Well, the time has come for our beloved exchange students to return to their native homes. As sad as these good-byes may feel, it’s important to remember that the meaningful relationship you formed with your exchange student has really just begun. With technology and social media, there are so many avenues to continue communication with your exchange student and keep building the relationship.
As you begin to wrap up your exchange student’s experience, you may consider sending them home with a small gift or memento to remember their time in your home and experience studying abroad in the United States. This doesn’t need to be anything big or fancy, just something to commemorate their time in a land far away with a chosen family. If you’re not sure where to begin, we’ve come up with a few suggestions to get you started!
A framed picture is a wonderful gift that is small enough for your exchange student to fit in their suitcase, but also meaningful for them to display in their room once they return home. Every time they look at the picture, they will be reminded of all of the love and support they received from your home. It will also serve as a conversation starter when your exchange student’s friends or family see the picture and ask about their time studying abroad in America!
Travel scratch-off map
Scratch-off maps are a cool way for your exchange student to mark where they’ve been in the world and display it with pride in their home. Of course, the first place they can scratch off is the state they studied abroad in! This is an awesome way to not only keep track of where their international adventures have taken them in the past, but also visualize where they’d like to continue their learning journey abroad in the future.
Matching bracelets could be a great way to keep you and your exchange student connected even when there’s thousands of miles between the two of you. You may want to determine the color and style of the bracelet based on the preferences of your exchange student. This gift also provides a memento to you to remember all of the wonderful times shared with your exchange student.
If you’re like me, there’s nothing as simple yet touching as a hand-written card from someone I love. While sharing how meaningful someone is to us can be difficult to do verbally and on the spot, writing a card offers some time to pause, reflect, and truly articulate just how much the time together meant to you. I’m sure your exchange student will cherish every word!
This gift may take a bit more time and energy to create, but if you’re crafty or into DIY projects, it could be a great option for you! Print out pictures from your exchange student’s time in the States, gather old tickets to shows/games, and anything else you can find from fun times spent together. Arrange them beautifully into a scrapbook that your exchange student can share with loved ones when they return home.
Compiled video of messages from friends and family
If you’re more tech savvy, consider asking all of your exchange student’s friends and host family members to record a one-minute video sharing kind comments of and memories with your exchange student. From there, you can compile all of the videos to create a mini movie for your exchange student to enjoy on their flight home! Word of caution: this gift runs the risk of tugging at the heart strings and causing a few tears to be shed.
If your exchange student is like most, their study abroad experience served as just the beginning of their travels around the world. The best thing you can do is encourage your exchange student to keep traveling, learning, and enjoying the diversity of the world. What better way to capture the beauty of travel than recording one’s experiences in a journal? This is a gift your exchange student can (literally) carry with them everywhere they go!
You can’t go wrong with gifting your exchange student some yummy snacks that they can only get in the States. A few classic American food items that are hard to find abroad include: peanut butter, Pop Tarts, Cheez-Its, Kraft mac and cheese, and so much more! You likely know what American snacks/candy your exchange student enjoys the most, so help them stock up before they head home.
We know that the transition to a life without seeing your exchange student every day may be difficult for both of you, but keep in mind that it’s not a “good-bye,” it’s a “see you later!”
Let us know what gifts you end up getting your exchange student in the comments!