Deciding to become a host family is a big decision. You’ve thought about it, discussed the pros and cons and you’ve decided to open your doors and home to an exchange student or au pair. You are about to embark on an exciting and rewarding adventure. Below are a few ways to prepare and some things you can expect as you grow your household.
Preparing for Your First Week as a Host Family
Make a list of the things you would like to discuss with your exchange student or au pair before they arrive. Setting the right boundaries and expectations from the start will make the experience more successful for everyone.
It is helpful to write down your family’s routine, and any customs or traditions you have. The more you communicate with your exchange student or au pair, the more comfortable they will feel. Look at the space you have provided for them. Will they have privacy? Make sure you offer an alarm clock, blankets and a place for them to put their belongings.
What to Expect the First Week
Now is the time to be patient and open-minded. Your new exchange student or au pair has just traveled a long distance to a new country with unfamiliar practices and customs. Give them time to adjust. Remember, traveling can be tiring.
What to Expect from Your New Exchange Student or Au Pair
Your new exchange student or au pair might not be themselves yet. Consider they may be tired, overwhelmed or even homesick. They might be in a new time zone. Show them around your home and give them time to relax. Offer something to eat and drink as they may be hungry.
What to Expect for Your Family
Opening your doors as a host family means you and others in your home need to adjust just as much as the new exchange student or au pair. Take time to get to know each other. Ask questions about their family and traditions and let them ask you questions.
Show your new exchange student or au pair how things work in your home. It will be easier for everyone if they know how to use the appliances. Don’t forget to discuss chores and helping around the house. This will allow both the host family and the exchange student or au pair to feel comfortable.
The Welcoming Host Family’s First Week Checklist
- Double check their room is ready with everything they will need
- Give the new exchange student or au pair a complete tour of your home
- Write down and discuss boundaries and expectations
- Go over the host family’s daily routine
- Discuss safety concerns in your home
- Talk about transportation
- Show how all the appliances work, think laundry and kitchen
Common Fears for New Host Family (and How to Move Past Them)
You are about to embark on a new adventure and you may have fears but that’s okay. Here are a few common fears the host family may have and ways to move past them.
What About Behavioral Issues?
Don’t be afraid to set boundaries right from the start and discuss your expectations. When there is open communication, it can make behavior discussions easier. Don’t be afraid to reach out for support from veteran families or your representative from the exchange or au pair program. They will be able to provide recommendations for how to handle situations.
What if the Exchange Student or Au Pair Doesn’t Like Me?
Doesn’t everyone have this fear? Keep an open mind and embrace learning about a new culture and your new exchange student or au pair will likely follow your lead. Remember they need to adjust, just like you do. It is an exciting and different time for everyone so don’t over think your relationship. It doesn’t have to be perfect for it to be rewarding.
What if the Exchange Student or Au Pair Doesn’t Like the Area?
After they arrive and have had time to settle in, give them a tour of your neighborhood and town. Visit areas around your community. Your new exchange student or au pair will be learning and observing a different culture and will be immersed in a new experience. Just because you may think you live in a small town or a boring area, doesn’t mean they won’t think it’s exciting.
As a host family, you can expect your new adventure to be an exciting one. Don’t forget to give yourself time and to give your new exchange student or au pair the time and space they need to adjust. Before you know it, the rewards will start pouring in.