The second half of the exchange year is the perfect time for exchange students and host families to enjoy the relationship that has been developing for 4-6 months. I am seeing that in most of my students when I have talked to them over the past month; as one of my students said the other day quite enthusiastically, “everything is chill now!”
Why is that, you ask? Not really hard to answer when you think about it. Students are now familiar and comfortable with their host families’ rules and lifestyle. They’re familiar with their school and the local school system (where classes are, what to do if you know you’ll be absent, when sports and other activities are, etc.). They know where things are in their local community. Basically, they have a routine.
But the work continues! To keep up the success between now and the end of the school year, there are still some things to think about and remember.
Student and host sibling not getting along? Crazy habits driving you crazy?
You’ve been telling your coordinator that everything is going well but suddenly your student is driving you crazy. Or a student announces that there are problems in his host family that “I didn’t want to bother you about before but I can’t stand it anymore!” Perhaps we’re told that the student has missed the school bus once or twice a week for several months now and it's causing a huge family conflict. Perhaps a student will tell me that he can’t stand his host brother and they argue every day after months of telling me what great friends they are.
Parents and students often try to address issues on their own, using their own experience and common sense. Just remember, it’s OK to brainstorm for advice. It’s the small issues that aren’t addressed that turn into big issues. And no one wants that at any time of the year.
Remember that it’s OK for both host families and exchange students to ask for advice. It’s the small issues that aren’t addressed that turn into big issues. And no one wants that at any time of the exchange year.
Student Having Difficulties at School?
It’s common to worry less about school and grades during the second semester. Students think “nothing can happen to me now, what can they possibly do to me when the year is more than half over?” But it’s important to remember that if a student continues to fail classes, an exchange organization can require that a student return home.
So keep an eye on your student’s progress even now. Contact your student’s teachers or get in touch with the school counselor, if you think your student is struggling. Students should know by now where to go for help if they are having difficulty in a particular class; encourage them to do that!
Student Staying at Home or in Room All the Time?
By now, students hopefully are engaged in their school community, going out sometimes with friends and attending school or community events as well as participating in host family activities. If you are a host parent and see that this isn’t happening, or if you see a sudden change (your student suddenly is staying in her room all the time, or isn’t coming out for dinner, for example) -- try to find out why. Take your student with you on ordinary errands and short trips -- even the grocery store or the dry cleaners may help start a good conversation.
Nothing is Perfect. But It Can Always Be Better!
No situation will be perfect ... even my students and host families who tell me "life is really good right now!" admit there's room for improvement. It takes work to make a good, long-lasting relationship. Even the best of friends can miscommunicate and argue about things that are important to them.
Brainstorming about solutions is never a bad idea. You might not get the perfect answer, but you’ll get ideas on how to better communicate with each other.
Do you have more suggestions? Let us know what you think in the comments!