Keys to Make Your Foreign Exchange Student Feel Welcome

Keys to Make Your Foreign Exchange Student Feel Welcome

Being a host family is one of the most exciting things that you can do, and welcoming a foreign exchange student into your home is a chance for you and your family to become familiar with another culture and learn about another country. Many families report that the experience is life-changing and many hosts remain firm and lifelong friends with the student placed in their home. Although the experience can be a positive one for the host family, it should also be an enjoyable learning experience for the visiting student, and making them feel welcome is one of the most critical aspects of any host student program.

Your home may be very different from the one they left to come to the US as a foreign exchange student. Take the time to show your student where things are and how they work, such as the television, shower and kitchen appliances. Introduce them to the members of the household – including pets if you have any – although you should keep in mind that they are probably tired, anxious and perhaps jet-lagged. More in-depth introductions are perhaps best left until they have had a good night’s sleep, although the important thing is that when you tell them to make themselves at home, you really mean it.

Although you want your foreign exchange student to feel at home, it’s also important that they understand and respect any house rules. If you insist that shoes are left at the front door, or that meals are eaten together, those rules should apply to your student too. Remember that they want to be treated as a member of the family and may feel uncomfortable or embarrassed if rules don’t apply to them, or they are treated differently. You should expect your exchange student to carry out the same chores as your children are required to carry out.

Few things make a foreign exchange student feel instantly at home than having a meal cooked that they are used to, and preparing their favorite food or meal can be the ideal way of putting them at ease. And of course, as the host family, it’s also a wonderful opportunity for you to perhaps step out of your comfort zone and prepare and eat something that you normally wouldn’t eat. Most students are happy to help to prepare a meal, and this interaction can also help to make an anxious student feel more relaxed and at home.

The Internet has made it simple to keep in touch with home and to communicate, and the days when you would have to ask the operator to place an overseas call are long gone. It’s easy to find television programs and movies online from just about any country in the world, and of course, chatting via one of the photo chat applications is a wonderful way to make a homesick student suddenly feel better.

A word about religious differences, as it is easy to see why these might cause a problem. As a host family, your approach should be to respect their religion, even if it is very different from yours. Allowing them to attend a local temple or church of their choice is an obvious way to make someone feel at home.

Most foreign exchange students are only too happy to talk about where they are from, their traditions and culture, what they like to eat and what the differences are between the US and their home country. Ask to look at pictures of their parents, family or friends, or their home or school. If you don’t speak their language, it’s easy enough to communicate in sign language, and of course, your overseas student is only too happy to practice their English.

At the same time, keep in mind that one of the reasons they chose to stay with a host family is to experience as much as they can of life in the United States. The events and activities that you take for granted are probably new and exciting to them, such as watching the local baseball or football team, firing up the backyard grill, or enjoying an ice cream or a milkshake at your local hang out place. Even shopping for groceries or dropping the kids off at school can be exciting to a first time visitor to the United States.

Making your foreign exchange student feel welcome is one of the most important steps you can take as a host family, and can help to ensure a positive experience for all.

Gifts for Welcoming Your Foreign Exchange Student

There are several gifts you can give to a foreign exchange student. As a host family, you must be able to make the student feel welcomed — and part of the family as well. Whether for internships or international study programs, students will always feel excited and nervous about entering this new phase in their lives. For one, there is almost a language and communications barrier for most international students.

So how about a book or publication that helps these kids learn more about their new countries and traditions? While books may seem outdated, they are still the perfect resource for students that want to learn more about the countries they will be living and studying in. However, it is important to get books that are in their native languages –but with English translations as well.

Gift Ideas for Foreign Exchange Students

There are so many gift ideas available for foreign exchange travel students. In fact, you can check the Web for sites and blogs that offer many suggestions and options. From elegant and lavish flower arrangements to clothing and even wireless electronics — your choices as a host family is simply unlimited. However, since the student is here to learn and study –how about something he or she can use towards their education? Here are a few top ideas for gifts, as well as suggested ways to find the right items for exchange students:

  • Scientific calculators, educational books, resources, and materials that will help foreign exchange students in their new schools.
  • Gift cards for students to buy electronics, clothing, food, and anything he or she needs.
  • Ask the exchange student what they love the most? Computer games, video games, movies, clothes, footwear, wireless electronics, or other items might be what they are interested in.
  • You can also arrange a huge dinner at home — or at a local restaurant — to welcome the foreign exchange student to your home and country.

