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Breaking misconceptions about hosting exchange students...
Learn about IRIS's YES Program!

Common Misconceptions about Hosting

It will be difficult hosting a student who does not share our religion.

Hosting a student from a different religion is a fulfilling experience and a great opportunity to learn more about a religion which differs from your own. In fact, we encourage families to host a YES student with a different religious background, because it opens up opportunities to dialogue about religious differences, learn about the similarities between religions, and gain a new perspective and tolerance for those who are different than you. It also allows your YES student to learn all of these qualities, too – an important and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for most of our students.


Learning about another set of beliefs is a great way to help spread IRIS’ mission to promote international understanding, development, and peace by connecting Iowa to individuals and communities worldwide.

I need to be married to host an exchange student.

You do not need to be married to host a YES student! Here at IRIS, we have had an array of individuals host a YES student. It does not matter if you are single, a single parent, or married. The hosting experience is equally enriching for all.

Hosting an exchange student is expensive!

Actually, hosting one of our YES students is very inexpensive. IRIS accommodates all of the YES students’ travel expenditures to and from the United States.


IRIS provides the YES students with small monthly stipends to use as pocket money. Each family also receives up to $300 to help defray the cost of school registration and other school related items.


All of our YES students have health insurance and emergency dental insurance, so you do not need to worry if your YES student needs to make a visit to the doctor.


Host families are expected to provide the basic necessities for a student to live in a happy, welcoming environment. Beyond that, the hosting experience is only as expensive as you want to make it. If you want to take your YES student on an adventure to the Grand Canyon, this will obviously become an additional expense. However, hosting a YES student is far from expensive.

I need to have kids in order to host a YES student.

Despite popular belief, you do not need to have children to be able to host a YES student with IRIS. In fact, hosting a YES student is a great snapshot into what life with kids will be like, or an opportunity to re-live the excitement of having a high school student in the home.


Often, potential host families get deterred from hosting a YES student if they have younger children. Some families think that it is best if their children are around the same age as our YES students, so they can get along. However, there are no rules or expectations that you need to have a student in high school to host a YES student.


Even if you have younger children, hosting an international high school student is a great experience to expose your children to another culture. Hosting a YES student exposes you and your family to tremendous amounts of diversity. This is a great opportunity for youngsters to learn about a different part of the world.

It will be too hard to communicate with an exchange student!

At IRIS, we take pride in our scholarship-winning, English-speaking YES students. Often, families are hesitant to host international students from predominantly non-English speaking countries. However, all of our YES students are fluent in English!


Here is another interesting fact that you might not know about hosting a Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) student: hosting a YES student is a beneficial experience for everyone!


Our YES students come from all over the world, which makes the hosting experience an amazing chance to learn about a different part of our shared globe. Hosting a YES student is a life-changing experience for the whole family.


Iris is excited to start answering any questions that you might have. If you would like to find out more about any of our programs, call us at (515) 292-7103.

Send Us Your Questions!

YES Program

Will the students speak English?

Yes. The Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) students have taken various examinations that assess their spoken and written English skills.


During the selection process, students write a proctored in-class essay and take an English proficiency test. Only those whose scores demonstrate they have a good understanding of the English language advance to the next level of the competition. After students have been selected, they also undergo intensive English lessons in their country to better prepare them for their experience in the U.S.

How old are the students?

Students will range in age between 15 and 18 years old.

Which religion do the students practice?

The YES program provides scholarships to students from countries with significant Muslim populations. Although the majority of students are Muslims, there are also Christians, Hindus and Buddhists. This religious diversity helps teach the students about respect and appreciation for the religions in their home country. This also initiates a religious dialogue for Iowa families and schools.

Will the IRIS staff be in constant contact?

Yes. IRIS staff contacts host families and students a minimum of two times per month. Schools are contacted once a month to provide support as needed. IRIS staff members are always available to help students, host families or schools in the case that something were to come up in the meantime. IRIS gathers students together two to three times each year for informational meetings and fun activities.

Will the students have health insurance?

Yes. Students are covered by State Department-approved insurance. This health insurance policy covers the participant’s medical expenses incurred while on the program, but does not cover pre-existing conditions and elective surgery expenses. The details of this coverage will be explained to you in detail by the IRIS staff.

Do the students receive financial assistance?

The U.S. State Department grant covers the cost of international travel, immunizations, orientations and other program activities for the students. The students also receive a monthly stipend throughout the year and an initial school start-up fund. There is no compensation that goes directly to the host families.

Host Program

How will hosting a KL-YES student benefit my family and me?

Hosting an international student benefits every family differently. However, all families get the opportunity to walk a student through American culture and teach them about the American work and study ethic, daily routines and pastimes.

Families also get a first-hand opportunity to learn about a new culture. This is an opportunity for Americans to learn about different cultures first-hand without having to fly to another country.

Our students are eager to teach your family about the part of their country and culture that isn’t shown through traditional media.

What would my responsibilities be as a host family?

Families provide room and board, along with helping with normal transportation and general parental supervision. More importantly, families welcome the students as one of their own, sharing in their experience and guiding them as needed.

What costs will our family incur by hosting a student?

Each family is provided with $300 to help cover some of the student’s general costs, including school registration fees, athletic gear for students in sports, clothes, etc.

Each student also receives a $125 stipend check each month to help cover personal costs and encourage them to get involved with friends and their community.

Health insurance is provided through the program. Extra costs a family might incur include an extra plate at the table, the cost to drive the student to activities and the addition of another person to the family.

Why should I host a student from IRIS instead of another organization?

IRIS is located in Iowa, serving Iowans and placing students with Iowa families. We believe keeping things local is a good thing. Iowa has much to offer each student and gives them a taste of America that many have never seen before. This also keeps the grant money within our state, promoting Iowa’s economy.

Because IRIS is centrally located in Ames, and has many regional coordinators throughout the state, no family is ever too far from an IRIS associate who can visit them at a moment’s notice.

Most importantly, IRIS works only with the YES program, which is funded and supported by the United States Department of State. This provides each of our students with a scholarship to participate in the exchange. Most other student exchange organizations are for-profit, meaning that, often times, only wealthy families and their students are eligible. With the YES program, many of our students would never have had the opportunity to travel or study in another city, let alone in the U.S.

Our students are provided this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity without being charged. By hosting a YES student through IRIS, you are providing our scholars a chance to change their lives and return home with Midwestern values.

Do I get to choose my student or does IRIS choose for me?

Each family gets to choose which student they would like to host! IRIS staff can also help narrow down your choices by providing you with specific things you might be looking for in your student (e.g. “boy, likes sports, comes from a big family”).

I think my family might be too busy to host this year. Should I wait until another year?

It’s our opinion that no family is too busy to host. We’ve had many successful professionals and busy families host students, and the students still had an amazing experience.

Busy families often provide students with a true taste of American life, giving the students more opportunities to get involved in school and their community. Most students quickly make friends that they will want to spend time with, and those friends can often help transport your student to different activities and events.


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