Host Families: Relax and be understanding, but don’t give up on your house rules
1. The second half of the exchange year is perfect time to relax with your student and enjoy the son/daughter relationship. For these last few weeks, think about all that you have learned and how your life has changed.
2. At this time of year, your exchange student may have mixed feelings and may feel both sad and happy. Talk to him about it; don’t just let yourself get annoyed at teenage mannerisms. These feelings are normal. I’ve written more thoughts about returning home and the cultural transition back to one’s home country here and here.
3. Be patient and remember that while your student may act as if he or she doesn’t care anymore, it’s really a normal separation process. It doesn’t mean he is going to forget you at all; rather, it’s the opposite. It’s hard to express how one feels when leaving a place after 5 or 10 months, when you have developed relationships, and when you realize that you are leaving people you now care about very much. Be understanding — but be firm that your exchange student is still expected to be a member of the family. He knows your expectations; it’s OK to remind him that yes, curfew still applies and yes, he still is expected to let you know where he is going.
4. Do something to close out the year. Take your student somewhere special: is there a favorite restaurant or activity? Take the opportunity to go on a last weekend outing: has she been to the city nearby or the one three hours away? Does she love the beach or the lake or the mountains? Offer to host an end-of-year going away party. Closure is good for everyone.
5. Remind your student that U.S. government and exchange program rules still apply. If your student wants to travel in the U.S. on his own, check with your exchange program representative, since it may not be allowed. If your student is making her own arrangements for flying home, make sure she doesn’t stay beyond the 30-day grace period allowed under her visa. And above all, remind your student that illegal activity is still illegal; one bad decision can still change your student’s plans for the last few weeks and result in an early return home.
Students: Try to have fun and relax – you know your host country’s “system” by now! – but don’t forget your host family and friends
1. Put together a “to do” list of things you need to do before returning to your home country (and the things you want to do). Talk to your host parents about what’s possible in the time remaining.
2. Leave a “thank you for everything you’ve done for me” note for your host parents when you go to school one day — maybe on the last day or classes, or before the graduation ceremony if you are classified as a senior. Keep thanking your host parents for everything they do for you, even though you leave soon. It still matters.
3. Take your host family out to dinner before you return home as a thank you gesture.
4. Plan a going away party or event (with host parent permission) as part of your departure plans. It’s a great way to make sure you get contact information for all the people you have come to know during your time on exchange.
5. Make a special shopping trip with your host parents to get presents for family and friends back home – do it together.
Finally (student bonus tip!):
Don’t withdraw from your host family. Continue to do the things you have done with them. At this time of year when you are thinking about home –- and we know you are thinking about home, and you *should* be thinking about home — remember your host family, teachers, and other people you have met and gotten to know. These are your connections and relationships, and they will last a lifetime.