Sports is Universal

As a host family for foreign exchange students, you should know that many of these kids love sports. This includes basketball, football and especially soccer. In fact, the latter is the world’s most watched sport — and continues to soar in global popularity. If your student loves soccer — how about some tickets for a local game? From MLS to International Champions Cup, there are so many games being played across the nation. In fact, 2017 has been dubbed “The Year in Soccer” as fans and teams anxiously await the FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia.

You can simply ask your student if he or she loves soccer and take it from there. However, if they do not like soccer — you can always introduce them to popular sporting events in America. This includes baseball, football, basketball, ice hockey and much more. Nothing is greater than spending quality time with loved ones and friends at local or professional sporting events!

Ceramics and Accessories

Since foreign exchange students will probably have their own rooms, how about trimming up these areas with cool accessories and ceramics? In fact, you can visit any local gifts store for some great figurines, toys, ceramics, and artwork. It should be up to you and the student to see what kinds of hobbies he or she likes? For example, the student may love to cook appetizers and entrees. Therefore, how about some cool ceramics like chefs, chef hats, and things having to do with culinary themes? Similarly, the student may love science fiction or the latest comic book movie adaptations. With this in mind, you can buy him or her the latest comic book action figures, novel, or even tickets to movies and/or Comic-Con events in your area.

Gifts from their Countries

While most foreign exchange students want to learn about their new homes, it may take a while for some of them. After all, this is a new cultural experience and lifestyle change for exchange students. With this in mind, maybe you can purchase some gifts that they like and are aware of. For example: how about a sari or garment for students coming from India? Similarly, how about some clothing items for students visiting from Africa or other parts of the world?

You can also purchase these items for you and your family, which is a great way to show students that you want to learn more about their cultures and traditions as well.

With so many items available — as long it comes from the heart — that is all that matters. For more information on gifts for foreign exchange students, simply check our blog or the Web today.

Tips to Have A Great Host Family Experience

To study or work overseas is one of the most exciting and rewarding things there is in life. If you are an overseas student planning to study in the US, or an au pair looking for work, one of your priorities is probably to find just the right family. It is important to know how to find a host family that will be a perfect match – or as close to perfect as you can get, and the right family can go a long way towards making a memorable, pleasant and rewarding experience. Many host families and visiting students become firm friends and keep in touch over the years, and it isn’t uncommon for the host student to return the favor one day and put up the family who hosted them all those years ago.

However, if you are a host family about to welcome your first visiting overseas student, or an au pair to help out around the home, there are steps that you can and should take to ensure a positive experience all around. Although there are no particular requirements to be a host family, most families who host a foreign student tend to be close, have a sense of fun and adventure, love to travel and meet new people, and don’t mind having a complete stranger living with them for several weeks or months. Of course, you also have to have a home that is large enough to accommodate an overseas student in his or her own bedroom.

One of the most important things is to treat your overseas student or au pair as part of the family. Of course, your student is in the US to work or study, but they also want to feel welcome, and feel as though they are not intruding, or overstepping cultural boundaries. Many overseas students haven’t left their home country before and are understandably apprehensive about embracing a new culture and meeting a house full of new people. Doing everything you can to put your new guest at their ease and making them feel comfortable is just as important as providing them with a room, bed, and meals.

Treating your overseas student as part of the family also means that they should follow any household rules that apply to everyone else. If eating at the table is mandatory, and taking shoes off at the front door is enforced absolutely, it’s acceptable to make sure your visiting student follows these rules. In fact, they wouldn’t expect anything else, and certainly, don’t want any special treatment. Most students are as anxious to please their host as they are to keep up with their studies and do well at college. If the same rules apply to everyone in the house, your kids will generally cope with the experience better, and it allows you to maintain structure and treat everyone fairly.

However, you may have to strike a balance between enforcing the rules and making allowances of the language barrier, and any religious or cultural differences. Achieving this balance is not always easy, but can go a long way towards having a great host family experience, and making your student feel welcome, secure and accepted. As we all know, religious differences, in particular, can be a thorny subject, and anticipating any such issues is always recommended the more you understand about someone’s culture and beliefs, the easier it is to interact successfully with them.

Involving your host student in your daily activities can also help to ensure an unforgettable host family experience. Decorating the house for Christmas or Halloween, cheering the home team at a baseball game, or helping to cook burgers on the grill can all be fascinating to someone who hasn’t visited the United States before. However, involving your foreign exchange student in the simplest of activities can also help to create a great experience – cooking a meal, doing the weekly shopping, picking up the kids from school. Remember, what is routine to you may be new and exciting for them.

