The holiday break can be a challenging time for exchange students. Being away from school and their newfound American friends leaves much time to be filled. If this time is too quiet or inactive, it may be filled with boredom or even homesickness. Fortunately, host families are well-equipped to help their international students enjoy (and make use of) the free time they get during the holidays!
First and foremost, involve your international student in your family activities. Whether you are cooking, celebrating a holiday, attending a party, exploring your community, or some other activity, be sure to invite your international student to enjoy this time with you. This is the single best way to keep your student engaged during the holiday break. It’s also a profound way to bond as a family.
However, don’t feel like you need to entertain your international student every second of the day. There are so many ways your student can stay active and engaged on their own:
- Volunteering: The holiday season is the perfect time for your international student to give back to the community they now call home. Help them find a practical way to serve and contribute. This could include volunteering to clean up a beach, helping out at a nursing home or animal shelter, or even ringing a bell for the Salvation Army. See what opportunities are available in your community!
- Reading: Not all reading is reserved for the classroom! Recommend some of your favorite books to your international student. You could even discuss the books after your student has finished reading them.
- Listening to podcasts: American and international students alike love to spend hours catching up on their favorite podcasts. Recommend some English-language ones to your student.
- Learning a new skill or hobby: Just because your student is on break from school doesn’t mean they have to stop learning. Encourage them to pick up a new skill or hobby such as playing an instrument, cooking, or photography. It doesn’t matter what it is; help them find something they like and encourage them to practice.
- Exercising: It’s okay to relax during the holidays, but that doesn’t mean one should be lazy. Students who stay physically active tend to do better. If it’s warm enough, your student can look for opportunities to get outside. Or they could take classes (such as yoga) at a nearby gym.
- Journaling: Having a break from school gives international students time to reflect on the experience. Encourage them to blog or journal about it!
These are just a few of the many ways host families across the U.S. are helping their international students stay engaged and active during the holiday break. Have great ideas of your own? Share them with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.