Foreign Exchange Friday: Fall Fun in the Mid-Atlantic

Here are some fun fall and Halloween related events going on throughout Maryland, Delaware and the surrounding areas that families and students can check out!


Jack-o-lantern (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you’ve already picked out your pumpkins, learn how to carve it into a jack-o-lantern!

Want to more about why Americans celebrate Halloween?
If you know of some other Halloween or fall events going on around Delaware or Eastern Maryland, leave a comment!


Foreign Exchange Friday: Prospective Host Family FAQs

EF Foundation 2012_DSC9800

As a local coordinator who speaks to families about hosting exchange students, I find that there are certain questions I get quite often.   Today’s post will address some of those FAQs (or Frequently Asked Questions).

1.  Do host families get paid to host a student? 

Host families are not paid. According the United States Department of State, host families cannot receive financial gain from their participation in a student exchange program. This rule is designed to ensure that host families are participating in the program for the right reasons. However, in recognition of their role as citizen ambassadors, all host families are eligible to receive a charitable tax deduction on their tax return.

2.  Does the student need to have their own bedroom?  

No.  Students may share a room with a host sibling.  However, special permission may be required depending on the age of that sibling.

3.  What are the expectations of a host family? 

Families are expected to provide room and board to their student, as well as reasonable transportation to school or extracurricular events.  Families are also expected to include their student as a part of their family by including them in family trips, activities and meals, as well as typical household chores.  Students come to learn about typical American family life and families are expected to share this with their student.  In addition, students can share their culture and traditions with your family.

4.  Do we have to have other children of similar age to our student?  

No.  Many of our host families have no children, adult children or young children.  Some are single parents or same-sex parents.  Some special permissions may be required in certain situations, but we are open to all different types of families.

5.  What are the requirements of becoming a host family?  

All adults living in the home must undergo a rigorous screening process, including a criminal background check.  Additionally, families must meet with local representatives for an interview prior to being allowed to select and speak with a student. The interview must take place in the family’s home so that the representative can ensure a suitable, clean living environment will be provided.  At least one adult host parent must be 25 years of age or older.  Families should also expect to maintain monthly contact with their local representative and facilitate a secondary home visit by a different organization representative to ensure continued suitability. 

6.  What are the costs involved in hosting?  

Host families are required to cover costs associated with at-home meals, any packed school lunches, transportation to reasonable social and extra-curricular activities, and shelter. Students bring their own pocket money to cover routine expenses including cell phone bills, school expenses, clothing and recreation such as trips to the movies. Students also are required to purchase approved health insurance valid in the United States.

7.  Where do the students go to school?  

Your local representative will work with you to enroll your student at the local public high school.  This is contingent upon the school’s policies regarding enrollment of foreign exchange students, as these policies can vary.

What other questions would you have as a prospective host family?  What about veteran families – what were your concerns prior to hosting?


Are you interested in finding out more about hosting a foreign exchange student?  Fill out the contact form below and an EF representative will get back to you within 48 hours.



Foreign Exchange Friday: Get Involved!

A Highschool American Football game

A Highschool American Football game (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now that school is started, it’s time to start settling into a routine.  Most schools have a wide variety of activities to join – sports, drama, music…all great ways to meet new friends who have similar interests.

Families – talk to your student about what kinds of things they are interested in and help them explore their options.  Have them speak with teachers, counselors or classmates to find out what they can join and when.  Are there tryouts?  Did the season already begin?  Do they allow late joiners?

Even if a student has quite found something that attracts them yet, encourage them to attend social activities such as football games.  Most students have probably never attended an American football game or are even familiar with it, so it’s a great way to experience the culture of the country and the school itself.  Check the school sports schedule and offer to drop off and pick up your student – or atten with them!

Another place students can get involved are with community groups, such as churches or other places of worship or volunteer groups.  If your student wishes to practice their religion, families should help them find somewhere to do so or ask the local IEC for help.  There, they can also meet people or join a youth group.  If your student enjoyed volunteering back home, see if that is a possibility in your area.  Food banks, schools or hospitals may allow them to volunteer a few hours.

Students are here to experience American school and family life, but they should also explore things they like and are interested in.  Encourage them in finding their place and their year will be better!  I know my best memories of both high school and college were of the “fun” things – sporting events, band – and some of my own best friends were made there.  This could be a great way for your student to bridge the cultural gaps and see that teenagers are all pretty much the same.

Foreign Exchange Friday: Creating A Bucket List

Bucket List word cloud #3

Bucket List word cloud #3 (Photo credit: mccmicb)

A good way to for students to experience the American and local culture is to create a bucket list.  A bucket list is a wish list – come up with some activities, events or short trips you want to experience together.  Both students AND families should come up with one and compare – see what kinds of fun things you can plan for the year.  It’s certainly not necessary to plan out every single activity for the year, but it gives a good idea of what is coming up during the year.  It gives everyone something to look forward to!