Whether your spare bedroom is going to be home to an au pair who is looking after your kids, or a student who lugs their books to the library each day, try to remember that they are part of the family – at least for as long as they are in your home. Remember that your student is probably homesick, nervous and overwhelmed when they first step into your hallway. And not only that – they probably can’t figure out how to work the shower either.

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Tips for a Host Family – Hosting Your First Foreign Exchange Student

So you’ve taken that leap of faith and decided to become a host family. And now you’re wondering what on earth you’ve gotten yourself into. If this sounds familiar, first of all, don’t panic. It is entirely normal to have some jitters about this new adventure… and the good news is that these jitters are no indication of just how amazing your experience is going to be with your foreign exchange student as a new part of your family.

Helpful Hints When Hosting an Exchange Student

1. Be upfront about expectations and house rules.

You may not think that you have a lot of strict rules in your home, but sit for a moment and think about anything that would disrupt your home life in any way. For most families, a curfew is a vital part of host family success. Be sure to go over house rules and expectations in interviews with students. This will help to ensure that there isn’t any unnecessary friction once they arrive at your door. It can also help you to make certain that you find the best fit for your family.

2. Stay in touch with your new family member before their arrival.

Let’s face it – this experience is going to be a little uncomfortable for both of you for the first week. You can lessen that feeling of the unfamiliar by staying in touch with your student before they arrive. This will not only help you to feel more at ease with welcoming a stranger into your home, but it will also help them to feel less nervous about traveling alone to a distant country.

3. Let your children know a little of what to expect.

This may be difficult if you yourself don’t know exactly what to expect, (don’t worry – we have tons of articles to help you out)… however, it is important to speak with your children about the changes that will take place in your home. This will help them to get more comfortable with the thought of having someone new around to help to provide them with care.

4. Go ahead and figure out the taxation on their pay.

It can be a little confusing to try to figure out how to pay taxes on the pay of your au pair. For this reason, it is a good idea to speak with a tax expert ahead of time to help get the ins and outs settled before your student’s arrival. This will help to keep you out of hot water with the IRS, and it also will prevent any unnecessary headaches in the future.

5. Know the limits of labor.

Before your student arrives, go ahead and become familiar with the limits on au pair labor. (Bet you didn’t think about that, right?) In the U.S., for example, an au pair can be required to work for up to 10 hours a day, but no more than 45 hours per week.

6. Read up on the student’s home country.

While you are bound to learn a great deal about the student’s home country once they have been in your home for a while, it can help make their travel easier if you take time to learn about where they are from. Knowing the customs in their country can help you to connect with your foreign exchange student.

7. Ask your au pair about allergies and other important details.

Is your new family member allergic to shellfish? Do they rash out at the mere thought of peanuts? Do they get hives when they ingest ham? These are all great things to know ahead of time. This will help your exchange student to feel more at ease trying new foods that may be foreign to them. (This is especially important as many students will only search “how to find a host family”… not how to stay safe in a new country.)

You will also want to learn any other important medical information that you may need to know to ensure the health of your au pair. Learn about these health concerns by doing a little research.

8. Be Open to Learning

As the host family, it’s up to you to make your foreign exchange student feel welcomed and comfortable in his or her new situation. You’ll find this much easier if you are tolerant of your guest’s feelings, culture, traditions, and norms. Hosting a foreign student can be a two-way exchange. You can learn just as much from your guest as he or she learns from you. By learning to appreciate cultural differences and norms, you can develop long lasting friendships that continue long after the foreign exchange program is done.

9. Help Make Things Happen!

If your student comes from a totally distinct cultural environment, he or she may desire to partake in local activities and events not offered back home. As the host family, you can help make things happen, giving your student happy memories of his or her time in the U.S. For many students, visiting the U.S. on a foreign exchange program is a dream come true. Any effort you make to give your student an enriching experience will leave him or her with a positive impression to share with others back home.

10. Make the Best of All Situations

Hosting a foreign exchange student comes with its share of challenges. Things may not always go as you hope or plan. By staying positive and making the best of all situations, you can overcome “snags” that threaten to put a damper on your venture. Look for solutions to difficulties as opposed to placing the blame. When problems arise, your student will look to you for help and guidance. By showing you care about his or her welfare as a parent, you can often diffuse difficult situations before they get out of hand.

11. Set Ground Rules

Every household has rules, whether you’re hosting a foreign student or not. Be sure your student knows the rules and is willing to abide by them. Having boundaries may even help your foreign exchange student feel more secure in a strange, new place. If you have teens at home, your family may have strict rules about meals (i.e., timings, use of devices, cleanup, etc.) that can help your student integrate easier into your household. For older college-age students, you may need to adopt some rules to accommodate a more independent lifestyle. By being willing to give and take, you can make your situation work without compromising your family’s standards.

