Hosting a foreign guest can be an exciting adventure for both of you, the fulfillment of a cherished dream for your guest, and perhaps the beginning of a lifelong friendship. As challenging as it may be for you to have a stranger in your home for an extended stay – one with different cultural norms and expectations – consider all the additional challenges and exciting experiences your guest is confronting.
The first step toward easing the issues of daily life is no more complicated than anticipating your guest’s needs and managing their expectations. Make your home easy to navigate. A label maker is a simple but profoundly effective tool for helping you guest find things and put them away in their proper place. Labels can be especially helpful providing instructions on how to use the cable/TV remote (I could use that one myself!), the coffee maker, and so on.
Discuss the rhythms of your household and your guest’s schedule. Offer opportunities for your guest to join your family for outings, family functions, and cultural events. Identify cultural and social events that will give your guest an appreciation for the culture they are visiting.
If you are considering hosting a foreign exchange student, your program will have specific guidelines and resources. Make good use of them. Following are some suggestions that will help your student have the best experience ever.
Get to Know Your Student Ahead of Time
Before your guest arrives, spend some time exchanging pictures, stories and information about your families and your interests, either via email or by letter. A little effort here can convert anxiety into anticipation, and help your guest get off to an easy start.
When filing out an application to become a host family it is important to put some thought into the paperwork. You should communicate with your exchange organization about any apprehensions or preferences you have about the student who will be sharing your home. By finding out about your student, you can determine if he or she will be a suitable match for your family or not.
Communicate with Your Exchange Student
A language barrier is to be expected when you have an exchange student living in your home. Even though your guest may have an excellent grasp of the language, it is impossible for them to know all the colloquial terms we use every day. A little patience, curiosity, and sincerity will go a long way.
Talk to your student openly about their concerns and challenges; let them know you are willing to help them learn new things and will do your best to make the experience of living in your country a positive one.
Invite Your Guest to Dine with You and Your Family
Foreign exchange students are often curious about the cuisine of the country and region they are visiting, but meal time is about more than food. Family conversations about daily life can be as interesting to your student as academic studies of your society, culture and current events. Most students enjoy being included.
Handle Sensitive Issues with Compassion
An important thing for host families to remember is to treat their student with compassion and understanding. It is not at all unusual for a foreign exchange student to feel displaced and upset at the thought of being away from their family and friends for so long. Couple the feelings of displacement, with other issues like culture shock and a language barrier; you have the makings for a very stressful situation. If your student has trouble with English, try the best you can to show them some understanding and handle any sensitive issues with compassion, because it will diffuse anxiety and make your guest feel less self-conscious.
Make Your Guest’s Homestay Great
Every semester, thousands of students from all over the world make the leap to go live in a new country with high expectations and a sense of adventure. Studying abroad can be a great experience, and their relationship with a host family can be an important part of that experience.
Becoming a host family for a foreign exchange student is one of the most worthwhile things you can ever do for a young man or woman from another country. Providing a safe and structured environment for an exchange student, will help them grow as a person and give them a broadened sense of the world around them.