School Dress Code
Although many school dress codes have become less strict in recent years, it may be a new experience for your host student to not wear a uniform to school. Having a conversation before school starts or after the first few days of school about their observations and if they need to go shopping, is beneficial to help your host student feel like they fit in with their environment.
Cell Phone & Technology Usage
Many schools have a designated policy that indicates how and when students can access their devices throughout the school day. It is a helpful thing to locate these policies in the school handbook (likely on the school website) and go over those expectations with your host student. Many schools also have filters denying access to specific websites and applications, so it is important for students to understand that while using school WiFi or a school-owned laptop/device, their online activity is likely monitored.
Testing is an important component of the educational system in the U.S and, as such, host participants are expected to take any tests required of other students in their grade level and classes. Failure to do so can damage AFS’s relationship with the host school and prevent future AFS Participants from being placed in the same school. Please ensure that your participant understands that they are expected to take all the same tests as their classmates and to put forth their best effort on the test as those scores contribute to the overall school accountability rating.
Some hosted participants may request high school diplomas. However, all hosted participants and their parent(s)/guardian(s)s have been informed that schools are NOT required to grant a diploma to an international exchange student. AFS follows individual school policies regarding diplomas. The awarding of a diploma is also dependent on a participant’s ability to meet state and local requirements, therefore no AFS student is promised a diploma. Some schools may issue an honorary diploma or certificate of attendance.
If your hosted participant requests a diploma and their school will not allow one to be issued, please do NOT pressure the school officials to make an exception. Doing so puts the relationship between AFS and the school at risk and may prevent other AFS Participants from being hosted in that school in the future.
If you become aware that your host student and/or their parent(s)/guardian(s) are pressuring the school to grant a diploma, please inform your AFS Liaison or local contact immediately. They will get in touch with AFS Support staff who will communicate with partner staff in the student’s home country to ensure that the parent(s)/guardian(s) understands this policy. In some instances, participants aspire to obtain a diploma in order to facilitate enrollment in a U.S. institution of higher education.
Please be advised that all students with U.S. government-sponsored scholarships (including FLEX, CBYX and YES) are subject to the Department of State’s “two-year home country residency requirement.” The two-year home country residency requirement can be applied at the discretion of the consular officer issuing the visa. The two-year home residency requirement means that a participant must prove that they have returned and lived for at least two consecutive years in their home country before being eligible for certain categories of U.S. visas. If your participant wishes to pursue enrollment in a U.S. institution of higher education, they should ensure that the two-year home residency rule does not apply to them. See additional information on the two-year home residency requirement.
Extra- and Co-Curricular Activities
AFS Participants are encouraged to become involved in extra and co-curricular activities, as sports and other school-sponsored activities play an important role in U.S. teen life. Participation not only provides an excellent way to become acquainted with one’s classmates, but it also provides insight into U.S. culture’s concept of teamwork. Be aware, however, that many states restrict graduate students from participating in any interscholastic sports. And, as with diplomas, no participants are promised inclusion on sports teams when coming on an AFS Program. Depending on the size of the school, sports and other activities may be highly competitive so encourage your host student to consider an intramural sport, a less popular sport, or approaching the coach or athletic director to be a manager for a team.
In addition to school sports, many other activities are available to hosted participants in U.S. high schools and exchange students are encouraged to participate. AFS Clubs or international clubs can be found in some high schools and often organize activities of specific interest to international participants. Members of these clubs can also offer guidance and support to hosted participants especially in the first days of school. Joining FFA, 4-H, Scouts, or a youth group are also good ways for your hosted participant to meet people and make new friends.
The earlier the hosted participants become involved in such activities, the better! A hosted participant that has more friends and acquaintances early in the experience is more likely to have a balanced social life - and one which is not based entirely on their host family members and/or the host sibling’s friends (this can become burdensome, especially for similar-aged siblings). Use this Extracurricular Activities Worksheet as a guide.
Since schools vary greatly across the world, it is helpful to explain to your hosted participant if there are any school-related expenses, and which expenses they need to cover, versus any that you, the AFS Area Team/Chapter, or school may cover. Since many schools across the U.S. charge mandatory fees for student registration, books, and technology rentals, it’s helpful to understand your school fee payment options. Please reach out to your local volunteers for assistance as options vary by area and by type of host student and in some cases the host family or local AFS team covers costs for students. Please note that costs related to yearbooks, uniforms, electives, and extracurriculars can be paid for by the exchange student through their personal funds or scholarship stipends. To help facilitate this conversation, there is a budget sheet for AFS Participants in the Money Matters section of the Participant and Host Family Questionnaire.