How to be a Good Host for an Exchange Student
Deciding to host a foreign exchange student can provide a family with a unique opportunity to learn about another culture and gain a different perspective on your own. Hosting can give a young person rich, new experiences in learning and help him develop social skills, too. Since you will be welcoming a stranger into your home, though, you should follow some tips on how to be a good host for an exchange student.
When you begin thinking about hosting an exchange student, you should find a sponsoring exchange organization that is in good standing with the Council on Standards on International Educational Travel (CSIET). CSIET audits exchange organizations yearly. You should maintain regular contact with the sponsoring exchange organization. Both the host family and the exchange student need to be able to communicate with the agency representative or volunteer to get advice and support.
- Learn all you can about the student’s culture before he arrives. Misunderstandings from cultural differences will occur, but knowledge will promote acceptance. Remember to be tolerant of each other’s nuances and be patient. Having a sense of humor helps, too!
- Call or e-mail the student before he arrives. Tell him about your family and ask him about his. Ask about his likes and dislikes in food and find out if he has any food allergies.
- Prepare a room for the student. If the student will share a room with another child, they should be the same gender and around the same age. Having a roommate may help the student feel more welcome.
- Bridge language gaps. Although most screened exchange students will speak some English, language gaps will be present, even in nonverbal communication. When you first meet the student, establish reliable systems of communication and use pictures and dictionaries if necessary. Have lots of conversations to get to know each other. Keep the lines of communication open so more serious matters will be easier to discuss.
- Establish house rules. Treat the student just as you treat your other children. Clearly explain your rules and expectations for behavior and being a member of the house. Assign chores and explain how you expect him to maintain his space. Set a curfew and discuss the consequences if broken.
- Buy toiletries, snacks, and school supplies that he you will need. Encourage him to add items to your shopping list.
- Encourage him to call home about every two weeks. Find low cost long distance or international phone service. Talking to his parents will help him avoid homesickness and keep his family informed of his experiences.
- Take trips and plan activities based on his interests. If the student enjoys art, for example, take trips to art museums and exhibits.
After reading these tips on how to be a good host for an exchange student, the best one to remember is what an exciting and enriching experience you can have. You and your family will learn much from the student, and he will learn so much from you. Hopefully, you and your children will keep in touch with your new family member and develop lifelong friendships.
Sources: Ernenwein, S., & Hoover, A. (n.d.). Hosting an exchange student. Retrieved May 18, 2010, from culturebridge.com/articles/hosting.html
Ernenwein, S., & Hoover, A. (n.d.). Overcoming culture shock. Retrieved May 18, 2010, from culturebridge.com/articles/culture_shock.html