If your student is arriving straight from their home, it’s going to be a long day of travel for him. A really long day. Besides a long flight there is also, most likely, a time difference. Excitement and travel are exhausting. Here are some do’s and don’ts for the first day.
1. Give him some space. While you want to be present, helpful and welcoming, keep in mind that there is a ton of “new” for him. State clearly that it is okay for your student to have some time to just settle.
2. Have the bathroom ready. The first thing you should do are point out the bathrooms. Remember that there are restrictions on liquids traveling. Put together a little basket with the basics (shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste and a toothbrush, floss, soap, q-tips, cotton balls). Save the grocery store trip for at least the next day if not for a few days.
3. Allow naps. Your student may need some sleep. It’s okay. Allow it. Don’t over schedule the first day even for a student with only a time difference of an hour or two. Best thing for jet lag if coming from the east might be to just go to bed.
4. Get Into A Routine Quickly. Whether your student is expected to walk the dogs or take out the garbage, start routines immediately. Our kids walk the dogs and so for the first few days we join them so as to avoid a lost foreigner. No matter how simple your neighborhood, your kid is new. Remember that. On the other hand, I have read horror story after horror story of families feeling like their student viewed the house as a hotel because the host family waited so long to set up the routine. Your student wants to be a part of your family. Allow it.
5. Don’t Disappear. When we get kids who do language/culture camp they arrive the first Saturday morning in August with no time change. They’ve been here at least 10 days so jet lag is over and they are raring to go. This year our student arrives on a Thursday evening right from home. I’m taking time off from work – and Kris works from home – to help make sure Daniëlle gets to adjust without only having the animals in the house. If you can flex your schedule or are lucky enough to be able to work from home, consider it.
6. Have A Backup Plan Everyone adjusts differently. We wanted to do a ton with Tom upon his arrival but he caught a cold. So we chilled out at home, and when he was feeling better we did some things. Don’t book a trip immediately, or anything that involves tickets. We like to go to the botanic gardens and Dutch grocery store about two hours away so a decision can be made in the morning.
7. Reach Out. If your neighborhood has a Home Owner’s Association, first allow me to apologize. I’m so sorry. Take advantage of it by asking them to put out an email or posting in their Facebook page that you are hosting, the country of origin and a few things about your student and ask for any students attending the same high school to feel free to get in touch and introduce themselves.
8. Find Out What’s Going On. From a group that meets to run to a book or film club to the farmer’s market there are all kinds of activities in your town or city that might be fun to check out. If you are involved in groups that would welcome your exchange student, bring him. We go to a family friendly spot for dinner and drinks on Friday nights with our theatre friends and it’s a fun way for our kids to meet interesting people who are a big part of our life. Naomi ended up working on a play and loved it.