12. Be Prepared to Deal with Homesickness

At some point in time, your foreign exchange student may begin to miss home. Homesickness shouldn’t put a damper on this adventure of a lifetime. There are various ways to battle homesickness so your student can continue to enjoy his or her time with your family. Sometimes incorporating local cuisine or customs from your student’s home country into your household helps them feel more at ease. Show interest in learning more about your student’s family and friends back home and encourage him or her to stay in touch with loved ones, so he or she doesn’t feel completely cut off.

13. Give Your Student Space

No matter how eager your foreign exchange student is to get involved in his or her new situation, there will be times when he or she simply needs to be alone. If your student doesn’t have his or her own room, try to create a quiet place in the home or yard where your student can have some “down time” on his or her own. Young people naturally value their privacy – how much more so when living in a foreign country among strangers for the first time. Having a quiet place will make it easier for your foreign exchange student to catch his or her breath when necessary and adjust to all that’s going on.

Here’s an anecdote of how powerful a foreign exchange student can really be.

Foreign Exchange Students Bring Message of Hope

Tachikawa and San Bernardino exchange students show their solidarity with the rest of the world in praying for a stop to all the hate, anger and hopelessness that is pervasive in real life and even more so in social media.

Japanese foreign exchange students Aina Kobayashi, Kaho Moriyama and Miku Takahashi, all from Tachikawa, Japan, and Jake Tivey, a native of San Bernardino were at the Humane Society facility in San Bernardino on Wednesday to paint stars of hope. The three girls are student ambassadors from the San Bernardino-Tachikawa Sisters City foreign exchange student program, a program that allows senior students from both cities to exchange places and learn about each other’s culture and way of life through immersion. Jake has just returned from Tachikawa and is also currently hosting a Japanese exchange student.

Stars of Hope in San Bernardino

Lynn Hildebrand, who teaches at the humane society and a passionate supporter of the Stars of Hope program, says that the message of the Stars of Hope is amazing. “These little pieces of wood can change a life,” she has said. According to her, with all the hate and negativity that seems to surround the world, these 12-inch wooden stars are a surprisingly effective antidote, melting hostility, anger, and rage so that love, compassion, faith and respect can flourish in their place.

Kaho decorated her star with painted flowers on a pale blue background, along with the Japanese word for ‘love.’ Aina decorated her star with swirls of yellow, orange and pink, while Miku chose the Japanese word for ‘smile’ to decorate her star. Tivey chose to paint his star to look like earth, complete with blue oceans and green landscapes. Painting these stars hold a special meaning for the Japanese exchange students since they also learned that Kansas kids painted Stars of Hope that brightened Kesennuma on the first anniversary of the tsunami.

From Japan to San Bernardino and Back: Compassion without Borders

These stars have been shining brightly all over the world, over countless places that have experienced destruction and loss. The stars shone brightly even amidst the destruction in Kesennuma after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan.

Japanese schoolchildren who survived the tsunami passed on the message of goodwill, hope, and compassion by painting stars that eventually made their way to other places, like Breezy Point, NY. Children from Breezy Point who survived Hurricane Sandy painted Stars of Hope that made their way to Newtown, Connecticut. Countless other stories of stars created by children from various cities around the world lighting up places visited by terror and destruction, natural or man-made, speak of the power of these simple, wooden stars to give light, hope, and love in places that desperately need them.

Stars of Hope is a project of the New York Says Thank You Foundation and has done countless projects in Japan. Suzanne Bernier was delivering stars in Japan when news of the London terror attack broke. Because she had some blank stars with her, she made a quick detour to London before making her way back to San Bernardo, her way of bringing back hope full circle.

About Stars of Hope

The Stars of Hope project started with the Parness and the Groesbeck families. The Parness family lived in New York City and thought of the project as a way to pay forward all the love that the city received after 9/11. The Groesbecks from Texas thought of the project to pay forward the support they received from New York Says Thank You, volunteers, who helped rebuild their home after a devastating tornado.

Graphic designer and artistic director Fran Sheff-Mauer remembers the first time she came to San Bernardino to hang painted Stars of Hope on the memorial at the corner of Orange Show and Waterman after the attacks on December 2, 2015.

One of the best things that the stars create, according to her, are the connections forged between children all over the world who have experienced loss, tragedy and pain, and the chance to share kindness, compassion, encouragement, and goodness, from San Bernardino to Palestine to Israel. Another volunteer said this of the wooden, 12-inch stars: they bring out a sense of calm after the storm. They stand out against destruction, showing the precious goodness of humanity.

