Tips For New Host Families: Pre-Arrival Preparation
This is part 2 in our series on host family tips; here is last week’s tip. Today, let’s think about some preparation ideas for before your exchange student arrives. Here are a few suggestions that have worked for our host families.
Set Up The Bedroom
You do not need to remodel or get new furniture, but you do need a bed, a place for clothing, and somewhere to study in the bedroom or elsewhere in the home. Once you are in contact with your student, you can help make it “real” for him or her — send your student a photo of the bedroom, or do it “live” by video. Showing your student what the room looks like helps make it come alive and begins to connect your student to your home and family.
Think about something small you can add to make the bedroom personal -- make it your student’s “place.” A stuffed animal for the bed or a poster highlighting something in which your student is interested can make it feel more like a home rather than a hotel. If your student loves a particular sport, perhaps get her a blanket with a sports theme; the blanket can double as an extra layer at chilly evening outdoor events.
If your student will share the room with a host sibling, think about how you will divide the space. Talk about this with your son/daughter and with your student (there’s another topic of conversation you can have before arrival!). It’s possible neither of them have shared a bedroom before; if that is the case, set some guidelines.
Contact Your High School
Your coordinator will have arranged for enrollment of your student at the local high school, but you may be responsible for helping your student register for classes and extracurricular activities. Registration generally will be on designated days a couple of weeks before the first day of school. There may also be a make-up or late registration date, or a separate date for new students.
Call your school ahead of time to set up an appointment with your student's school counselor for shortly after your student arrives. Send your student the school's curriculum guide. Some students will look at this before they get here -- and some won't. Don't assume your student doesn’t care just because he/she doesn’t think about classes before arrival; your student may simply have no clue what it means to be able to choose classes. Moreover, he or she is finishing a school year and preparing to leave home for 5 or 10 months; choosing new classes for the Fall is lower on the priority list.
Schools often ask host parents to fill out a registration contact form. We recommend marking yourselves as "other" if that is an option, and write in "host parents." This just helps make sure that the relationship is clear. Host parents are not legal guardians. There certainly are things that a student’s parents must approve or be notified about, but host parents can make day-to-day decisions. Ask your program representative what daily decisions you can make as host parents. Your exchange organization may have its own guidelines you should follow.
Prepare for Arrival Day!
Think about making a poster with your student’s name in large print with some fun designs and colors. If you’re not artistic, just a big sign with their name on it in a bright color will do the trick. Balloons are great, too!
Don’t be nervous about showing your excitement. Don’t worry, however, if your student doesn’t immediately show tremendous excitement when he or she comes out of the airport security area. The students are definitely excited, but are likely to be exhausted after hours in the air and several sleepless nights as the time drew near for their exchange year.
Have a small welcome gift ready -- nothing extravagant, just something to welcome your student into the host home and host community. Perhaps a flag of your student’s home country on the wall in your student’s bedroom? A t-shirt or jersey from your family’s favorite sports team would show that you want your student to be part of the “family team.”
Have an extra house key made up before your student arrives (with a good-sized key ring so it won’t get lost!).
Next week: Arrival!
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Top 12 Questions About Hosting a High School Exchange Student walks you through key things to think about in deciding to host an exchange student.