Another exciting school year has begun for Cambridge Network as our host families and students have been looking forward to meeting one another or reuniting again. As host families and students get acclimated with one another, it is important to remember that the international student that you will be hosting this year is a teenager. Adolescence is a challenging period in any person’s life, and an international teenager studying abroad will experience an additional layer of difficulty as they adjust to life in another country. Cambridge Network students are courageous for studying in a culture so different from their own and, as a result, they will become resilient and open-minded to cultural differences because of the experience.
If you are interested in joining our network of host families and want to learn about our services, please submit a host inquiry form.
We asked some of our experienced hosts to share what they think would be helpful to other new host families to welcome their new students:
Gretchen – Washington (Gretchen is also one of our Support Services Coordinators!)
My husband and I have hosted quite a few students now, over only a short 3-year time. I am pleased to say that all of our relationships with the kids have been positive and have ended positively.
I treat all the kids as teenagers first, then as students studying abroad. Cultural differences need to be understood, but with respect, curiosity, and patience, treating the students like the teens they are is first and foremost.
I always say that hosting is ‘Parenting Lite’. We are not their parents – they already have those – but the kids still need the day-to-day and occasional, build-your-future conversations. Some need to be reminded to brush their teeth before bed or before going to school in the mornings! Some need to be coached on doing laundry, choosing friends, and nutrition, but not hounded about it – they are teenagers after all! We give them space, but always let them know we are watching and caring.
On a specific topic, I’ll talk about lunches: The night before school, I have the student help me in the kitchen so that they participate and learn. This is non-negotiable and is mentioned in my house rules. Together we prepare the main course of the next day’s lunch, whether it is a sandwich, wrap, or leftovers from dinner. Then, I have the students add in their choice of fruit or vegetable (apple slices, carrot sticks, sautéed veggies, etc.) and whatever else they want to get them through the school day (bag of nuts, granola bar, yogurt, dried fruit, etc.) They fill a thermos or water bottle and – voila! – they are prepared for their next day. I have a clean kitchen and a cared-for student. This is a great opportunity for teaching, talking, sharing time between us, and has helped to really bond and strengthen trust and communication. Some will tell me that they want to buy lunch at school, and that is ok, but we still have the conversation about breakfast beforehand and beverages/snacks throughout the day.
Dianne – California
Invite your student to family activities, from grocery shopping to day trips and everything in between. Introduce them to friends and neighbors. Treat them as part of the family.
Sitting down as a family every evening for dinner is the best time to have conversations.
Anonymous – California
My main advice for a new host family is to start communications early and try your best to keep an open dialogue. Out of all the foreign students I have hosted in my home, those from the Chinese culture are, by far, the hardest to communicate with. They tend to keep to themselves, so trying to get them to be a part of the family is key. Cooking with them is a fun activity. Try having them show you how to cook one of their favorite meals and, in turn, showing them how to cook one of yours. Most of all, just extend as much love and compassion as you can and try to understand that this is a strange situation for them.
Roberto – California (paraphrase)
Set out house rules for cleaning right away, and your expectations of them. This will prevent any miscommunication or misunderstanding.
If any issues arise that don’t resolve between you and the student, notify your Support Services Coordinator for mediation. Bringing in a third party, such as the Support Services Coordinator, will put the student at ease when voicing their concerns, and help you communicate your rules and expectations of the student. Learn more about how Cambridge supports host families and homestay best practices in our blog section.