Typical Adjustment Reactions in the Early Days
In the first days after Arrival, your hosted participant may be tired, excitable, nervous, confident, shy, bold, quiet, talkative, sad, happy or somewhere in between. This is not the sum total of the student you will host all year!
What to do…
- Act naturally; be yourself.
- Don’t assume anything.
- Discuss what is “normal” to your family (see Participant and Host Family Questionnaire)
- Integrate your hosted participant into your family so that they become a fully functioning member of the family.
- Bring a small gift to give to the hosted participant upon meeting them (e.g. a journal, flowers, t-shirt from your hometown/region, a key to the home, etc.)
- Ask to see pictures of the hosted participant’s home and family.
- If you have a recent yearbook, please show it to your hosted participant so they can become more familiar with the high school culture.
- Be aware that your hosted participant may not be accustomed to riding in a car on a regular basis and/or for long distances, so remind them about seat belt use and safety.
- Be aware that your hosted participant might experience motion sickness.
If your hosted participant experiences motion sickness, give them some tips on how to avoid/ deal with it:
- Do NOT read, look at your cell phone or do any other activity in the car that narrows your focus to one spot inside the car.
- Look out the window.
- Keep your eyes on the horizon, focused on a point in the far distance.
- Sit in the front seat.
- Close your eyes.
- Open the window a bit and breathe in fresh air.
- Drink sips of water slowly.
- Take some Dramamine. Don’t forget to first inform students that it causes drowsiness.
- Be prepared! Have some plastic bags tucked in the seat-back pocket or glove compartment for worst-case scenarios.
- Even if the hosted participant’s English proficiency is high, concentrating while listening is difficult, extremely tiring and can even cause headaches.
- Fatigue – from the journey, from the time change, from encountering so many new things and people, and speaking a non-native language – is common and normal.
- AFS Participants might fade in and out of conversations.
- Speak clearly and repeat important things.
- Avoid using slang or idioms that are clear to us, but unknown to hosted participants (i.e. It’s all good, piece of cake etc.).
- Be very clear with expectations.
- Don’t assume that the hosted participant understood you the first time.
- Before school starts, take your hosted participant to the high school and arrange a school tour if possible (i.e. how lockers work; where the cafeteria, library, bathrooms, and the bus stop are located etc.).
- Expect anxiety about where and with whom to sit at lunch, changing classrooms, meeting new classmates, making friends, understanding the language, inexperience with choosing electives classes etc.
- Reassure your hosted participant that this is normal and will pass.
- Encourage hosted participants to stick with classes that seem hard at first, otherwise boredom will set in later on.
- Inform your hosted participant that teachers often stay after school and are available to assist students.
- Make a guidance appointment if you haven’t already.
- Sometimes a hosted participant has been accepted by school, but the Guidance Department isn’t aware, so now is a good time to track down the paperwork.
- Some schools require you to register your hosted participant and provide a passport. Explain that this is not required for exchange students, but a copy of the passport can be made when your hosted participant arrives.
- Your hosted participant will bring their Health Form Addendum, which must go to the school nurse.
- We have sent immunization requirements with all Host Family information, but you should email your hosted participant to make sure they have received required immunizations.
- AFS Participants will bring updated school records, which should be brought to school, as well.
- Tell your hosted participant to introduce themselves to all their teachers on the first day.
- AFS Participants might NOT be used to rigorous tryouts, which may start the day after arrival.
- Sports physicals must be scheduled and are NOT covered by the .
- AFS Participants might NOT be aware that they must go to every practice.
- AFS Participants might NOT be aware of sports “seasons.”
- Speak with the coach(es) and let them know about any cultural differences or important cultural nuances (ex: limited comprehension, need to speak slowly, differences in eye contact does not equal a bad attitude, etc.)
What can you do to raise your student’s spirits in low periods?
- Encourage your hosted participant to spend time in the communal areas of your home, not only in their bedroom.
- Get your hosted participant out and about – go for walks, bike rides, to the grocery store, to the library to get a library card, etc.
- Play simple card or board games
- Watch TV or family-friendly movies in English – with the English closed-captioning turned on
- Encourage hosted participants to talk about life back home but discourage excessive emails and phone calls home.
- Help them find something to occupy their time that is similar to something they like to do at home.
- Make sure they establish good sleeping habits. They should not over-sleep or sleep too little.
- Encourage physical exercise, as this releases endorphins and can help boost your student’s mood.
- Make sure your hosted participant is enrolled in at least one elective and encourage involvement in extra curricular activities to help them make friends at school.
- Help your hosted participant seek out opportunities to help others. Taking your student’s mind off their own situation will actually lessen the homesickness.
- Encourage your hosted participant to be in contact with their liaison.
- Please contact your AFS Liaison with concerns or questions early on and encourage your hosted participant to do the same.