7 Topics to Help You Get to Know Your Exchange Student Before Their Arrival


Getting to know your exchange student before their arrival can help make the adjustment period as smooth as possible. Establishing this connection early on can help reduce anxiety about what to expect and will help you both ease into building a relationship. This will make the process of getting to know each other once your exchange student arrives that much more enjoyable!

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Effective communication and mutual understanding early on can set the stage for a fulfilling exchange experience. Here are topics to help you and your newly matched exchange student get to know each other better while facilitating fun conversations along the way!

Anything Food Related

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Exchange students are often proud of the delicious cuisines in their home country and enjoy talking about them. Questions such as “What are some typical foods or dishes in your country?” or “What are your favorite and least favorite foods?” will enrich your understanding of their culture and help you learn more about the foods they enjoy.

You can use this as an opportunity to discuss what kinds of foods you and your family usually eat. Ask your exchange student if they have any dietary requirements or preferences. Identifying any special dietary needs or significant differences in yours and their diets will help you prepare for their arrival.

Their Country

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Exchange students usually have fun stories to tell about their home country. Questions like “What customs and traditions do they have in your country?” or “What are your favorite places to visit?” will help you learn more about where they are from while showing an interest in their home country. You may even find their country’s customs or traditions parallel those in the United States!

American Culture

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Ask your exchange student what they already know about American culture. They may have grown up watching American media and may find some “Americanisms” weird or have questions about them. Helping them understand uniquely American things will ease them into the cultural transition. This is also an excellent opportunity to learn more about why they wanted to study abroad in the United States.

You can also share cultural norms and expectations with your exchange student and have fun identifying and discussing significant cultural differences between their country and the United States. They will love sharing the highlights of their home culture! This is a fantastic way to learn more about their background while addressing potentially challenging cultural differences you may each encounter.

Household Rules and Routines

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Having open and honest discussions about general household rules, expectations, and family routines will make the hosting experience more comfortable for everyone. Ideas for topics around household expectations include chores, room sharing, and what kinds of weekend activities you and your family usually enjoy.

Although these may not be the most fun topics to discuss, addressing these early on will help everyone be on the same page once your exchange student arrives. Assure your exchange student that no question is stupid and encourage an open dialogue around house rules and expectations.


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Hobbies are an excellent way to bridge the gap between you and your exchange student. Learn about what they enjoy doing in their free time and what makes them tick. Despite cultural differences, engaging in their favorite hobbies together once they arrive can help you both connect in a way that feels comfortable and familiar to them.

Share your hobbies with them as well! You may find that you and your family share interests with your exchange student that you didn’t know about.

Expectations for Cultural Exchange

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Discuss expectations and goals for the exchange experience to create opportunities for mutual cultural exchange. Understanding what your exchange student hopes to gain from their study abroad experience and vice versa will ensure that hosting is a rewarding experience for everyone involved.

Being willing to learn from each other and maintaining an open mind will go a long way in fostering the relationship with your exchange student.

School Life

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Talk with your exchange student about their normal school schedule, after-school activities they hope to participate in, and what subjects they love or struggle with the most. Make sure they know what to expect when it comes to an American school day. School days can look very different depending on the country!

Build a solid foundation for a meaningful and enriching exchange experience by addressing some or all of these topics with your exchange student before their arrival. Remember to approach discussions with empathy, patience, and understanding. Meaningful discussion and thoughtful communication will help create a more positive and rewarding exchange experience for you and your exchange student!


Tags: Welcome Family, Host Families, Cultural Exchange, Exchange Student, Youth Exchange, cultural understanding

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