If you’re looking to create an unforgettable experience that boasts a positive impact, then look no further than hosting international students. As a host family, you’ll introduce your community and traditions to an exchange student with whom you’ll develop close bonds.
In this article, we’ll explore how you can create an exceptional exchange experience for your international student and build life-long memories. We’ll cover a variety of tips, including:
- How to successfully introduce students to their new home
- How to encourage a student’s natural curiosity
- How to support your student’s growth
At Ayusa, we work with host families across the world to support foreign exchange students in taking on new challenges and exploring new places. For over forty years, we have assisted students and host families in completing enriching study abroad programs that encourage life-long learning. Let’s start by diving into how you can ease your exchange student to their new home.
Introducing Students to Their New Home
When hosting overseas students, introducing a new environment is one of the first, and most important, tasks you’ll tackle. Your primary goal is to ensure that your international student feels comfortable and safe when they stay in your home. To help you make their transition to your place easy, we’ll cover key ways you can help them to adjust, including:
- Sharing your traditions
- Hosting family adventures
- Creating a supportive routine
Adapting to new surroundings may be a challenge for your exchange student. Remember that this period of time is also a big change for you and your family. Take the time to consider how this new person must feel being in a new place, far from everything that is familiar to them. Begin to factor them into your daily life and introduce them to your community. Let’s start by looking at how you can share your traditions when hosting international students in the U.S.
Sharing Your Traditions
A great way to introduce your host student to their new home and family is to engage them in your traditions. This can be anything from how you celebrate birthdays and holidays to your usual rituals and routines.
Even the smallest aspects of what may feel like a mundane morning can be exciting to your foreign exchange student. Be mindful that your day-to-day life is a new experience for them and try to see how your routine looks through their eyes. Hosting international students is a great way to see your life from a new perspective.
Some ways to get your host student involved in your traditions can include:
- Weekend routines and activities
- Birthday celebrations
- Weekly rituals
Create some ceremony around your routines to help your host student adjust to their new lifestyle. While not every part of your day may feel like you’re observing a tradition, you’ll be surprised to find how much of your day revolves around doing things with a certain rhythm.
Hosting Family Adventures
Hosting adventures as a family is a great way to introduce your student to the area you live in. Alternatively, you can also use family adventures as a way to get your student out of their comfort zone and explore the diverse regions of the U.S.
- Your closest State Parks or National Parks
- Local or state attractions
- To visit friends and family in different states
Take advantage of your local or state attractions and amenities. Go on a family camping trip and explore the natural beauty of your home state. Or, have the trip of a lifetime and visit a national monument or tourist attraction, like a theme park or Washington DC.
Introducing your exchange student to your extended family who live across the country is another great way to create a family adventure when hosting homestay students. Spend a few days in a new place where you can introduce them to new cuisines, cultures, and routines.
Creating a Supportive Routine
No matter how great or small your family adventure becomes, coming home and developing a supportive routine is an important step in successfully hosting international students. If you’re new to parenting, then implement ways when you can check in with your student regularly and form a nightly habit of spending time together.
This can be as simple as sharing dinner together and discussing your day. We encourage host parents to actively engage with their students every day. Offer to assist them with homework, introduce them to your local friends and family, and support their interests.
For families who have children already, ensure you integrate them into your existing routines to make them feel more comfortable and like “one of your own.” It may be helpful to go for a family walk around the neighborhood or do an activity they enjoy to foster a feeling of normalcy. Establish set mealtimes, chores, and study time to create a sense of security and habit for your student as this will make the week less unpredictable and challenging to adapt to.
Encouraging Curiosity and Learning
As your student comes out of their shell it’s imperative that you foster their learning to ensure they get the most out of their study abroad experience. No two students are the same, host families must take the time to be actively involved in their student’s lives. In this section, we’ll help you to explore the ways you can encourage curiosity and learning in your students by:
- Exploring each other’s cultures
- Engaging in their extracurriculars or sports
- Creating an at-home language exchange
Engaging with your student’s interests, culture, and native language is a surefire way to make their exchange experience as enriching for them as it is for you. Let’s start by diving into how you can explore your student’s native culture as well as share your own when hosting international students.
Exploring Each Other’s Cultures
Now that you’ve gotten comfortable with each other it’s time to start exploring the exciting side of hosting overseas students – learning from each other. By engaging with your international student you’ll make their time in the U.S. an enriching experience. We recommend taking an active interest in your student’s culture.
Explore your student’s home culture in new and exciting ways, including:
- Cooking together
- Celebrating their national holidays
- Sharing your own national holidays
Cooking is a particularly wonderful way to share cultures and customs. Encourage your student to share their favorite recipes from home and the way their families prepare dishes. Visit local supermarkets that stock foreign ingredients and learn about the types of meals your student frequently eats in their home country.
