10 Ways to Bond with Your Exchange Student Before They Arrive

You’ve chosen your exchange student, and the placement is finalized—now what?

 It’s time for the fun to begin! These weeks leading up your student’s arrival are the perfect time to build the foundation for a wonderful semester or year together. Don’t wait until your student steps off the plane to start getting to know each other. There are plenty of fun ways to start building that bond right now.

 Establishing a connection with your exchange student before he/she arrives can help to settle nerves around what to expect, and instead create space for you to enjoy the process of getting to know each other. 


 Check out our top 10 ways to bond with your exchange student before their arrival:  


1.  Video calls 

 Since in-person communication most likely isn’t an option pre-arrival, video calls are a great alternative to begin to get to know each other. Platforms with a video function such as Skype, Facetime, or Zoom allow users to pick up on more nuanced communication styles such as facial expressions and body language. This is also a good opportunity for you to gauge the English level of your student.   

smiling girl on phone


2.  Whatsapp/Email

 Sending written messages is useful to exchange quick information. You may want to ask simple logistical questions over Whatsapp, or have longer conversations about how to set up his/her bedroom pre-arrival over email. This will also be useful written English practice for your exchange student. 

smiling woman on laptop


3.  Send pictures

 A picture is worth a thousand words! Either Whatsapp or email your exchange student pictures of you and your family, your house, your neighborhood, meals you cook, or anything else that illustrates your lifestyle. Encourage your exchange student to send you some of his/her life as well. 

photo collage


4.  Mail care packages 

 Mail your exchange student a care package with your favorite American snacks, candy, books, and more. You may also want to include a letter explaining why you chose to send him/her the items that you did (for example, maybe a book you send has a special meaning for you). This will serve as an introduction to American culture, and you might even get a care package in return!  

woman preparing care package to mail


5.  Follow each other on social media

 Social media is a low-pressure way to stay connected with people and have a glimpse into their day-to-day lives. Share your social media information with your exchange student, and maybe send a funny video their way from time to time.

smiling girl looking at phone


6.  Watch a movie and discuss together 

 Ask your exchange student if he/she has a favorite movie, or suggest one yourself, and take a couple hours out of your day to relax and watch. This will not only help you understand what kind of entertainment your exchange student enjoys, but it will also give you something to talk about! 

family watching movie with popcorn


7.  Virtually celebrate American holidays together

 Holidays are a wonderful opportunity to teach non-American friends about American culture. What better holiday to do this than the Fourth of July? In your next video call or email with your exchange student, either have a mini virtual Fourth of July celebration together wearing red, white, and blue, or send him/her a picture of how you celebrated the holiday. 

man and boy grilling with red, white, & blue decor


8.  Follow sports teams together 

 Sports can be a great way to connect if it’s something that your exchange student typically follows. He/she may not be familiar with American sports or how to watch them, so be sure to share a bit about how the game works and where online they can view it easily from abroad (a VPN might be useful). Make an effort to watch any sports games from your exchange student’s country as well. 

baseball game in stadium


9.  Find items from your exchange student’s home country 

 Do a little research on your exchange student’s home country and order a few items such as snacks, games, etc. that will help you embrace your student’s culture. You can even ask your exchange student what items they recommend you try out, or if he/she would like anything from their home country upon arrival to make them feel more comfortable.

Chinese dumplings and chopsticks


10.  Learn a few words/expressions in your exchange student’s native language 

 It must be daunting for your exchange student to move to a foreign country and learn a new language. Everything they know will soon be totally different, including the language in which they communicate their thoughts and feelings. Making a small effort to learn a few words or expressions in your exchange student’s native language, such as “good morning” or “how are you?”, can be hugely helpful in making your exchange student feel more at home. 

smiling woman holding French flag


 Welcoming a new human into your home is no doubt a vulnerable position to be in, but it also creates a beautiful opportunity to open yourself up to new ways of thinking, fun experiences, and fascinating people. Keep an open mind, and you might notice your exchange student doing the same.

 Do you have any other tips to bond with your exchange student before arrival? Write them in the comments below! 

Tags: Cultural Exchange, Exchange Student, Host an exchange student

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