Items on your list can be a simple as celebrating a holiday like Halloween, Thanksgiving or Christmas together.  It doesn’t need to be elaborate or expensive – just ideas of fun family activities that will allow students to get the most of their year in the area they are living in.  If you’re not sure what to do, ask friends, neighbors or Google.  Students can ask friends, teachers or other community members they meet (for example, if they attend church).

I’ve created an example of ideas for Northern Delaware as a jumping-off point.

Sample Bucket List

What are some ideas that I could add?  What would you include on your Bucket List?  I’d love some suggestions – feel free to add them in the comments.

Foreign Exchange Friday: Culture Shock


Anxiety (Photo credit: Rima Xaros)

According to TeensHealth, culture shock is “a common way to describe the confusing and nervous feelings a person may have after leaving a familiar culture to live in a new and different culture.”  This is extremely common, not just for exchange students, but anyone moving to a new country or even a new part of the country.

Culture shock may not set in immediately.  At first, feelings of excitement will probably be the most evident, but after being immersed in the new culture for some time, some common symptoms may arise, such as:

  • sadness
  • loneliness
  • anxiety
  • feeling left out
  • frustration
  • overwhelming negative feelings
  • extreme homesickness

It may be a natural reaction to want to withdraw and be alone or isolate yourself, but you should do the opposite.  Don’t dwell on it and talk to someone you trust if your feelings don’t change or sort themselves out.

Do your best to become comfortable with the language.  Some frustration could be coming from an inability to understand what’s being said.  Practice and immerse yourself in it as much as possible.  Resisting and speaking only in your own language will continue the isolation . Make yourself familiar with the culture you’ll be visiting.  It may not be as overwhelmingly different if you have an idea of what to expect.

Ask for help.  EF Foundation provides a great support unit for students, including host families, International Exchange Coordinators, Regional Coordinators and Program Support Managers.  Your school will also have counselors you can speak with.  You can also just talk to friends.  Friends who are part of your new culture can help you better understand it.  Meanwhile, you can educate people about your own culture.  That’s the best part of the cultural exchange experience!

Remember that your exchange year is a time to learn and grow and it may not always be easy.  Things aren’t good or bad – just different and your experience will depend on how you deal with these differences.

Foreign Exchange Friday: Overcoming Homesickness


Homesickness (Photo credit: Kalexanderson)

As students arrive to begin their exchange years, they may be excited to be here, but they may suffer a bit of homesickness as well.

Homesickness is very common and can pop up at any time.  It may be present right after arrival, a few weeks in, around the holidays or birthdays, or even several months into the experience.  Regardless of when it happens, it’s important to make sure it doesn’t stick around for too long!

There are some easy ways to keep homesickness from ruining your experience.

  1. Talk to someone!  Talk to your host family, IEC, RC, PSM, a friend…but talk it out!
  2. Keep busy!  Get involved in activities at school.  Play a sport, join a club, participate in a music group.  If you attend church regularly, find out what opportunities for involvement may exist there.
  3. Limit your contact with home and online.  While technology makes communicating with friends and family back home so much easier, it’s not healthy to spend all your free time online with them, especially when you’re homesick.  It will only make it worse and it will take away from time you could be spending with your “new” family here in the US.
  4. Share the things you miss about home with your host family.  This is a great way to open up the cultural exchange that can be such a great part of this program.  Talk to them about the differences you may be struggling with and see what advice they have.
  5. Do something that relaxes you and makes you feel better – listen to music, take a walk, exercise.  That can help to elevate your mood.
  6. Remember that being homesick is normal.  It’s okay to be sad or miss things about home.
  7. Give yourself time to adjust and get to know your new surroundings.
  8. You’re not alone!  You have a great support unit around you to help you.  We’ve all been there and are happy to help.

Host families, if you see symptoms of homesickness, encourage your student to talk about it.  If you have any difficulties or need advice, remember that your IEC, RC and Program Support Manager are always available to help you and your student through it.

Foreign Exchange Friday: Orienting Your Student To Your Home

A typical modern Japanese kitchen.

A typical modern Japanese kitchen. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the things new families may sometimes not think about is going over the workings of their home with their student.  Common household items such as washing machines, dryers, alarm systems and kitchen appliances may work very differently here.

It’s not a bad idea to show your student how to do simple household tasks such as using the washer and dryer (type/amount of detergent, water settings, fabric softener VS dryer sheets), the dishwasher (how you prefer it to be loaded, where to put the detergent) and using the stove/oven/microwave (remember that they are used to Celcius settings, not Fahrenheit).  If you have a garbage disposal, make sure they are aware of it, where it is and how to use it.  If you have different receptacles for garbage and recycling, make them aware of this as well.

