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Do you want to host a student from an exchange program? We want to help you.

Participating in an exchange program has immense advantages for students, but they are not the only ones who benefit from this activity; host families do too. For both parties to benefit the most from an exchange program, it is recommended to follow certain guidelines. Here are six keys to being a better host family member:

1. Treat the student as a member of the family

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“Every mind is a world,” says the old saying, and when that mind comes from another country, it might seem like it’s galaxies away, but that’s no reason to treat the student differently from the rest of the family. Except for health reasons, they should have the same rights and responsibilities as other members. Do you have children and attend their extracurricular activities? Attend the exchange student’s activities too. Do you have a household chore schedule that everyone participates in? Include the student’s name in the rotation. Is there a curfew? Communicate it to the student. And so on.

Giving the student advantages over other family members or vice versa will create rifts; therefore, to “err on the side of caution,” it’s best to treat everyone equally. This equal treatment should be positive: if you think you need to improve some aspect of how you treat your family, it’s good to do so to treat everyone well equally (instead of poorly equally). Be a good parent, sibling, or friend to your student.

2. Fulfill agreements and expect the same from the student

Did you agree to provide, for example, breakfast and dinner during weekdays? Move heaven and earth to make that happen most of the time. If, for any reason, you find yourself unable to fulfill this, notify the student in advance so they can make necessary arrangements, and if that’s impossible, try to compensate and avoid repetition. Similarly, if the student agreed to take out the trash on Thursday nights and doesn’t do it, gently remind them at the first opportunity. When both the student and the host family keep their word, everyone will be happier: “clear accounts preserve friendships.”

3. Share the best practices of your country with the student

The student might benefit from a special transport discount if they get a specific type of card or perhaps there’s a quicker route to their school; let them know. Or if they enjoy a particular sport or activity available in your area, inform them about it. You can also tell them about the best places to eat, where to buy souvenirs, tourist spots of interest, etc. The idea is to make the student happy, and providing such information shows you care about their well-being, positively impacting their attitude towards you.

4. Address any issues that arise

Remember that, especially at the beginning, the student may feel homesick, which can make them sensitive. Be patient, reassure them that it’s temporary, and that they can count on you. Don’t assume any negative emotion you perceive is about you. The best approach is to ask: Is something wrong? Can I help with anything? Treat them like a son or daughter, or sibling, depending on the situation. If a family member is sad or upset, we try to handle the problem in the moment, and if that doesn’t work, we hope they feel better the next day. However, if it’s a serious or urgent issue, inform the organization running the exchange program; they will advise you on the best way to handle it.

5. Support their education

The main goal of an exchange program is to learn the host country’s language and the content of the course or degree. Considering this and remembering to treat the exchange student like a family member, ask yourself: How would you treat a child or sibling who doesn’t speak your language or is studying a specific course? You might frequently ask about their subjects, if they’re keeping up with assignments, and if they need help with anything.

Regarding the language, you’d try to ensure the student communicates in your language most of the time, kindly correct them if they make mistakes in writing or pronunciation, and teach them new vocabulary, including idioms. In essence, support them as if they were a family member.

6. Show appreciation with small gestures

It doesn’t have to be expensive; it’s the thought that counts. Ask them about their favorite food and prepare it when possible. If you can, plan a family trip to a special tourist spot and include the student. These experiences help strengthen bonds and are always appreciated by the student.

Hosting a student in an exchange program can be very rewarding if you follow these tips and make any exchange student in your home your new friend.

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