Download PDF version of Host Family Preparations
The arrival of an Exchange Student is an exciting experience, both for the Host Family and the Exchange student. It is important the family prepares for this adventure together.
Please remember that although these students may be experienced travelers despite their young age, this will probably be their first time in the U.S. They may have some pre-conceptions about the U.S. from Hollywood movies and most likely will be ignorant of some basic aspects of living in America such as home routines, hours, meals, entertainment, etc.
Prepare yourselves for the visit by talking it over as a family. Discuss what to expect and what the student may have difficulties adjusting to. You can play the game of imagining you all move to a different family abroad… What would you like to know? What would you be afraid of? What would you like to do for fun? Host Families usually find their children benefit from the stay as much as the exchange students.
Get ready by taking a few precautionary steps. Please make sure electrical appliances, pesticides, fertilizers and tools are safely stored. Please keep in mind most of the students are coming from urban environments and may not be familiar with taking care of animals or using tools.
It may be a good idea to make a list of all electrical appliances or tools the exchange student may want to use to later explain to him/her how to operate them (toaster, coffee maker, gas top, washing machine, dryer, TV, grass mower, etc.). Your exchange student will feel more at home if he knows how to do things on his or her own.
You may also want to consider making a list of potential family activities; you can discuss this with the student and get feedback as to how much they would like to try them (hiking, cycling, playing basketball, soccer, swimming in lakes, tubing the Esopus, bowling, going to the Mall, going to the supermarket, visiting friends and family, etc.).
If you have any questions, your Local Coordinator is there to assist you.
Meeting your Exchange Student
Exchange students arrive to the U.S. through either JFK or Newark International Airports. USAImmersion will bring the students to your local community, to an agreed pick up location. Families are also encouraged to pick up and drop off students (there is a $200 airport service stipend available).
Please keep in mind the children may be shy at the beginning and probably very tired from their transatlantic trip.
Safe Arrival Calls
USAI will provide Host Families with a list of phone numbers including the students’ families abroad. It’s very important to call the student’s parents on the first night of the visit (please remember the U.S. is six hours ahead of Europe – check with your student as his/her parents may want to get a phone call regardless of the time). Students usually bring their own calling card. If that is not the case, please take your student to the closest grocery store and show him/her how to purchase one. Please explain to him/her how to use it. Once the calling card expires, please show your student where to purchase another one. Also, if you prefer your dinner time not to be interrupted with phone calls, please explain that to your student.
It’s normal that exchange students miss their parents and homes during the first days of their U.S. experience. Even those kids who are well-traveled, year after year, may feel they miss their families as they adapt to new friends, different activities and a foreign environment. If teenagers miss their families it may be result of the typical emotional problems that come with this age, an email from a girlfriend or boyfriend, or other reasons not related at all with their experience in your home. Usually, after the first few days, students are so busy (and physically tired) with their daily camp and family experiences that they don’t have time to remember their families. Please talk to your Local Coordinator if after the first five days you think your Host Student is having problems adjusting to life at your home.
Getting to Know You
We encourage students to keep journals of their stay in the U.S. You may want to help as a family to keep that journal by bringing different souvenirs or pictures of your activities or helping them fill it out. These journals become great vehicles to remember their American family when they go back home. We also encourage Host Parents to upload images of their family life every week or as often as possible to our website as parents check their intranet to see what their kids are doing and fully grasp their experiences.
Exchange Students tend to like the same food most American children and teenagers enjoy. They may also want to share with your family some meal ideas. Tell your Exchange Students to openly tell you what they like or dislike. USAI does not expect host parents to prepare a special meal just for their Exchange Student; we ask them to be flexible and involve the kids as much as possible in the choice of meals and have sandwiches, cereal, dairy products and fresh fruit and vegetables at home. As part of the cultural exchange experience, students are asked to bring information about the cuisine of their home countries as well as a recipe they might like to cook for their host families.
Traveling with your Exchange Student
We encourage Host Families to include their Exchange Students in every aspect of their family lives, including trips and family visits. If you plan to travel overnight or out of the state with your Exchange Student, please contact your Local Coordinator. Your Local Coordinator needs your destination address, phone number and car license plate number in case of an emergency. Remember to take the student’s medical release form with you.
Accidents, Illness & Insurance
In case an accident occurs while the Exchange Student is with the Host Family: if the student needs medical attention, call a doctor immediately. Then call your Local Coordinator right away. If your Coordinator is not available, always call USAI central office at 845-688-2434. Always take the medical information with you when getting medical care (medical release forms that authorize your family to take him/her to the doctor as well as the student insurance card). It is a good idea to make an extra copy of the medical release and insurance card and always keep it in the car for an emergency situation. Please remember that without the medical release form, the student will not be able to receive medical attention.
Repeat Host Family Invitations
Some Exchange Students are invited by their Host Families to return the following summer. We ask that this be arranged though USAI by filling out a Repeat Host Family Invitation Form. Please note that students’ parents also agree in writing to arrange future visits exclusively through USAI.
Please ensure the student is packed and ready to be picked up at the time agreed with your Local Coordinator. Please remember international travelers cannot carry drinks, sharp instruments, food or animals. Please remember to fill out a Host Evaluation questionnaire.
Host Safety Checklist
It is important for you to check the swimming skills of your guests. Exchange Students must be closely supervised by an adult while enjoying pools, lakes or the ocean. Children should be with adults and wear life jackets when they are in boats. Tubing and other water play equipment should be used only under close supervision.
Punishment is not allowed. If there is a serious problem with a child, please call your Local Coordinator.
Trampolines and All Terrain Vehicles
Riding all-terrain vehicles, quads, dirt bikes, etc. is not permitted. Use of trampolines requires written permission from the student’s natural parents.
Be on the safe side and do not allow Exchange Students to operate lawn mowers, tractors, boats, jet skis or automobiles.
Bicycles, Scooters or Skateboards
If the Exchange Student wants to ride a bicycle, scooter or skateboard, check the child’s level of skills. A child should always wear a helmet when enjoying these activities. In some states, children under 12 must wear helmets when riding bicycles.
Exchange Students are never allowed to handle firearms. Store unloaded guns in locked cabinets, and keep ammunition locked away in a separate place during the student’s visit.
Students cannot accept employment while they stay in the US. However, they can provide babysitting, yard help; they can walk the dog or provide assistance with other domestic tasks. Exchange students can be left home alone without adult supervision if their parents have given written permission to do so (please refer to Student Application Form for parent’s permission form).
In an emergency, please call your Local Coordinator immediately. If your coordinator is not available, always call USAI central office upstate New York at 845-688-2434.