Have You Thought About Hosting an International Exchange Student?

ASSE Gluten-Free Exchange Student Pao

Contact [email protected] if you would like to welcome Pao into your home!

The ASSE Student Exchange Program is in need of host families who can accommodate gluten-free, food-sensitive or allergic students.

ASSE International Student Exchange Program connects host families with students seeking to study in over 30 countries around the world.

Learn more about becoming a host family.

Click here to listen to ‘A Canadian Celiac Podcast’s’ interview with Karen of ASSE!

Would you like your celiac or allergic child to spread their wings and experience the world, despite their food sensitivities?

Or are you a gluten-free or an allergen-aware household? You may have something very precious to offer international exchange students!

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This leads me to introducing Karen Joseph!

I ‘met’ Karen when she asked to join Celiac Parents and Parents of Celiacs.  She was hoping to solicit gluten-free families interested in hosting international students with celiac disease or other food sensitivities. Curious about her work as a Representative for ASSE Student Exchange, I invited her to share how she came to take on this role.

Karen practiced Medical Social Work, putting her Bachelor of Social Work to good use in advocating for others in that setting. As it happens, Karen’s husband is a primary care physician and a friend is a Nurse Practitioner at an Allergist’s office.

When she started a family, her son went on to develop multiple autoimmune diseases, including celiac disease and Type I Diabetes. Her subsequent children had  issues that also required support, including peanut allergies.  Her child-rearing years were very busy to say the least! Even so, Karen created a travel blog for families juggling with T1D, celiac and food allergies and her efforts have been featured in the prestigious Allergic Living Magazine.

As her children grew into teenagers, Karen began to see this stage in life with a new appreciation. With her son off to college, Karen put her focus on the needs of exchange students, particularly those who like her own children, had special dietary needs.

Through the lens of a social worker and a focus on food sensitivities, Karen carefully reviews an applicant’s health file when a student is identified to have a dietary limitation. She then gets to know the host families, their abilities to accommodate special placements and makes herself available to lend them any support they may need.

“Being matched to a student is only a beginning. I provide host family orientations, student orientations and multiple student enrichment outings throughout the school year and reach out to my students and families each month. It’s really fun!”

Karen is pleased to report that she has placed 6 students with celiac disease, with great success. Two households weren’t gluten free but were prepared to make accommodations. Two students also had T1D and celiac disease.

If you are interested in learning more about the ASSE Exchange Program, becoming a host family, or applying as a student, Karen would be happy to direct you! Contact her at [email protected]

Why Study Abroad?
“A year away can’t be measured in days alone. You’ll only be gone for a school year but the experience will enrich the rest of your life. Living in another country for a school year is something most people never have the opportunity to do. You’ll return with new knowledge, cultural understanding, maturity and lifelong friends from your host country. The hardest part will be leaving your ASSE host family. They will have shared in your adventure and learned from you as will you have from them.”

Why Host an Exchange Student?
“When you host a foreign exchange student, your entire family will discover a world of fun and enlightening adventure. Simply by sharing your home for as little as three months, a semester or a school year, you will be giving an exceptional young person from another country the opportunity of a lifetime—to live with your family and experience the language, customs and culture of our country. In return, your exchange student will bring to your family a bit of his or her homeland. Students come from Europe, Asia/Pacific, the Middle East, the Americas and Africa.”

As one of the oldest and largest international student exchange organizations, ASSE is able to offer the most comprehensive high school exchange programs with the lowest possible fees.

  • We offer the largest number of countries
  • You choose where you spend your exchange year
  • You are not required to know the language of your host country
  • Our fees are the lowest of any high school exchange program
  • Many scholarships are available
  • Minimum GPA 2.7
  • Semester, year and summer language programs offered


ASSE is committed to helping exceptional North American students with financial limitations study abroad for a high school year. A limited number of scholarships are available each year to students demonstrating academic excellence and financial need. Learn more …


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