Is hosting an exchange student everything you hoped it would be?
You are halfway through a story that you are writing together with your student. Now is the time to stop and reflect. What's working? What's not? What's next? And, how do you want this shared chapter in your lives to end?
Here are just a few ways to keep crafting this special experience during the second half of the program...
Check your bucket list.
Do this together as a family. What kinds of activities were you imagining that you would do together? Which ones have you done? Which ones really must happen before your student goes home? And what would you like to add? Time is running out, but it’s not too late to make more good things happen.
Keep making memories.
If the best things in life are free, then so are some of the best memories. In terms of everyday life together, what are your student’s best memories so far? Why? How about the rest of the family? And moving forward, what other memories would you like to create together?
Explore more of their culture.
Learning about another culture is a never-ending story. How much do you really know about your student’s culture? How many dishes from their country have you tried? How many of their movies have you watched together? How many kinds of music from their region have you heard? How many news headlines from their country have you discussed together? How many of their childhood pictures and videos have you seen?
Share more of your culture.
Your student has only scratched the surface of American culture. Which local resources are you taking for granted? Has your student visited a public library, a city/town hall, a non-profit or volunteer organization, a fire station, a church or temple, an assisted living community, a farm or factory, a health clinic or hospital, a nearby university campus, a waste management site or recycling center, a daycare or preschool? Many fascinating cultural experiences are in your own backyard just a hop, skip and a jump away.
Keep putting the cards on the table.
Your student is not perfect. Your family is not perfect. But interpersonal challenges offer a chance to grow. So don’t brush issues under the rug just because the program is half over. When issues arise, put the cards on the table and talk things out. Ask you student key questions like: “How might something like this play out in your country?” or “What would your parents do in this situation?” Then explain the ways of your family and your culture.
Keep tweaking this story.
Talk is good. Action is even better. Your house rules are still the rules. Your lifestyle, customs and habits are still the norm that your student needs to adapt to. Some host families enter act two with a laissez faire attitude, "It is what it is." They start to let things slide and this is a recipe for a less-than-happy ending. In part one, students learn the ropes. In part two, they need to demonstrate their ability to live by them.
Strengthen your bonds.
Before you know it, this chapter of your life will be over. Making time for regular family rituals builds bonds that can last a lifetime. Game/movie nights, cooking together, taking walks, sharing gratitude... The host family that plays together, stays together – even if only in their hearts.
Take turns reflecting on your roles.
As you celebrate this halfway point take time to reflect on the role you’ve played so far. What has your family done well? How would you like to improve? How would you like this story to end? How will you make that happen?
You can help your student reflect on their role by sharing this link to a quick, online course that includes review activities and a self-evaluation: Make Your Year Great! It's as easy as clicking the link, completing the activities and downloading the certificate.
"Make Your Year Great" is an online self-evaluation activity for exchange students.
As in any story, your roles are not set in steel. They can develop and evolve as you continue to learn, grow and reinvent yourselves throughout this experience.
Keep on crafting your own best seller!
Together, with your student, you can continue to weave your hopes and dreams into a unique story you will share for the rest of your lives. After all, every time an exchange student departs, one chapter ends and another begins!