For our Host Family handbook click in the Download files section.

The operative word here is Family, and we ask you to help your exchange student become a part of your family during the period that he or she lives with you.  That means treating this young person as you would your own son or daughter, not as a guest, and exercising all of the parental responsibilities and authorities you would for your own child.  While many factors will influence to what extent you may need to focus on this role, such as your own experience as a host parent, ages of your own children, and whether you are the first, middle, or final host family for this student, here are some suggestions that previous host parents have provided to us:

1.       Establish a clear understanding of expectations soon after your student arrives.  Appendix D is a listing of First Night Questions that we provide to both students and host parents that cover most of the topics that will help define those expectations.  Cultural differences as well as personality differences often lead to misunderstandings unless these topics are discussed and clarified.  Many students will use the questions as a “check-off list” to make sure nothing has been overlooked during the first few days; we suggest that host parents also review this list for any topics that are important to them. 

2.       Be prepared to help your student recover from homesickness.   This can take many forms, from simply general sadness to wishing to stay in his or her room alone.  It is perfectly normal for Exchange students to have bad days and experience homesickness.   If you are sensitive to this, you will be able to reassure your student that their reactions are perfectly normal.  Help them to keep busy and involved.  These feelings will pass. If they have poured out their frustrations in a letter home (often saying they want to return home immediately), suggest that they put it away for a couple days, re-read it, and only then mail it … if  it still applies. Most times the letter will be thrown out!   

3.       Encourage your student to get involved.  School extracurricular activities, sports, community activities, church groups, and family activities may be new and unfamiliar to your student, and will likely be very “different” from those activities he or she was involved in back home.  If you sense that your student is bored and reluctant to participate in available activities, it may simply be because no one has asked him or her to join in.  Try to introduce the student to some people who will help overcome this reluctance.


4.       Understand “culture shock”, and help your student learn our culture.  Appendix E in this booklet provides the article How to Cope with Culture Shock which may help you understand some of the feelings your student may experience as a result of the differences between our culture and the one they have known since birth.