Educational and Cultural Interactions, Inc.
Foreign Exchange Student Programs

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As you read these host family guidelines, you're preparing to welcome a foreign exchange student!  It is essential that you treat your student as a full-fledged member of the family from the outset, with the same rights and privileges, as well as similar expectations and responsibilities.

The First Few Days

Cultural Differences and Adjustment

The Adjustment Cycle

Coping with Culture Shock

In Closing


Suggestions for The First Few Days

Many Students arrive shy, exhausted, or even overwhelmed by the fact that they are really here after all those long months of preparation. Meeting you is the moment of truth.  It is an experience that few ever forget.

Imagine yourself in your Student's place, arriving in a foreign country after a long trip and expected to speak a language you've never spoken outside the classroom.  You would probably be tired and a little apprehensive. Keep this in mind as you plan the student's welcome.

  • Just be yourselves. Keep your hospitality simple and spontaneous. 
  • Make clear what you would like to be called.
  • Don't plan anything too ambitious for the first few days. 
  • Quietly introduce your Student to life as it really is in your home. Save the welcome party for a few days later.
  • Immediately discuss important family rules.
  • Try to give your Student several days to rest from the trip and settle into your home.
  • Make time for quiet conversations to get to know one another.
  • Be patient. Do what you can to make your Student feel like a member of the family.

Donít be surprised if your Student is quiet, even withdrawn, at first. They may feel homesick and overwhelmed by so much that is new and different. And, of course, the ever-present need to speak English is tiring, if not frightening, in the beginning.

Hold your exchange student to the same standards as your own children. This promotes harmony and assimilation.  Bear in mind that communication gaps are inevitable as your student struggles to comprehend English delivered at top speed. 

  • Try to speak slowly and give clear instructions. 
  • Written rules can help avoid confusion and misunderstandings.  
  • After the first few weeks comprehension improves dramatically.  Take time to clarify your familyís expectations and lifestyle.


Family Rules:

  • Does everyone eat together at certain times?
  • Do family members get their own breakfast and clean up after themselves?
  • Who makes bag lunches?
  • What food items are for snacking?
  • Where do family members put dirty laundry?
  • Do you expect your Student to take care of his or her own laundry? If so, show them how to run appliances.
  • What about curfews and bedtimes?
  • Explain as much as possible about day-to-day living in your household. 


Setting Limits

Do not be surprised to discover that your student is accustomed to domestic help.  It is entirely possible that vacuum cleaners, washers, dryers, and dishwashers are all foreign objects!  Orient your student to these appliances.  A clean room and a daily chore should be required for participation in family and school activities.

Pre-paid calling cards are a good idea for international students. They eliminate host family bill collecting or overseas collect calls. Very early on, establish rules for telephone courtesy and a procedure for paying telephone bills.  Not unexpectedly, telephone calls home will be frequent at first, but should rapidly decrease to about twice per month, barring emergencies.  

Things go smoothly if you make expectations clear from the very beginning regarding room neatness, television viewing, curfew, and so forth. Curfew, for example, should be the same as it is for your own children - early enough on school nights to allow adequate time for homework and sleep.  


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