Preparation is key: how to make sure your family is ready

The months, weeks and days leading up to your exchange student’s arrival are filled with excitement, some nerves and—likely—lots of questions. Making sure you feel well-prepared will go a long way toward ensuring a smooth start and a successful exchange.

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Setting expectations for your family

Welcoming a new person into your home is certainly an adjustment, and it’s crucial that your own family is well-prepared to make the most of the experience. Have an open conversation together about what to expect and how reality might differ from those expectations at times. Talk about what it will be like to have a person from a different culture in your home. Discuss how you will integrate your student into your normal routine, how they will help with the household chores and how to explain your family rules. Start to think about fun activities and day trips you can plan, too.

What to expect from your exchange student

Of course every teenager is different, but generally speaking, EF students are bright, inquisitive, friendly and academically motivated. They go through a rigorous screening process with the EF offices in their home countries that involves an interview, an English language evaluation, a letter of recommendation and a written application. In addition to other preparation workshops, all students attend an in-person orientation in their home country to prepare them for their exchange year and to get them excited for the experience ahead.

“I’m excited for my twin boys (age 7) to learn more about patience and sharing. My partner and I have discussed with them how to make small, daily adjustments now so by the time Alejandro comes they’ll be ready to welcome him (and hopefully not overwhelm him!).”

— Allie, host mom

Learn about your exchange student's culture

Do some research on your student’s culture. The more you know, the better! Refer to the cultural spotlight that was included in this mailing to learn more about your student’s country. The spotlight can also be found on The Hub in the "Resources" tab. Your IEC is another great resource. Talk with them about students they’ve met through past exchanges.

Learn from your IEC

In addition to the host family orientation you completed as a part of your application, you may also meet with your IEC in person before your student’s arrival. Many IECs hold a Preparation Workshop to discuss what to expect and give families the opportunity to ask questions. Most IECs have hosted or supported students from all over the world, and their experience is invaluable in preparing you for the exchange. Remember, you can always call your IEC or our office with any questions.

Find the right exchange student for your family

Does your family have any hobbies or interests that you'd like to share with an exchange student? Are you looking to learn more about a particular region of the world? Consider some of these topics and start browsing student profiles today.

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© EF Education First 2011-2021. EF High School Exchange Year is operated by EF Educational Foundation for Foreign Study, a non-profit corporation designated by the U.S. Department of State to operate a J-1 student exchange program. Note: Featured photo/videos do not include prospective students, and are representative of program participants.