On the fence about hosting an exchange student?
Don’t be! Being a host family is a brilliant way to not only introduce your children to new cultures and customs, but also do some much-needed good on behalf of your exchange student.
After all, such programs simply cannot exist without families such as yours. As a result, you’re enabling students from abroad to have once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that otherwise might not be possible.
That said, you might be second-guessing whether you have what it takes to be a host family and that’s completely understandable. Bear in mind that exchange programs typically help take care of the big legal details and paperwork such as their short term student visa (Tier 4).
Your job is primarily to make sure that they’re comfortable and enable your exchange student to make the most of their time abroad. How do you make it happen, though? Here are five prep tips coming from personal experience that highlight what makes a great host family.
Talk, Set Expectations and Be Willing to Compromise
There is no specific protocol to follow when it comes to exchange students, which means you must talk out any sort of questions or concerns. If they have specific medical or dietary needs, for example, such issues need to be communicated for the start. Likewise, any disciplinary or curfew boundaries need to be made as well.
The same rules apply when it comes to your own children and what’s appropriate with your exchange student. Such relationships can translate into fast friendships, but make sure that you lay down ground rules from the word “go.”
Make Them Comfortable
Providing proper accommodations to your exchange student is an expectation for keeping them comfortable. Consider stocking up on guest room essentials such as fans, chargers and plenty of hanging space so they don’t feel stuffy or claustrophobic. Additionally, allow some input on what sort of meals they’d like or if there are any local dishes that they’re curious about.
Find a Balance Between Inclusion and Personal Space
It’s crucial that you make your exchange student feel as if they’re part of the family and therefore participate in family outings whenever possible. At the same time, don’t neglect the need to provide them with some personal space. Rather than be alarmed by “me” time, let it serve as an opportunity to let them recharge prior to your next fun outing.
On a related note, it might take some time for your exchange student to open up to you and that’s totally fine. After all, trying to settle done in a new country can be awkward no matter how comfortable they might be. Put yourself in their shoes and practice empathy as best you can.
Keep an Open Mind
The importance of cross-cultural exchange is impossible to deny, which means being open to cultural differences in terms of manners, beliefs and speech. Although you’re probably already fairly open-minded yourself, make a point to have a conversation with your children about cultural differences.
And also, be sure to ask your students plenty of questions and take interest in their culture rather than obsessing over your own. This will make them feel more comfortable and you’ll likewise learn a thing or two in the process.
Hosting such a student can be an incredibly rewarding and enlightening experience that you’ll never forget. Just remember: every exchange student is totally different in terms of their wants and needs. Sticking to these tips will help you do exactly that.