Months ago while picking your exchange student, it seemed like they would never arrive! Now here you are, just days away and finding yourself a little nervous about those first few days. Not to worry – we’ve asked some of our veteran host parents for some tips to make the transition an easy one.
Down time is key
Your student has traveled halfway across the world and may be away from their own family for the first time. Make sure you plan to head straight home from the airport so they can get acclimated to their new home. Spend some time just talking together and getting to know one another. A simple dinner and early bedtime can do wonders that first day.
…but not too much time!
Too much free time can leave a student feeling homesick and bored. Once they have been able to get a good sleep and settle in, schedule activities to help them get comfortable with their home and community. A visit to school, barbeque with friends or trip to a local park will give your student the chance to have fun with your family and learn more about where they will spend their year.
Keep it simple to start
In your own excitement, it can be tempting to show your student their new school, the local store, the house where you grew up and the beach all on the way home. This can be quite overwhelming, so remember that your student does not need to learn how to use every new appliance and find every landmark in your town right away. Teach them what they need to know and where they need to go as they need it.
English English English
Many students are very nervous about their English skills and after traveling for a few days, they may not be rested enough to express themselves well. Be patient with your student, but encourage them to use their English, not just with your family but at the store or library. “Practice makes perfect” may be a cliché but it’s the truth – and a great opportunity to teach your student a classic American saying!
The most important thing you can do in those first few days together is to create a safe and welcoming environment for your student. Congratulate them on their bravery for taking this step to come across the world and spend a year in a new country. During those first days, and throughout the year, savor this opportunity for your own family and soak up the excitement and wonder.