The day you—and your student—have been waiting for is almost here: arrival day! There are few things more exciting than meeting your new exchange student at the airport. Here are a few tips to help you kick off the hosting experience right by having an excellent Day One.
Plan for possible travel delays. Before your student leaves home, make sure he knows how to reach you in case of delayed or missed flights. If the student is traveling without a phone, he can ask airport staff to help him call you. The student should also have ICES’s 24-hour travel number with him while traveling.
Prepare the student’s room. Create a welcoming environment in the student’s new bedroom. This might include a basket of snacks and water, a map of your city, a house key on a special key chain, or other small welcome gifts. These small tokens will help your student feel welcome and comfortable.
Check flight status. Before you leave home, go to the website of the airline your student is flying and look for Flight Status. Enter your student’s flight number to find the anticipated arrival time and to check for any flight delays or other issues.
ICES Contact Information. If your Local Coordinator can’t be at the airport to welcome your student with you, be sure to take her phone number, as well as the ICES Emergency Number (800-344-3566). If you have any problems, help is just a call away.
Plan for delays. Allow plenty of time to get to the airport, park, and find the correct security exit gate for your student’s flight. Allow some extra travel time for traffic or other unexpected delays so you’re sure to be there waiting when your student walks out of security to meet you. Note that flights sometimes arrive early.
Meeting your student. Make a large welcome sign with your student’s name so she can easily find you after exiting security. You may also want to have balloons, flowers, or some other gift to give your student as you meet for the first time.
Unaccompanied Minor Service
Sometimes the natural parents pay an extra fee for the airline's Unaccompanied Minor (UA) service, in which the student will be in the direct care of airline staff at all times. If your student is using this service, there are some things you must know:
Cultural differences may be evident the moment your meet your student. Depending on the country your student is from, she may greet you with a kiss on the cheek, or she may stiffen a bit at your welcome hug. Start sharing cultures right away by talking about what is typical for your culture and ask your student to share her cultural norm.
Getting to know each other. When your student arrives, he will probably be excited, nervous, and very tired. As a result, the student may seem quiet, shy, or may have difficulty with English. Day one will not necessarily reflect the student's true personality, which will emerge more fully in the coming days.
Say cheese! Your student’s arrival is exciting, and you’ll want to remember this day. Get a picture of your family with your student at the airport. If your Local Coordinator is not at the airport, be sure to send her a copy.
Collect baggage. Go to baggage claim to pick up the student’s bags. If they do not arrive with the flight, go to the baggage counter to file a claim. The airline will locate the bags and have them delivered to your door.
Grab a bite. Your student may be hungry upon arrival, so consider getting a snack or meal together before heading home.
Sleep and jetlag. Your student will probably be very tired, but keep him awake until the evening. This will help him adjust to the time change and overcome jetlag more quickly.
Electronic devices. Starting from Day 1, establish a place outside the student's bedroom where his electronic devices will be stored at night. It's important to all aspects of the student's adjustment that they not have phones, tablets, laptops, etc. in their bedroom during sleep hours.
As your hosting adventure begins, remember to communicate openly with your student, teach him to adapt to your family and to American culture, and have fun!
Don’t hesitate to contact your Local Coordinator if you have questions or need help. All of us at ICES are here to help make your hosting experience great!