Exchanging national holidays and traditions is another great way to explore your different cultures. In the U.S. we have plenty of major holidays to share with students, including the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving, which are perfect for providing a first-hand experience of American culture. Take the time to get to know the major holidays in your student’s home country.
If you share a holiday, like Christmas for example, then take the time to learn how they celebrate and the types of dishes they eat on the day. It’s a great way to share culture through food and will help them overcome homesickness during the holiday season.
For holidays that are new to you, do some research and get to know what you’re celebrating, the types of food to prepare, and the types of activities you’ll participate in to help your student celebrate the day.
Engaging with Extracurriculars and Sports
Another great way to engage with your student’s natural curiosity is to encourage their interests and goals. Whether it’s science or soccer, it’s important that your student feels supported to pursue their interests and take on new endeavors. While it’s fantastic to facilitate these interests at home, it’s equally as important for your international student to engage in their interests with their peers.
Signing up for extracurricular activities, clubs, and sporting groups is a great way to further encourage your student’s learning. Hosting international students is a great way to expose yourself to new activities and interests as well. Show an active interest in what they’re learning or doing when signing up for their new extracurriculars.
This means cheering them on at their local football game, helping them to complete a science project, or practicing a dance sequence. Find ways to praise their efforts, further encourage their interest, and be present when they’re doing the things they love. You’ll find that being present offers the most powerful impact of an exchange.
Creating a Language Exchange
Another great way to facilitate your student’s learning and curiosity is to participate in a home language skill exchange. While your Ayusa student will be able to speak English, taking an interest in their native language is a great way to expand your own cultural awareness and celebrate your student’s home country.
Try practicing phrases over dinner, or teaching them new words or turns of phrases. Create a conversation around the similarities and differences in your dialects. Even simply asking how to say the names of common household items as you go about your day is a great way to get the ball rolling on creating a language exchange at home.
Supporting Your Student’s Growth
Unlike encouraging a student’s curiosity and learning, supporting an individual’s growth requires a whole other set of skills. During your time hosting international students, you’ll witness your exchange student reveal layers of their personality and experience a range of milestones. It’s important to be a person they can trust and come to when they need help.
In this section, we’ll help you become the best host parent by focusing on:
- Enriching your student’s educational experience
- Building strong bonds with one another
- Supporting other hosts as a community representative
Most of your host student’s time will be spent in the classroom, so it’s important that you have an active role in supporting their education. Let’s begin by looking closer at how you can support your student in their academic endeavors both in and out of the classroom.
Enriching Your Student’s Educational Experience
Much like with your student’s personal interests and extracurriculars, assisting with their school work is important when hosting international students. Remember that there are a lot of new experiences for your student to get used to. Creating frequent conversations about what they’re learning in the classroom makes it easier for them to discuss any challenges that they may be facing.
A great way to enrich your student’s education can be as simple as taking them on excursions to help foster their learning. Anything from nature to museums can be helpful when assisting your student with their curriculum and studies.
We encourage host families to get creative when engaging in your student’s studies. Teach them about history by putting on a play, or finding a movie version of the text they’re reading in English class to watch together.
Creating a constant conversation about what they’re learning and the challenges they’re facing is an imperative way to support your student’s growth and build strong bonds.
Building Strong Bonds
While supporting your student is one way to build strong connections, focus on finding ways to connect on a deeper level. When hosting overseas students, carefully think about the position they’re in. Some ways to empathetically connect with your student include:
- Offering parental support
- Frequently offering help, don’t wait for them to ask
- Spending unconditional time together
Your student will depend on you as their primary caregiver for the entire duration of their stay in the U.S. Ensuring you build close bonds comes down to what you do every day, not once in a while. Remember that this person has traveled a long way to experience your country and live with you. They will undoubtedly miss their families, friends, and their familiar routines.
Making a point to spend time together where your student can get comfortable with you and discuss the challenges they’re facing is as important as having regular meals on the table. Take the time to get to know your student on a deep level and ensure their emotional needs are met to build strong bonds.
Support Hosts as a Community Representative
Are you looking for a different way to get involved with hosting international students? At Ayusa, we’re always looking for Community Representatives who are passionate about providing exciting international exchange opportunities.
Community Representatives work closely with students, families, high schools, and community members from start to finish. As a CR, you’ll enhance the exchange experience for everyone involved, fostering community-wide international understanding while building lifelong friendships.
You’ll provide ongoing support and be the point of contact for students, parents, and host families involved in the program. It’s an enriching way to utilize your knowledge of your local area and make a significant contribution to a program that is dedicated to changing the world for the better. Learn more about how you can become an Ayusa Community Representative.
Hosting International Students with Ayusa
Are you looking to take on an impactful role that supports international students? Hosting international students with Ayusa is a rewarding experience that makes a difference. Start your host application today. Or, request more information and learn about Ayusa’s exceptional study abroad programs. We offer international exchange opportunities that put star students in loving homes around the world. Get in touch to learn how you can get involved.