Congratulations on hosting an international student! Hosting a student is an incredible experience, so get ready for a great year with them. But what do you do when they first get there? Many people think to throw their student a welcoming party and while that might be very generous and thoughtful of you, take some time to get to know your student before hand and have them get to know you before throwing them into an even more overwhelming experience.
After you pick your student up at the airport, spend some time as a family getting to know one another; they are after all a new member of your family. Ask them what it is like where they are from, about their family and friends, what their interests are, if they have a favorite food or even a least favorite food, what they would like to do while they are here with you, if they are nervous about anything or have any fears, and also what they are most excited for. Getting to know your student on a personal level will show them that you care, they will become more comfortable and it help them not to become homesick. Aside from getting to know them, have your student get to know you and your family. Share with them your interests, favorite activities, typical daily routines, and most importantly express to them why you decided to host.
Once the initial introductions have been made, it is important to show your student where exactly they will be staying. Show them their bedroom, bathroom, common living areas, where they can find food and snacks, etc. If you allow them to decorate their room make sure they know that it is okay to especially if it will make them feel more at home. Let them know where the laundry room is and if you will be doing their laundry where they can put dirty clothes. This is also a great time to go over house rules such as; curfew, Internet and TV access, kitchen rules, bathroom rules and the expectations you have of them. Be patient and make sure they fully understand the rules. It may take them some time to adjust but in time they will get onto a routine. If you expect them to cook some of their own meals remember that it may be their first time cooking for themselves or doing their own laundry and may need you to help them and show them how.
One of the biggest challenges is overcoming the language barrier. Help your student learn important words or understand words that are unfamiliar to them. They will appreciate it and feel more comfortable coming to you with questions if you are the one to initiate it. After all, one of the reasons they are here is to improve their English skills and not to worry they will become pros soon enough!
A great way to bond once your student arrives is to show them around town and help them get to know the area. Take a nice family road trip through town and show them some of your family’s favorite spots, shops and restaurants. Drive by the school they will be attending and point out where the bus picks them up so they know come school time. Showing them the town will help them become more comfortable in the area and not feel like a tourist. Once things become more familiar to them they will be able to find places on their own, go out with friends and just feel like part of the community. You and your family might also drive by a place you’ve always wanted to go but never have and here is a great experience for both of you!
On top of everything, make sure that you just have fun! Hosting is a very rewarding experience and one that impacts not only the international student but the entire family as well. It is just as much a learning experience for the family so have some fun with it and remember that these opportunities are a great way to bring your family closer together and experience new things together!