The program manager facilitates this initial meeting to assist with communication between new students and their host families. We have learned from experience that this initial introduction will allow children to get a better start with their host family. Many times, a child is nervous for the first-time connection. Providing a casual setting for this first interaction where the student has a chance to get comfortable with their new host family, gives the student a foundation to build confidence when conversing in their second language.
The Host Family can also feel nervous when meeting their host student for the first time. To help minimize any awkwardness, specific orientation lessons are covered that give students strategies to practice their conversation skills with their host families. Students review areas that should be discussed with their host families such as curfew times, meal times, transportation logistics and general rules of the home. This ensures that your child has rehearsed these questions and will be prepared to discuss these issues upon arrival at the home. Of course, these conversation details are built around the cultural framework of polite phrases and “magic words” to bring peace and respect to their new home.
We recommend that host families do some research about your child before arrival. We are careful to tell host families do not assume that everyone from China is the same. If a family has hosted a student before, your child can be very different from previously hosted students.
We also instruct our host families when first meeting your child, to “smile and offer a warm friendly welcome to help relieve any student anxiety about meeting you
Much of the host family preparation and training is for helping your child communicate in their new home. We provide the host family with comprehensive guidance for helping your child adjust to life in a second language environment.
We ask host families to speak English very slowly. Most students will take a long time to grow accustomed to the English accent the new host family household. Even if the student seems to have a good grasp of the English language and speaks at a fast fluent-like pace, we ask host families to keep the pace of English slow. Families are asked to talk at a slow pace and stick to simple phrases and use common vocabulary words. Families are asked to use fewer idioms if possible. This will give your child time to adjust to the new pace of English that is spoken in the home.
In many situations, students are reluctant to ask for help or to ask the host family to repeat what they just said. It is Ok for your child to ask for help. It is expected that your student will ask for clarification about what is being said. Even though your child may have excellent English speaking skills in China, they may struggle with communicating in their host family home. Encourage your child to ask questions and ask for help if they do not understand something.
Your child will be feeling homesick and disoriented. They need time to sleep and rest and get used to their new home, the siblings, the food, the smells, the décor. It’s amazing what can disorient an international student when they first move here. Every little thing can have an impact.
When your child first enters their new home, the host family will give them a tour of all the rooms and give them a good description of how to use everything in the house – the stove, the fridge, the dishwasher etc. They show them the bathrooms and explain everything about the bathrooms. It helps to describe all the basics. The host family will tell your child about how the shower works, where to put towels and show them that the shower curtain must be tucked inside the tub when they shower. (This may seem like a simple thing to explain, but your child may not have used shower curtains before at home). It may need to be explained that it is customary in the USA to put the toilet paper in the toilet and not in the wastebasket but that feminine products go in the wastebasket. These are simple things that vary from country to country and it is best to explain them. If your child has previously lived with an American family they may be very familiar with these customs. If your child is with a new host family, they should not make the assumption that the new host family will behave the same as the previous one.
This is an opportunity for everyone in the family to understand a different culture and learn how another family lives.
We recommend that families try and eat together and establish ground rules for when everyone needs to be together for meal times. Often, teenagers are very happy to stay in their room day after day and we want to encourage all students to get out of their room and get involved. If your child is staying a long time in their room, we ask that you, the parents, encourage your child to communicate with the host family and get out of their room and become involved. Overall it is natural to feel nervous at this time, but pretty soon it will be an overall rewarding experience for everyone involved!