Through the San Bernardino-Tachikawa student exchange program, the Stars for Hope brings the message of hope, courage, and compassion back full circle to the city, as these Japanese students paint stars that will shine a light to other cities that need them.

There’s nothing like hosting a foreign exchange student to expand your horizons and give your family a taste of the world around them. As a host family, you have a wonderful opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of young people from countries all over the world. By planning ahead, you can make this a truly memorable experience for everyone.

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Tips for a Host Family, and How You Can Grow From the Experience

Congratulations – you have decided to open your home to a foreign exchange student, an experience that can be incredibly satisfying, exciting and may even cause you some serious culture shock. Many host families find that they become lifelong friends with their student and keep in touch long after the student has returned home.

For a student studying abroad, the experience can also be life-changing, and a welcome alternative to an anonymous hostel or dormitory.

Things Your Exchange Student or Au Pair Would Like You To Know

They are going to be exhausted.

One of the most important things you should know is that when your student arrives with you, their chosen host family, they are almost certainly going to be tired, overwhelmed and nervous, although they may not come straight out and tell you that.

They want to learn your family’s routine, and how things work.

Most foreign exchange students appreciate having an overview of all the essential things they need to know – how the shower works, the names of the people they will be living with, and what the immediate neighborhood is like. But keep in mind that they may not take all that in as soon as they walk through the front door; a rest or a good night’s sleep might be called for once you have made the initial introductions.

Attempting to adapt to unfamiliar routines and rules can be just as daunting as tackling the language barrier, and the host family should give their student some idea of what is expected as far as a routine, meal times, any curfew, or anything else they might need to know.

A written manual to your household and your routine might be a good idea, as many students are too shy or nervous to ask questions or ask for help.

They need you to understand their personality.

Understanding the personality of your foreign exchange student is also essential to ensure a positive experience on both sides. He or she may need their alone time and may retire to their room after dinner, or they may sit and watch TV with you all evening. Most students who are studying abroad are outgoing, friendly and curious. Most wouldn’t have signed up for such an experience if they didn’t want to travel, meet people, and experience a foreign culture. But that doesn’t mean they may not be shy.

They want to know your rules.

Some students will likely be wary of violating any unwritten rules you may have. As a host family, you probably have family rules that have been in place for as long as anyone can remember, and your foreign exchange student is anxious to follow those rules.

Whether you won’t budge on eating as a family at the kitchen table, taking your shoes off before entering the house, or keeping the dog off the furniture, it’s important to explain these rules clearly so that they can abide.

Yes, there are cultural differences, but you shouldn’t be afraid of enforcing your family guidelines. In regards to religion, your foreign exchange student may well have completely different religious beliefs and practices from yours. They want their views to be respected, just as you do yours.

They are here to learn about your culture.

Finally, don’t forget that to a foreign exchange student studying abroad, what you see every day may be fascinating and new to them. Your student may want to immerse themselves in the culture and traditions of the United States, and experience as much as possible.

Of course, they are here to study, but as their host family, taking them to the local diner, a drive-in movie theater, a baseball game, a parade or a good old-fashioned cookout can create wonderful memories. If you live in town, take them into the countryside for something different; if you live in the suburbs, give them a taste of the nearest big city.

Being a host family to a foreign exchange student is perhaps one of the most rewarding experiences there is; following the tips above can make it even more special.

Tips on Creating Memories With Your Family and an Exchange Student or Au Pair

Take a moment to think back to when you were a little boy or girl. What do you remember the most about your childhood?

From Saturday morning cartoons and cold cereal to playing board games around the dinner table with your grandmother, the memories that we make in our lives stem from spending time with loved ones and sharing in a ritual that defines our relationship as a family.

These rituals can not only hold a family together but keep bringing them together as the years go by. If you are looking to bring your bunch closer, here are 5 ways to help make rituals easy and special for all of you. Even your au pair.

Keep it “Regular”

Events that happen just once in your life may seem pretty special at the time, but events that happen over and over in your family’s life can become memories that last a lifetime. For example, if you held a 50s style party once – you would remember it, but if you did it every year or every month, then you would never forget it.

When you are consistent, it can show children that life’s good moments can be consistent. It is the negative ones that are only temporary. From going to sporting events on a regular basis to gathering together for worship inside or outside the home, when you make an event a regularity you create a memory that stays in the forefront of their minds forever.

An Exchange Student or Au Pair’s Role in Rituals

An exchange student changes the dynamics in your family so it will take some work to figure out where their role will fit within your family. Your new family member may change your rituals or even introduce you to new ones that they enjoyed with their family in their home country.

