Hosting a young person from another part of the world has many benefits. It will expose you to a different culture, give your kids a new perspective on the world, and allow you to share all of the things you love about your country with someone new. But hosting also comes with a great deal of responsibility, and in order to make your visitor’s stay as positive and enriching as it can be, there are several things you can do.
One very important first step to take when your student arrives is to go over the ground rules for the house. You should think a lot about this ahead of time, and include things like how often and when you want them to check in with you when they’re out with friends, what your expectations are for keeping the house clean, and what type of routines you have at mealtimes.
Keep in mind that your student may be used to a completely different set of cultural norms, and in order to anticipate some of the potential sticking points, you may want to research their home culture a bit first.
As important as these rules are, though, it’s also essential that you not try and manage every detail of the time they spend under your roof. One of the great benefits to hosting is that it allows you to learn about the culture your visitor is coming from, and you can’t do that if you create too many rules that act as barriers to them being themselves.
It can be a fine line to walk at times, and your rules and expectations will likely shift as you build a relationship with your student. This means that open communication is essential, and that you need to pay attention to their changing needs as well as your own.
It’s easy to slip into the role of teacher as a host and forget that there’s actually a lot you can learn from your visitor. Allowing them to share as much as they want to of their culture with you can make them feel much more comfortable and at home, and it’s also a great opportunity for you and your family to broaden your own horizons.
This relationship you’re entering into can be a very rewarding one, but navigating daily life with a new family member will definitely bring its own set of challenges. While it’s important that you always try to keep things positive and maintain an open mind, it’s also true that you can’t force things to turn out perfectly all of the time.
You need to be patient with yourself and accept your own limitations in order to provide the best overall experience for your visitor. And you also need to pay attention to what type of person they are so you can plan activities that they’ll enjoy. Dragging someone who hates the outdoors around to all of your favourite camping sites probably isn’t going to help them gain an appreciation of your country.
And as excited as you may be with the arrival of your student, it’s important to recognise that the other members of your family might need more time to adjust. Just because you’re thrilled to have a new addition, you can’t expect them to get involved in the same way, and forcing the issue will only make relationships more strained. Give everyone time to get comfortable with each other, and good relationships will form much more naturally.
While it’s very important to include your student in family activities and make them feel as welcome as possible, there are also some parts of your family’s life that they don’t need to be included in. For instance, going to visit a family member in the hospital or a nursing home probably isn’t the most enriching way to spend their time, and if they have no relationship with the family member you are visiting, it could be awkward or uncomfortable for everyone involved.
Naturally, your goal as a host family is to make your student’s stay as enriching and rewarding as possible. Finding the right balance between structure and flexibility is vital to helping all of you get as much out of the experience as possible, and taking time to really think about what you’ll do, and how you’ll handle different aspects of your living arrangements is an important step to ensure you’re as accommodating and supportive to your guest as you can be.