Host a foreign exchange student from Spain
Ole Ole Ole! Spain is culturally rich and the perfect place if you like sunny beaches, tapas and siestas. It is now the fifth largest producer of wind power and has more Michelin star restaurant than any other country. But Spanish culture is much more than just flamenco and fiesta.
By understanding more about our Spanish exchange students’ lives back home, it will help you gain insight into their culture and background and prepare you for a successful hosting experience. Let’s start by learning about what’s typical in Spanish communication, home life, education and food, as described by our program participants.
Spanish students start their day later in the morning, around 9 am, and end the school day at lunch time, or 2 pm, when they go home to eat. Spanish students typically have a few big exams or projects in each subject per year that count toward their final grade. Convalidation, or the ability to receive academic credit for an exchange year in the US, is vital to Spanish students. It allows them the ability to study outside their home country. Convalidation is guaranteed by EF.
Tip From EF: To convalidate their exchange year, Spanish students will need to be enrolled in the appropriate grade level and take specific courses. Check with your IEC to make sure that this is possible at your high school. It will be helpful for your student to sit down with a counselor or registrar when getting set up at school to know what course options are available to them. Discuss the importance of homework and class participation prior to the start of school and explain how these will affect their final grade.
Spanish teens are very casual in their communication style and can be known to swear, use slang or speak frankly. They often joke openly with adults, as if they were their peers. In Spain, American music, movies and television are usually dubbed into Spanish. Therefore, Spanish students may not be exposed to as much English as students from other countries. In general, Spanish teens take statements and requests literally, and they respond best to direct feedback and active directions.
Tip From EF: Give your student space to speak directly, and make sure you have open and honest conversations about communication expectations in the home. It would be helpful to explain American norms for expressing concerns and appreciation. Share expectations clearly and directly with them to ensure that they are understood.
How are you?
In Spain, meal times are very important and are often shared with many friends and family. Students and parents typically return home at meal times to eat together. Meal times in Spain vary greatly from the US. Lunch is usually at 2 or 3 pm and dinner is usually at 9 pm or later. Meals can last for several hours. Pork, ham, beef, cheese, potatoes, eggs, peppers, olives, fish, calamari, cold salads and fried dishes are most common in Spain. Fresh food is more common than frozen food or leftovers. Families also eat out often, but rarely eat fast food.
Tip From EF: Your student may need time to get used to the difference in meal times. Be clear about what time you will be eating meals and provide options for appropriate snacks as they get comfortable with the new schedule. Encouraging them to help with grocery shopping and meal preparation will also help them adjust.
Spaniards are known for being very open and kind and typically grow up with a tight knit circle of friends and family. Forming relationships and becoming close to new people may be a huge adjustment. Spanish teens, while given a lot of freedom, are not given a lot of responsibility. They usually do not have to work or do chores. They are not responsible for things such as academic enrollment paperwork or applications. It is common for Spanish families at every socioeconomic level to have a housecleaner. Spanish teens typically do not do their own laundry. Spaniards tend to spend a lot of time outside of the home, unless they are having a family meal. This includes taking long walks, shopping, going to the movies, spending time at parks, playing sports or taking trips. Spanish teens are given a lot of freedom by their parents. They are often able to come and go from their homes, stay out late and travel on their own as they wish.
Tip From EF: Sit down with your student at the beginning of the exchange and go over all rules, schedules and expectations. Be sure to cover simple things such as transportation, the importance of checking in with you and their curfew. You may need to teach them how you prefer to do things around the house so they feel more comfortable. Talk openly about a chore schedule and how they can help.
Estoy deseando de conocer a mi estudiante español!
I am so excited to meet my Spanish exchange student!
Estoy ansioso por aprender más sobre tu cultura. ¡Podemos empezar con una tortilla de patata!
I am eager to learn more about your culture. We can start with a Spanish omelete!
Hosting advice from our Spanish exchange students
“I wish my host family knew that sometimes I didn’t understand that they were asking me to do a chore.”
Tip From EF: It is helpful to be clear and direct with household rules and expectations early on. If there are any misunderstandings or issues that come up, communicate with your student and IEC to ensure everyone is on the same page. Additionally, Spanish students may not understand suggestive communication. Instead of saying “your room is looking a little messy today,” it will be easier for them to understand “please clean your room.” It is helpful to review and reiterate the rules every so often.
“I wish my host family knew that when students first come to the US we will need additional help. We don’t know the culture or the people, so we will ask lots of questions and sometimes we won’t understand what you are saying.”
Tip From EF: During the first few weeks, Spanish students may seem shy and quiet, but may just be struggling to understand the language or communicate their feelings. Talk as you normally would and try rephrasing things several times in different ways if they don’t understand. To make sure you’re on the same page, ask them to repeat what you’ve said in their own words.
“I wish my host family knew that I am used to being very social on weekends and hanging out with friends.”
Tip From EF: Work together to create a schedule of family and personal events with your student so everyone is on the same page. Set clear expectations about the time you’d like to spend with them, which days of the week the student has extracurricular activities and when they can see their friends.