Encourage your exchange student to develop their own rituals with your children. This will deepen their bond and it will also give them lasting memories of your extended family member. It will help them to remember the time they shared when they shared their home with someone who learned to love them like a sibling.

Make Changes

Every ritual began as a change in the life of a family. Parents have to decide that a change is necessary in order to create a ritual that sticks. Introducing their children to a special routine like snowball fights every first snow of winter or water balloon fights every Friday in the summertime when a parent introduces the ritual to their children and makes sure to be persistent — they create change that becomes a ritual.

This consistency also shows your children that you can be trusted by them. It shows that you will persistently be there for them throughout their life to help them create good memories, deal with difficult moments and get through life together.

Rituals are an important part of bonding your family together and they can also help to welcome your exchange student into the family, showing them that they matter to you and that you care about them as extended family. It can really help your exchange student to feel like they belong when you include them in your special rituals.

Being so far away from home, feeling included can make all the difference. Be sure to ask them about their own rituals and traditions and try to work these activities into your home as well. It is a show of respect to your new family member and further bonds you to the newest member of your family.

*Helpful Hint: If you are having trouble including your exchange student or au pair into your rituals, try creating a new ritual together.

How You Can Grow From Hosting A Foreign Exchange Student

As a host family, welcoming a foreign exchange student into your home can be almost as overwhelming for you as it is for the student. And while it’s true that not all student hosting experiences are the same, almost without exception every family who takes the plunge will have a rewarding, enjoyable and memorable experience.

If you still have your doubts – and it’s normal to do so – the following might help you to realize that it’s a wonderful thing to do.

A Learning Experience

Of course, being a host family to a foreign exchange student is one of the best learning experiences you can have – almost as good as actually traveling overseas yourself. Picking up the language here and there is only the beginning; a foreign exchange student in your home can teach you about their country’s history, culture, and traditions.

Preparing and eating an authentic meal from your student’s homeland can also be a fascinating shared experience. Hosting someone from another country in your home allows you to not only experience their culture but to also see your own life and routine in a whole new light.

Although you may take these things for granted, many overseas students have never enjoyed a backyard cookout, been to a baseball game, or decorated the house for trick or treaters on Halloween. To share these experiences with someone else is a unique opportunity to see your own life differently, and to appreciate what you have.

Even taking your student shopping at the local store, or getting the kids after school can be exciting for someone who has never actually done that before. It’s no exaggeration to say it can even be a humbling experience.

Stepping Outside of Your Comfort Zone

Sometimes we all just have to make ourselves step out of that comfort zone and do something that might surprise others, as well as ourselves. If you have never seriously thought about hosting an overseas exchange student, ask yourself why you wouldn’t want you and your family to have this experience.

Sure, it means more laundry, more dirty dishes, buying extra food every Saturday morning, but the benefits far outweigh any drawbacks; just about every host family wonders why they had any doubts in the first place. Most matches are entirely successful, and most students remain lifelong friends with the family who hosted them in a strange country all those years ago. Some students even return the favor at some point in the future and welcome the host family into their own home.

Having an extra person in your home also makes it easier for your family to interact as a family; meals are taken together more often, and family activities suddenly become more appealing to your teenage kids when a foreign student comes along. And if your kids have moved out and you don’t especially like the empty nest feeling, the advantages of being a host family are obvious.

International Peace Efforts

World peace may be an elusive thing, and of course, we can’t bring it about with by ourselves, but you can play a small part in contributing to the overall relations between the US and the rest of the world by hosting a foreign exchange student.

Keep in mind that students from some countries may have a negative view of the United States, its policies, and what it stands for, depending on the news coverage in their country. Becoming a host family is your opportunity to set the record straight in an admittedly small way, and show the world that you can find good people anywhere, despite what they might have expected.

Imagine the overall positive effect if every family in America with a spare room decided to give it to an overseas student. You really can make a difference, and there is also a lot to be said for simply knowing that you’re helping someone others enrich their lives and experiences.


It’s normal to have second thoughts about this hosting process, and they often happen on the day you are expecting your foreign exchange student to ring your doorbell.

Remember that the student is probably a lot more apprehensive and doubtful that you are — after all, you haven’t even left your home. They have traveled halfway across the world and left friends and family behind. Again, it’s worth pointing out that almost every host family and every student has a positive experience, and your story won’t be any different.

