Adjusting to a new culture, a new family, and a new school can be hard. Pre-departure orientations and in-community orientations help prepare students for what they will encounter in their new situations. Orientations are great to help students get comfortable with their upcoming change. But, what about when they've arrived and their expectations are not meeting up with their experiences? How do we as host families help our students better adjust?
Talk with them and find out what they are worried or frustrated about. I tell my students to try new things - things they may never have thought of participating in back in their home countries. This could be a sport, drama, choir, band, community theater, a school club, community volunteering, anything ouside their comfort zone. Tell your students to just do something new and unexpected. Shake it up. This year is about facing the unknown and is not supposed to be a continuation of the same.
I've talked with students when they've grown frustrated about their lack of involvement in school activities or how many friends they do/don't have from school or in town. The best advice I can offer to them is to not limit themselves. I tell them not to be shy, and they may have to make the first move - talk to someone they've never spoken to before or join a new club. Students can be frustrated when their year is not the same as their life back home, but I ask them if "the same" was what they wanted out of an exchange program. Have your students evaluate what they want out of their program. What are their priorities, and how can they accomplish their goals? Be active. Don't be shy. Talk to people. Invite others instead of waiting to be invited. Don't limit yourself. Try new things. Keep trying. Change your life!