Deciding to take on a foreign exchange student is a big step. Here are some things you should know before taking the plunge:
1. You are a parent, not a landlord.
This is a commitment that will require a great deal of emotional energy. You aren’t simply renting out a room in your home; you are introducing a new member to your family. This comes with much of the responsibilities that would be expected of any parent. The health and wellbeing of another human being is largely in your hands. Before you sign on, it’s important to make sure you are up to the task.
2. It is important to set clear rules.
This student is entering a completely different culture. What you might think of as common knowledge may directly contradict what he or she has been taught is the norm. This means that you will have to come up with an agreed upon set of expectations that apply for everyone. Be open and honest. You’ll be surprised how far mutual respect will go.
3. Cultures will clash, and that’s okay.
Sometimes your exchange student will do things that may come off as rude or unpleasant. This is where you get to step in as a representative of your own culture and explain what is and isn’t accepted in this society. As a result, you will also learn some of the cultural norms of their home country so that you can avoid offending others and embarrassing yourself if you should ever visit.
4. Your foreign exchange student may be competitive with your children.
If you already have kids living under your roof, then you know that they don’t always get along with one another. Siblings will be siblings. Disagreements will sometimes ensue, especially when sharing a common space such as a bathroom. Make sure you talk with your kids before your exchange student arrives and let them know what role they are expected to play in the experience. This is new to them, too.
5. You are changing someone’s life.
In taking on a foreign exchange student, you are helping to shape the ways in which another person views the world. That may seem like a very daunting task, but much of it involves simply sharing your own experiences with the world. Foreign exchange programs support the validity of everyone’s narrative, saying that we all have something to bring to the table. In taking on an exchange student, you will be creating an experience that he or she will never forget.