Help newly arrived international students understand what makes your community unique by taking them on a tour of a nearby American city. Connect international students with your local community as an initial homestay activity.
Students will want to know the attractions and amenities that exist beyond their school’s grounds. Though your Support Services Coordinator will provide ample opportunities to explore the vicinity, touring the closest major metropolitan area is a great homestay activity that many students will look forward to within the first few days of their arrival. It’s also a great way to start off on the right foot with the international student you are hosting.
A tour highlighting the unique facets of the area will help to instill a sense of belonging and pride in the students for choosing to study at a high school within your community. It also gives host parents an opportunity to find more natural ways to connect and communicate with their student. Be sure to encourage your student to ask questions and be curious about the sites on your tour.
Find Chinatown in Your Local City
Students are here to learn more about American culture and experience the benefits of an American-style education. But, sometimes experiencing familiarity from one’s home country can be the only anecdote to a bout of homesickness or culture shock. Many American cities across the United States will have a Chinatown (or Koreatown) section, and host parents should most definitely make Chinatown a stop on their tour of an American city. Students might feel relieved and more at ease once they discover the section of a city where they can pick up familiar products, especially food items.
Discovering the nearest Chinatown is also beneficial to you as a host parent. If you are ever inspired to try cooking a traditional Chinese or Korean food dish, this section of town is probably where you can find ingredients that are tough to find at American grocery stores or supermarkets.
Many of our students tend to feel especially homesick around January and February during the Chinese New Year. Typically, large celebrations of this significant cultural holiday happens in Chinatowns in major cities. You may be able to find more information about celebrations at Chinese cultural centers, which are often located in the Chinatown neighborhood.
Take Public Transportation
One of the most important homestay activities you can do with your international student within the first few days of his or her arrival is to orient them to the public transportation system in your local community and nearby major city. In order to help students, get their bearings and understand how to stay safe in an American city, an understanding of the public transportation system is paramount.
Help your student understand how to pay for tickets or passes on the public bus or train, but make sure to establish the expectation that students must notify you, the host parent, first before journeying off into the city by themselves. As a guardian for an international student, it is your responsibility to be aware of the student’s whereabouts at all times, whether they are at school, at home or elsewhere while under your care.
Tour Historical Sites
Unsurprisingly, International students will be unfamiliar with American history and especially the history of your local community. Since American history will more than likely be a very important part of their education, students will need to be “caught up” on certain events throughout U.S. history. As part of a tour of your local American city and as a homestay activity, visit the local historical sites in your community so students can start to get a head start on catching up on American history for school.
Are there any historical sites that have stories linking back to Chinese culture? Ask your local history expert or research online some events that happened in your local community that involved Chinese immigrants or politics. Your student will appreciate that you are aware of Chinese culture in your community. Don’t be surprised if students have a different version of the story, however, and remember to have an open mind when discussing historical events with your students.
Explore Art and Culture Museums
One way of discovering another culture is to visit fine arts museums, and learn more about the artistic movements within that culture’s history. Take your student to a local art museum, especially if fine or modern art plays a significant role in your local community’s culture. Invite your student to describe Chinese fine and modern art, and explore the differences between the art you discover at a museum and the fine art one might find in China.
International students from China will more than likely come from dense, urban areas, and so will be unfamiliar with the more rural or suburban communities that many of our host families are from. Students will initially be interested in discovering environments that are familiar to their own, and a tour of a major city will be a great way to help students feel more at home, since they will be once again submerged in an active, urban setting.