Navigating religious differences and expectations

Religion plays many important roles all over the world. Our exchange students come from over 15 different countries where religion is viewed and practiced in many different ways. For some students, religion may provide a moral framework on how to live their life, while for others it may not be as important.

Church and daily life

Church plays a very important social role in American society. In addition to observing religion, it is also considered a family activity and a chance to connect with a larger community. Many Americans consider church and religion an important part of their daily life.


However, religious practices look quite different in other parts of the world. In other countries, church life may not be considered a hub of community activity, like it is in the US, and many don’t attend services regularly. For example, people may identify as Christian even if they don’t observe or practice regularly, just because that religion is the most predominant in their country. While religion may not be a part of their daily life, it is common for families to attend services on holidays and special occasions.


These characteristics might make it hard for host families and students of the same faith to understand how their shared religion is represented so differently in each of their countries.

How EF educates students

Before students leave for their exchange, EF educates them on the importance of religion in American culture. We recommend students attend church services or activities a few times to see what the experience is like. This includes attending youth groups to make friends in the area. Families should not force their religious beliefs or practices on their student. Students cannot be forced to go to church, nor can they be made to feel badly for not attending.


Like every aspect of the cultural exchange experience, we encourage everyone to be respectful, curious and understanding about each other's experience and point of view.

Find the right exchange student for your family

Does your family have any hobbies or interests that you'd like to share with an exchange student? Are you looking to learn more about a particular region of the world? Consider some of these topics and start browsing student profiles today.

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© EF Education First 2011-2021. EF High School Exchange Year is operated by EF Educational Foundation for Foreign Study, a non-profit corporation designated by the U.S. Department of State to operate a J-1 student exchange program. Note: Featured photo/videos do not include prospective students, and are representative of program participants.