If you have a security system or alarm set when you are not home, it’s wise to show your student how to operate it, especially if s/he is home from school before everyone else is home from work.

If your student is assigned simple chores around the home, such as keeping their bathroom clean or vacuuming their own bedroom, make sure they also know how to do this.  Show them where the cleaning supplies are and how to use them, as well as how to use the vacuum (on/off switches, etc.).  If they are responsible for taking out the garbage, make sure they know what day and time the collection is.

It may be helpful to print out or create a conversion chart from metric units to U.S. units and hang it somewhere, such as a family bulletin board or on the fridge, so that your student can have easy access to it, should they need it in the kitchen.  This will also be helpful in getting used to temperature differences as well, so they know how to appropriately dress for school.

Show them how to work the electronics in the home, discuss whether or not they should answer your landline phone and assist them with accessing ways to communicate with friends and family at home, as well as EF Foundation staff.  Get them connected to your Wi-Fi if they’ve brought a laptop, or show them your home computer.  While they may have a cell phone from home, it may or may not be functional here in the US and it may not be possible to get a SIM card that will work depending on the phone and country of origin.  If necessary, assist them with getting a Trac-Phone or pay-as-you-go phone; they are responsible for the costs, they will just need assistance in getting somewhere to purchase one and may need assistance in the store as well with questions or understanding options.

While these things may seem like common sense, remember that what is common to us may not be common to them.  They may or may not have the same chores at home, so the concept and carrying out of this may take some getting used to.  Remember that they are teenagers and put yourself in their shoes (or their parents’ 🙂 ).

Are there any other things that may be useful to add to this post?  What other types of differences might you run into?

Follow Us On Facebook!

facebook logo

facebook logo (Photo credit: marcopako )

We now have a Facebook page you can follow.  Not only will you be able to follow the blog postings, but there will be other information for families and students as well.

Although any events posted will be regional in nature, other information will be of universal interest to all.

You can “like” us in the box to the left or find us on Facebook at “Mid Atlantic Foreign Exchange.”

Foreign Exchange Friday: Getting Your Student Ready For the Year

EF Foundation 2012_DSC1082Now that your student has arrived and is getting acclimated to your home and family, it’s time to make sure they have everything they need to start the school.

  • Although we at EF Foundation for Foreign Study ensure that we have the student enrolled in school, most schools will also require the host family to bring the student in to formally register. Some schools’ websites  have registration forms available to download, so you can have them ready to go, while other schools may require they be filled out in person at the school.  Be sure to have your student bring any important documents, such as their passport, with them if necessary, so you don’t have to make multiple trips.
  • Your student will also need to get registered for courses.  It is required that students take an English class (NOT an ESL class) and American History/Government.  Otherwise, they can take whichever classes they choose.  That would also be a good time to speak with the counselor regarding what activities, such as sports or music, available, in case your student wishes to participate.  Some fall sports may have already started practicing, so your student may need to speak with the coach to find out any details or whether they could still join.
  • It’s also important to find out what your student will need for school.  Find out if there is a supply list or any special dress code requirements.  While your student is responsible for the costs of these  items, host families should assist their students in obtaining whatever they need.
  • Make sure your student is set for getting to and from school.  If you are planning to have them ride the bus, make sure to check with the school to find out if any additional steps need to be taken to ensure your student gets picked up and dropped off appropriately.
  • Have a copy of the school calendar available.  Most schools have them available on their websites.  Find out if there are any special New Student sessions your student should attend prior to the start of the year.

Do any veteran families have other tips for getting the school year off on the right foot?


Foreign Exchange Friday: Welcoming Your Student

EF Foundation 2012_DSC9800Have you been thinking about some great and fun ways to welcome your student into your family?  Are you stuck for ideas?  Try some of these:

  1. Welcome your student at the airport with a welcome sign, flowers, American or state flag and of course, smiles and hugs!
  2. Contact your student before s/he arrives to find out colors s/he likes so you can decorate his / her room.
  3. Print out pictures from your student’s photo album and put them in frames around the room.
  4. Find out other things your student likes that you could put in their room to make them feel more at home.
  5. Leave a small gift in his/her new room (toiletry set, travel guide, a small souvenir from the area such as a T-shirt from a local sports team, etc.)
  6. Give him/her a little time to settle in to his/her new surroundings.  Don’t bombard your student with house rules and the proper way to run the washing machine on the first day!
  7. Ask your student if there is anything s/he needs and offer to take him/her to the pharmacy, supermarket, etc.
  8. Find out what kinds of food and drinks your student likes and have some on hand for his/her arrival.
  9. Give the student a tour of your hometown; drive them past their school and don’t forget to take them in to register, if that’s required.
  10. Show an interest in getting to know your student.  S/he is your new family member, not a guest!

Do any seasoned host families out there have any other great ideas for welcoming a student?  If so, please share in the comments below!