How to Say Goodbye to Your Exchange Student

Years ago, when I had to say goodbye to my host family, there were so many mixed feelings. I felt sad, but I was aching to go home too. My single host mom didn’t want me to go, but with a teenage daughter and another student on the way, surely, she was ready for a break in between.

You might be preparing to say goodbye to your exchange student right now. How do you feel? How does your student feel? How should everyone be feeling? Let’s take a closer look at a few strategies to make it easier to say goodbye.

Accept Mixed Emotions

woman displaying happy, sad and neutral facial expressions

Good news! There is no normal way to feel as you prepare to say goodbye. Just as my host family and I experienced mixed feelings, you might feel a mix of sadness and relief as this good thing comes to an end. And your student might be sad, nostalgic, anxious, and excited to go home – all at once.

Communicate Openly

mother pats smiling teen boys head while father smiles

“The End” can easily become the elephant in the room. Everyone knows it’s coming, but no one wants to talk about it. It helps to have open, honest conversations with your student – and the whole family. How is each person feeling? How can you support each other?

Discuss Expectations

teen girl smiles as mother and father kiss her head

Don’t take it personally if your student starts to withdraw, perhaps spending too much time with friends, as the end nears. This is just one way some teens cope with the impending separation. However, do discuss your expectations, and plan together. What does a happy ending look like to you? To your student? To other members of the family?

Reflect on the Experience

family sitting around the table talking

How about squeezing the best from this experience? Try this fun, family activity: Give everyone a large piece of paper, a marking pen, and ten minutes to brainstorm their happiest memories from this cultural exchange. Then work together to create a single list of the top ten best experiences you’ll treasure forever.

Plan Farewell Activities

family chopping vegetables together

In the lead-up to the big departure, your family might enjoy planning a few meaningful farewell activities with your student: Cook your favorite dishes together one more time, revisit local sights, take a day trip to that one spot you’ve been meaning to visit or have a barbecue with the grandparents or cousins. How can you celebrate and commemorate this experience in your own special ways?

Create a Memento

older couple looking at photo album with teenager boy

Instead of goodbye gifts that probably won’t fit in your student’s suitcase, consider meaningful mementos, like homemade cards with handwritten messages – or small, sentimental gifts that don’t take up too much space. Another option is to create a digital photo album together and have one shipped to your student's home address and another one to yours.

Say Your Goodbyes

teenage girl standing in the airport alone looking back

When it's finally time to go, give everyone time to say goodbye. Remind your student how much you've enjoyed having them as part of your life and express your best wishes for their future. Reassure them that they will always have a place in your heart.

Give Yourself Time to Grieve

mother walks with arm around her daughters shoulders

It's normal and natural to feel a sense of loss when saying goodbye to someone you've grown close to. Give yourself and your family members permission to grieve and take time to process emotions. Lean on each other as you adjust to life without your student.

Stay Connected

family sitting on sofa sharing a video call

And finally, more good news. This is not the end. It’s just the beginning! Send occasional messages or photos, schedule video calls, or even consider visiting them in their home country if possible. You can continue to nurture this relationship for the rest of your lives!

These are just a few tried and true ways that you can prepare yourself to say goodbye to your exchange student – gracefully – while cherishing the memories you've shared. And looking forward to a future together!

Tags: Host Families

Subscribe to Our Blog Today!