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How to Become a Foreign Exchange Student and What to Expect

How to Become A Foreign Exchange Student

Ask anyone who has already done it, and they will probably tell you that studying and living overseas as a foreign exchange student can be one of the most rewarding and memorable experiences of your life. If living with a host family in another country appeals to you, there are some steps you need to take to make sure that you don’t miss out on this wonderful and unique opportunity.

Plan Ahead

It can take at least several months, and sometimes up to a year to plan your exchange student experience, so you should plan accordingly. You may need to talk to your school or college, and if you are under 18, you will need your parent’s written permission for you to leave the country for that length of time.

You will need a passport, which can take at least several weeks to receive once you have applied, and depending on which country you are going to, you may need to apply for a visa too. If you aren’t sure which country you want to go to, do some research and find out what interests you; it may be the art of France, the cuisine of Italy, or the history and culture of Greece.

If there is one country that you have always wanted to visit, going there as a foreign exchange student can be an affordable, practical and fun way of experiencing it. Ask yourself how far out of your comfort zone you are prepared to be; it is a lot less challenging spending a year in France than a year in Japan or China.

And of course, you will want to make sure that you find the perfect host family. Depending on how quickly you are matched with the family that sounds ideal, that process can also take several weeks or longer. Planning ahead will also make it easier to save money. Not only will you save money on the airfare, but you will also be able to plan out your spending for after you get there.

Learn the Language

Planning your foreign exchange adventure ahead of time also means that you have plenty of time to learn the language spoken in the country you are visiting. True, as a native English speaker, you have an advantage, as English is spoken just about everywhere, including most European countries.

However, you will have a better experience as a foreign exchange student, and your host family will appreciate it, if you at least make some effort to speak the language. And being able to communicate in the language of your chosen country will play a big part in making you feel more settled, more at home and less of an outsider or someone who is just visiting.

The Internet has made it easy to learn to speak a foreign language.  You most likely won’t become fluent in time for your trip, but if you can order a meal in a local restaurant, or be able to decipher even the most basic communication, it can make your experience a lot easier, and give you a head start on learning the language once you arrive.

Embrace the Experience

Planning to go overseas to stay with a host family can be fun, as can anticipating the trip for months ahead of time. However, it isn’t unusual for many foreign exchange students to have second thoughts about leaving home. It’s important to understand that these feelings are natural, and will almost certainly pass after a few weeks.

You can fight those feelings of being homesick by immersing yourself in the experience and getting as much out of it as you can, while at the same time keeping in touch with your friends and family back home. Video chatting with your loved ones in the US every week is easy to do and doesn’t cost anything. It can make a huge difference if you are homesick and just need to see a friendly face.

It’s also worth remembering that almost all matches between host families and exchange students are successful; in fact, many students and families become lifelong friends and keep in touch after the hosting.

If you still have doubts about becoming a foreign exchange student, talk to your family and friends, as well as other students who have had this experience already. Staying with a host family is a once in a lifetime experience for most people, and you may well find that once you are with your host family, you are having such a great time that you just don’t want to come back home.

What’s Life Like as a Foreign Exchange Student?

As a foreign exchange student, you have a chance to experience life in a completely new and unique culture. If you immerse yourself in that culture, you can certainly learn a lot, even if you’re there for only 6 months. At the same time, studying abroad can be a challenge. By accepting the “bad” with the good, you can come away with tales to tell and lessons that will last you a lifetime. 

Things Will Be Different

No two countries are exactly alike when it comes to language, culture, and norms. If you choose to study abroad expect your life to be very different than it is back home. Complaining about the differences will get you nowhere. Embracing the differences will make your stay as a foreign exchange student more enjoyable. It’ll also help you make progress in your studies.

Learning the language, accepting the culture and following your host country’s norms are all a part of embracing the differences. You may have to change the way you talk, dress, or act slightly in the attempt to fit in in your new country and comply with the new culture. 

When it comes to your studies, you’ll need to be open to new teachers and teaching methods if you hope to make progress. Take into account that you’ll be the new kid on the block and will be starting from scratch when it comes to making friends and taking classes. As a foreign exchange student, adaptability will be one of your greatest assets because it puts you in a position to learn and grow.

Host Family

If this is your first time away from home, the thought of living with a strange family can be scary at best. It can also be a tremendous learning experience. To make it work, however, you’ll have to do your part. Your host family will undoubtedly have house rules they expect you to follow. 

Being considerate of their rules and customs opens the door to a good working and living relationship. Your family may also expect you to help around the house. If not, you should volunteer from time to time to show you’re willing to pitch in.

You may have to forgo certain habits, such as smoking, eating at all hours or staying out late on weekends, if that doesn’t sit well with your host family. Some of your habits may be offensive to your host family or raise questions in the area where they live. By being willing to give and take, you can likely to a come to a compromise that suits you both.

