Authored By:

Joy D.

Congratulations on making it this far! If this is your first-time hosting, pat yourself on the back. You have taken a big step by choosing to host an exchange student. It is a great adventure for sure, one that can be wonderful and exciting, but also one that can be full of emotions and miscommunications if not careful. 

I have found the first few months to be the most difficult because it is the time your expectations meet your new realities. Your expectations and realities can be the same or different. As a host family you are now feeling a combination of excitement and apprehension. When the students arrive, they also are carrying expectations and coming face to face their new reality. If you are lucky enough, you have been able to email each other and perhaps video call a few times. I use email and video calls to let my students ask me questions about school life, the community, day-to-day life, pretty much anything, and I encourage them to keep emailing or video calling me so we can become familiar with each other before their arrival in their new community.

As a host parent, I feel the biggest hurdle we will cross is lack of communication. This goes both ways – host parent to student and student to host parent. So many things in our household and in our society are implied rules or procedures we understand. For us it may be simple to follow, but not so simple for someone new to our home, culture, and community. My advice to have open communication with your student. Let them know the rules either by verbally telling them and/or having a written set of rules. Do you like your lights turned off when the room is empty? Tell them. Do you like help with the dishes? Ask them to help. Do you want their room to stay neat and picked up? Make sure they know this. Do you want them to set the table for dinner, leave their cell phones in their room, and/or clean up after themselves? Tell them. Explain social situations to your students as they arise. Many times these circumstance are the first time they will ever encounter certain things. Be as open to your student's changing perspective as you can be!

Do not become frustrated with the situation without expressing your feelings, communicating your wants/needs, and talking to your student to see what can be done. Many things can be handled with a conversation. Never forget your student is a teenager living a foreign country dealing with communicating in a second language, living with a new family, making new friends, and observing new social norms. Let them know they can ask you questions at any time, even if it is the same question multiple times. Just think about how you would handle moving to a foreign country, learning new customs, social norms, and a language. Be helpful and encouraging! Good luck host parents!