Hosting an exchange student is a wonderful opportunity to share your love of your own country, as well as to learn about different ways of life and cultures. But not every student will be the best fit for every host family, and vice versa. In order to make everyone’s experience as positive and enriching as possible, it’s important to consider several different elements from both the host’s perspective and the student’s.
Since you’ll essentially be taking a stranger into your home, it’s nice if there are some areas of interest or activities that you can bond over quickly. For instance, if you like the outdoors and frequently go hiking, camping, fishing, or surfing, pairing you with a student who also enjoys these or similar things is a great way to get things started.
On the other hand, failure to take into account a lack of common interests can lead to a frustrating experience for both parties. To use the same example, placing a student who doesn’t enjoy the outdoors, or who has medical limitations that don’t permit them to engage in some of these types of activities, with a family that spends all their time outside will make things harder for everyone involved.
The makeup of your household will also have something to do with which student will make the best match, and this includes the number and type of pets you have, as well as any other children living with you and their ages.
When it comes to pets in particular, allergies to or the fear of certain animals may make your home a poor fit for some students. And you should never have the expectation that the student staying with you will share in the responsibility of caring for your pets. Of course, a student who enjoys animals and is placed in a home with them may want to help care for them, but it’s not something that should be forced on them.
While matching interests and personality types is an important part of creating a good host/student fit, a lot of what will eventually determine the quality of your relationship depends on what both of you bring into it. Clear and open communication is essential to building and maintaining a strong relationship with your student.
And to get things started off on the right track, it’s a good idea to lay out some basic house rules as soon as everyone gets settled. This will help limit the number of misunderstandings and make sure everyone is on the same page, especially since your student may be used to a different set of cultural norms
However, while it’s important to include your student in family activities and make sure that your expectations are clear, it’s not a good idea to try and dictate how they spend all of their time. Flexibility is essential, as this will most likely be a period of huge personal growth in their lives. As their host, you have a unique opportunity to support and nurture this growth, and that is best achieved by finding the right balance between structure and openness.