Depending on what grade level and activities your host student chooses to engage in throughout the year, your time with them may involve activities and experiences that are new to you.
For example, AFS participants are typically quite excited to experience traditional U.S. high school experiences such as Homecoming, Prom, home football games, Senior Night, and much more. Here are some helpful reminders for you as you navigate the school year and these activities begin to come up.
Homecoming and Prom are typically regarded as formal occasions and tend to have an expected dress code regarding dresses and suits. As mentioned previously, please refer back to the Money Matters section of the Participant and Host Family Questionnaire from the beginning of your student’s experience to ensure you’re on the same page regarding paying for those clothing items, tickets, and any other traditional expenses that are part of the experience. It is possible that students have not had experiencing budgeting for such items and at the same time, especially for female participants, some schools and communities have an event where lightly used dresses, shoes, and accessories can be purchased for much less money.
School Spirit Weeks
During the weeks of Homecoming in both the fall (football) and winter (basketball), it is still quite common for schools to hold “Spirit” days or weeks where students are encouraged to dress in odd ways to show their school spirit. Some may be wearing specific colors, others may include hats or crazy socks, but these are likely not wardrobe items that your host student prepared in advance. Anything you can do to support your host student’s engagement in these activities would be great from allowing them to borrow items for that day to taking them to a local thrift shop to find appropriate ensembles.
If your host student will have the privilege of participating in the school’s graduation ceremony (despite the lack of diploma), it is likely that you’ll need to support them in ordering a cap/gown to be prepared for the day of graduation. This process is specific to each school, so it’s a great question to ask about in the fall to make sure you don’t miss any deadlines.
Class Rings & Letter Jackets
Many students will want to get mementos that are reflective of the movies and TV shows that they have seen about U.S. high schools. Therefore, watching the school announcements to help your student know what items are available to them such as class rings, is important.
If your host student has the opportunity to participate on a varsity sports or academic team, it is very possible that they will earn a letter. These letters are historically sewn onto a letter jacket, which your host student will likely need to order but may need your help to figure it out how to do. Reach out to the coach/sponsor of the activity or sport or contact the athletic director to learn more about letter jackets.
Many high schools have heavy and detailed yearbooks that are tremendous mementos for exchange students. Please know that the orders for these may have to be placed in the fall with payment up front. It is also nice to check in with the yearbook sponsor or the school counselor to find out if there will be a page where exchange students are highlighted and/or to ensure that the school picture needed is taken so your host student is included in the yearbook. It is also important for you to find out if the yearbooks are delivered at the end of the current school year or the following year as you would need to go pick up and then ship it to your host student if it arrives the next fall.