How to Make Your Foreign Exchange Student Feel Welcome
Foreign Exchange Student
When you welcome a family member home after a long absence, there is bound to be plenty of hugging and kissing. You may put up a banner and make a special meal. You might invite extended family and friends to participate in a welcome home celebration. But you wouldn’t necessarily do the same when you welcome a complete stranger into your home. So when you decide to open your household to foreign exchange students, you could find yourself at a loss as to how to help them feel comfortable and welcome. As strangers in a strange land, they’re bound to feel out of place. They may be anxious and homesick. And as the head of a host family, it is your job to offer the guidance that helps to ensure that the students in your home have a wonderful and fulfilling experience. Here are some strategies you may want to employ in the service of making your foreign exchange students feel welcome.
A good place to start is by setting up a comfortable personal space (i.e. a bedroom) for any students that will stay with your family. It can be difficult to adjust to a new living situation with people you don’t know, and your international student is bound to feel awkward at first. So offering a room that is warm (or cool, depending on your climate), comfortable, and inviting is a great way to show them that you care about their welfare and that you respect their privacy in your home. Some students may prefer to bunk with one of your kids, especially if they are the same age and end up getting along. But you shouldn’t count on such a situation working out. It’s likely that your students will be more comfortable, at least initially, if they have a space to call their own.
You might also want to consider providing an affordable means of contacting their family and friends back home. You don’t necessarily have to go to the expense of adding a long distance plan to your home phone, but you might want to install a wireless router so that they can use Skype, FaceTime, or some other video conferencing software on their own devices (laptop, tablet, smartphone, etc.) to stay in touch with their loved ones. This will allow them to stay connected from the comfort of their own room or anywhere else in your home.
And of course, it’s always a good idea to learn what you can about the customs and culture of the students staying with you before they arrive. For example, you could try to prepare foods or include hallmarks of their home country as a way to ease their transition into American culture. You might even want to learn a few common phrases in their native language. And if you can find some activities to get them involved in where they can meet people their own age, you’ll find that new friends will help to make the process easier, as well. Your forethought and sensitivity could go a long way towards making international students feel more comfortable and welcome in your home.