholars and their host families together. In the past we have had Bingo Night, International Trivia Night, and celebrations of Mardigras, Halloween, St. Patrick's Day and Valentine's Day.

What is expected of host families?

  • Host families communicate with students and scholars after match notification.
  • Host families typically pick up their student or scholar at airport, bring them to campus, and help them to get settled.
  • Host families are encouraged to attend the International Student Services sponsored host family events that are scheduled during International Orientation and once per semester.
  • Spend time with their student or scholar in person at least once monthly. 

What is NOT expected of host families?

  • Host families are not expected to spend a lot of money on their students or scholars. Host families may offer to pay for the costs of activities or meals off campus, but this is not an expectation.
  • Host families are not expected to provide housing for their students or scholars, or their families. Some may offer to do this if a student or scholar arrives early or needs a place to stay when the residence halls or closed or they are about to travel, but it is not an expectation to do so.
  • Host families are not expected to provide frequent transportation and serve as a “ride service”. Many host families are happy to help out with transportation, but this is not the purpose of the program, but a friendly and helpful gesture.

What is the application process?

  • Applications are accepted on a rolling basis beginning in February. Please download the application form from our main host family page, and return the completed form to Dana Lawson, Assistant Dean of Students for International Student Services, at iss@reed.edu. After we receive your application form, we will contact your reference who will fill out a reference form on your behalf. Once we have processed your application, we will notify you of your application status.

How are families and students/scholars matched?

  • When we know which host families and international students/ language scholars are participating in the program, we ask both the families and the students/ scholars to fill out a survey on their matching preferences. We consider preferences expressed from the both sides, and will match the families to students/ scholars accordingly.
  • Some preferences we take into account include geographic origins, languages spoken, and gender. We also take into account preferences regarding families with/without children or pets, smokers vs. non-smokers, religious affiliations, and anything else you'd like us to take into account.

What if I have concerns or the host family relationship is not working out?

  • If students, scholars, or host families ever have concerns about the relationship or it is just not working out, don’t hesitate to talk with the ISS staff. On occasion, there is not a connection established, but most of the time, students and scholars share that the host family relationship was a highlight of their Reed experience.

FAQs for International Students and Language Scholars

What is the Reed College Host Family Program?

Who are the host families?

Why should I apply to have a host family?

What will my host family and I do together?

What is expected of host families?

What is NOT expected of host families?

What is expected of students and scholars?

How do I sign up for a host family?

How are families and students/scholars matched?

What if I have concerns or the host family relationship is not working out?

What is the Reed College Host Family Program?

  • Reed's Host Family Program is a non-residential friendship program.  It is a cooperative effort between the office of International Student Services and volunteers in the local community.  Our goal is to introduce international students and scholars to a local family who will befriend them, introduce them to the local community, support their student or scholar's experience at Reed, and enjoy the opportunity for cultural exchange.  
  • The term host family can be somewhat misleading. Reed's international students and language scholars live on campus and therefore there is no expectation that host families will provide room and board.
  • Host families provide a "home away from home" for students whose famlies are often very far away and often play an important part in helping international students adjust to Reed and the U.S.  The relationship begins when families and students and scholars communicate over the summer and coordinate welcoming their student or scholar to Portland by picking them up from the airport, bringing them to campus, and helping them settle into their residence halls.
  • The program is structured for students in their first year. Many families and students stay connected beyond the first year and throughout a student's time at Reed. However, there is no obligation for the host families after the first year.

Who are the host families?

  • Host families range from large families with children, single parents, young couples, retirees and singles.  All host families are local volunteers interested in cultural exchange, and are all willing to dedicate their time and energy in building a friendly relationship throughout your stay at Reed. Many host families are Reed staff, faculty, or alumni, and others are families that live in the neighborhood around Reed or the winder Portland area. Host families have knowledge of Portland area and are excited to share the city with you.

Why should I apply to have a host family?

