4 Musts for a New, First-Year International Student in the United States

When new, first-year international students arrive in the United States, they’re eager to start experiencing their new lifestyle. However, there are a few things that a student will need within the first few days of arrival.

Starting from overcoming jet lag after their long international flight, we suggest that host families should cover the following topics with their new, first-year international students.

Adjust to Time Differences and Jet Lag

After you’ve picked up your student from the airport and journeyed home, you might notice that your international student looks particularly exhausted or alert, depending on the time zone change that he or she is experiencing. As he or she experiences new sights, sounds, smells and sensations, an international student can feel overwhelmed within the first few hours after arrival. Factor in a major adjustment in time zones, an international student might be pretty out of it when her or she first arrives to your home.

Almost all students will need some time to become comfortable with their conversational English, regardless of their proficiency level or past experience. Students will be speaking English more than they ever have before, and their energy might be low due to a lack of sleep. Students may also be keeping in touch with family and friends back home, and communicating with them late in the evening due to the difference in time zones. Communication with home will become more frequent as an international student starts to feel symptoms of the first stage of culture shock.

Every student will be different in how he or she reacts to his or her new home and environment. Some students will be extremely excited, ready to talk with you and take in as much as possible. Many students will be exhausted from their flight and the difference in time zones, and will need to rest and unpack. Be attentive to your student – does he or she want to settle into his or her room for a few hours and maybe take a nap? Is he or she hungry? Pay attention to what your student might need when he or she first arrives, and you’re sure to start off on the right foot for a healthy and happy relationship.

Get a Cell Phone

A major concern to your student within the first few days he or she is in America will be how and when he or she will have access to a Smartphone. If your student is attending a school managed by gphomestay’s residential program, Support Services Coordinators will have arranged for cell phones for international students.

International students and their families will also be focused on ensuring that money is easily transferred overseas. Students will also be particularly interested in how they can travel throughout the United States, and what they can and cannot do while they are studying on an F-1 visa in the United States. We typically advise schools to cover these topics during domestic orientation, but it’s important for you as a host parent to understand these topics for your student too.

Learn How to use Kitchen Appliances

Upon a student’s arrival, do an initial walk through of your home with verbal information on how things work and how your house is run. An especially important room that you will want to cover with your student is the kitchen. Be sure to cover when and how to use kitchen appliances with your student. There will inevitably come a time when you do not have the time or desire to cook a fresh meal for the international student staying with you. If a student understands the rules for ingredients in your pantry or fridge, and how to use certain kitchen appliances, then he or she can be more independent.

Sharing in the experience of shopping for and cooking a dish unique to the student’s home country is a great opportunity for cultural exchange. Host families may find that this activity might spur more instruction on kitchen appliances and how to mix certain United States and Chinese ingredients together to make a new, delicious meal.

Get Involved in After-School Sports or Activities

Most schools in the United States acknowledge the value that team athletics and group activities add to adolescent development. Some even make after-school and extracurricular activities a requirement for high school graduation. However, your international student, especially if he or she is from China, may not be used to the idea of participating in extracurricular activities.

While sports are not completely absent for Chinese students (many will have grown up playing casually with friends or watching certain athletic teams), the popularity of participation in formal or organized teams is low in Chinese high schools. In fact, many do not even offer the opportunity to participate in after-school sports.

Encourage your international student to participate in extracurricular activities or athletics. It’s a great way to battle boredom, and for students to break out of their comfort zone and make friends outside of their peer group. Explain the importance of extracurricular involvement to the college application process, citing the need to appear well-rounded for college admissions.