If conflicts arise with your host family, try to find common ground. Look for ways to make your situation work rather than bale out. While it’s true that some foreign exchange students change families during the course of their studies due to unresolved differences, many do not. The lessons you learn in adapting to your new situation will serve you well later on in life.

Culture Shock

It’s not unusual for foreign exchange students to suffer from culture shock due to all the differences between their host country and home. It may take you weeks or months to get adjusted to your host family, school and life abroad. Some people adjust right away while others feel “lost” for quite some time. Culture shock can put you on an emotional roller coaster as some days you may feel confused and fearful while other days you’re happy and excited to be where you are. For the most part, culture shock is normal, and your emotions will level out over time.

If you’re having a hard time adjusting, reach out to your host family. They can provide valuable help, counsel, and support when you need it most. Your host “parents” can help keep you on track, so you don’t lose sight of your goals. It helps to be on good terms with your host family as they can keep you “grounded” when your emotions run wild. You’ll also find it more enjoyable living with “strangers” if you take time to turn them into friends. The closer you become to your host family, the easier it is for them to make you feel at home.

Fear of the unknown and fear of failure can put a damper on your experience as a foreign exchange student. These are normal feelings, so take them in stride and try not to let them overwhelm you. Once you overcome language barriers and embrace cultural differences, you’ll begin to make friends and enjoy your life abroad. In addition to being educational, studying abroad should be a venture you never forget.

What If They Don’t Like Me?

Meeting your host family for the first time is a little like going on a date, meeting your classmates or arriving at work on the first day of a new job – it’s natural to ask yourself what if they don’t like me? Most foreign exchange students have those thoughts, and you would be unusual if you didn’t feel that way.

You Aren’t Alone

Everybody gets nervous when meeting someone else for the first time, and being anxious, nervous or even having second thoughts about the entire venture are certainly not unusual. As well as meeting your host family for the first time, you are probably also nervous about spending several months in a foreign country.

As soon as you get the chance, it’s okay to talk to your host family and tell them how you feel. They may be just as nervous and as uncertain as you are – most families are. And if they are quite used to having a foreign exchange student in their hose, they can sit down with you and reassure you, and explain what they expect from you.

Host Families Can Get Nervous Too

Although it may not have occurred to you, the family you are about to meet is perhaps just as anxious as you are at meeting their foreign exchange student for the first time. Excellent communication and telling each other just how you feel are essential, even though you have only just met each other.

Remember that your host family wants you to have a positive and enjoyable experience, despite the fact that you are there primarily for school. Talk to them and let them know how you feel. Being homesick often goes hand in hand with being apprehensive or anxious, and if you have never been so far from home before and are missing family and friends, talk to your host family. Skype is an excellent tool to keep you in touch with your family and friends.

Other Concerns

Many foreign exchange students are nervous or upset because they find that the family they are staying with are not quite what they pictured. Just about all of us form a mental picture of the person we are going to meet if we have talked to them, seen their photograph or read their biography.

Often the reality is a little bit different from the anticipation, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it just takes some getting used to. You may have submitted your application to be a foreign exchange student a year ago, and during that year you have probably changed a little bit yourself.

Don’t let that preconceived idea of what your host family will be like make you anxious and spoil the experience. Keep in mind that to truly get to know each other can take weeks or months, although it’s never too soon to start.

Not What You Expected

The environment in which you will be spending the next few months can also add to your nervousness or homesickness. Perhaps you aren’t used to living in the big city, and your host family lives in an apartment on a busy street in a large city.

Or perhaps you thrive on the sounds of traffic and your chosen family lives on a farm, or in what might be politely described as the middle of nowhere. Those preconceived ideas of what to expect can be just as upsetting.

Remember, one of the reasons you wanted to be a foreign exchange student in the first place was to experience something different and to see how people live in a different country and environment. Embrace the changes – what seems odd and overwhelming at first won’t always be that way.

Remember, it is reasonable for both the exchange student and the host family to become anxious about the experience, and perhaps even have second thoughts about the whole thing. If you are away from home for a year, that can be a long time, especially if it’s your first time away from home.

And there may be challenges. Being a foreign exchange student can be hard work, and the study time can often seem a lot longer than the free time. A new and different environment does come with its challenges, whether it’s how to operate the television or shower, cope with a barking dog or small children, or simply try to overcome the language barrier.

Many host families become firm and lifelong friends with their overseas exchange student, and by embracing the experience, you can have that positive relationship too.

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