  • A host family can serve as a really valuable connection point, friend, and resource for you in your first year and often throughout your time at Reed.  Your host can help you with your transition into life in the U.S. by introducing you to a new city and culture.  Students and scholars often find that spending time with their host families off-campus is a great way to take a break from academic life at Reed, explore Portland, and have a home away from home.  It can be a huge help to have a local friend to help you navigate basic everyday questions and some of the challenges you may face in your transition.
  • Having a host family also provides a great opportunity for cultural exchange. Your host family will be interested in learning about your culture and background and it is a great way to share more about your life in your home country.
  • Students and scholars often share that having a host family is a highlight of their experience at Reed, and often host families and students/scholars continue their relationship after they have graduated/ left Reed.

What will my host family and I do together?

  • Host families and students establish and define a relationship that works for both sides. Many get together at least once per month. How individual host families and students/scholars spend their time varies, but some of the most common activities are:
    • Dinner at host family’s house/off-campus.
    • Holiday celebrations such as pumpkin carving for Halloween, Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas activities and celebrations.
    • Visiting attractions in the Portland area, such as attending a sports event or going to the theater together.
    • In addition, International Student Services organizes three on-campus events throughout the year to bring students and scholars and their host families together. In the past we have had Bingo Night, International Trivia Night, and celebrations of Mardi Gras, Halloween, St. Patrick's Day and Valentine's Day.

What is expected of host families?

  • Host families communicate with students and scholars after match notification.
  • Host families typically pick up their student or scholar at airport, bring them to campus, and help them to get settled.
  • Host families are encouraged to attend the International Student Services sponsored host family events that are scheduled during International Orientation and once per semester.
  • Spend time with their student or scholar in person at least once monthly.

What is NOT expected of host families?

  • Host families are not expected to spend a lot of money on their students or scholars. Host families may offer to pay for the costs of activities or meals off campus, but this is not an expectation.
  • Host families are not expected to provide housing for their students or scholars, or their families. Some may offer to do this if a student or scholar arrives early or needs a place to stay when the residence halls or closed or they are about to travel, but it is not an expectation to do so.
  • Host families are not expected to provide frequent transportation and serve as a “ride service”. Many host families are happy to help out with transportation, but this is not the purpose of the program, but a friendly and helpful gesture.

What is expected of students and scholars?

  • Students and scholars are expected to communicate with their host family. This includes returning phone calls, text messages, and emails.
  • Students and scholars should be mindful that host families are invested in the program and have dedicated time and energy to getting to know their student or scholar.
  • Students and scholars should keep in mind that this is a volunteer position and International Student Services does not reimburse families for expenses. Any expenses are fully on the family and it is appropriate for students and scholars to offer to pay and encouraged to always thank families for their generosity!
  • Students and scholars should not only contact their family when they "need" smething. Host families want to develop a relationship with students and scholars, not simply hear from them when they need a ride to the airport.
  • This is about creating a relationship! Students and scholars should take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to build a friendship with a local family and explore Portland with those who know the community.

How do I sign up for a host family?

  • Once you are accepted and enrolled at Reed, you will receive an orientation package in mid-May. The package will give you instructions on how to access an online system called IRIS, where you can fill out forms that are required before you come to Reed. You will be able to sign up for a host family on the system. The sign up form must be completed by June 15th.

How are families and students/scholars matched?

  • Once we know which host families and international students/ language scholars are participating in the program, we ask both the families and the students/ scholars to fill out a survey on their matching preferences. We consider preferences expressed from both sides, and will match the families to students/scholars accordingly.
  • Some preferences we take into account include geographic origins, languages spoken, and gender. We also take into account preferences regarding families with/without children or pets, smokers vs. non-smokers, religious affiliations, and anything else you'd like us to take into account.

What if I have concerns or the host family relationship is not working out?

  • If students, scholars, or host families ever have concerns about the relationship or it is just not working out, don’t hesitate to talk with the ISS staff. On occasion, there is not a connection established, but most of the time, students and scholars share that the host family relationship was a highlight of their Reed experience.