YFU Handbooks - Page 13

Hints and Suggestions for the Host Family The following suggestions are based on more than five decades of YFU host family experiences. YFU recommends that families think about these suggestions before their YFU student arrives. Whether you are a young person or an adult, consider your feelings the first time you went away from home for an extended period of time, especially if you went a long way from home, into a strange and unfamiliar environment. The stronger your memory of those feelings, the more you will understand what an exchange student will be feeling. Understanding will help the student feel like one of the family more quickly. Most of what follows is based on information YFU has received from host families around the world, families who have enjoyed the Youth For Understanding Program. ••Hold family discussions. Families should talk together about what it will be like to add a new person to their home, to their daily routine and perhaps crowded schedule. Family members should be asked what it would be like for one of them to go to a strange new country, to a new family, speaking a new language for a year. What kind of hopes, fears, and expectations would an exchange student have? All families have—and need—rules. Rules are established guidelines to help people live together. Family rules are usually thought of in terms of money, chores, and curfews; however, many rules are unspoken expectations of the way people should behave. For example, often families have long-standing assumptions about how things are done; i.e., “the top always goes back on the toothpaste, the youngest family member always sets the table, one asks before bringing friends home or raiding the refrigerator.” Each family also has more subtle rules. The exchange student won’t know the family’s assumed rules and will probably make mistakes. To complicate things further, the student will also be bringing along an entire set of assumed rules from his or her own family. When a student breaks a rule, the family might be angry, disappointed, or only mildly irritated. Eventually, a gap in communication can develop and widen, sometimes becoming irreparable. To prevent those little irritations from developing into major communication barriers, both families and students must become aware of all the family rules, both implicit and explicit. This is the first step in the process of adjusting the family system to the newcomer. Assume everyone doesn’t know the rules. Sometimes rules are unstated or stated vaguely. For example, “Call if you are not going to be home by dinner time” is not as specific as “Call if you are not going to be home to eat dinner at 6 pm.” Not everyone will have the same understanding that the family has about the rules. ••Know some of the student’s language. What a thrill it will be for the student to hear your family offer greetings in his or her native language. Key resources like the Campus Coordinator, language instructors at the college, or even experienced host families can teach families some basic words, phrases, greetings, or terms of endearment. Berlitz phrase books or similar publications offer whole phrases by topic, making them easy to learn. ••Learn about the student’s country. It will make the student more comfortable if the family knows something about his or her country. ○○ Books and magazines on other cultures, including many for young children, are available in public libraries. See the list of suggested reading materials at the end of this handbook. ○○ Watch educational programs on television or DVD. ○○ These programs offer insights into the people of a particular country, the lifestyles, the history and government, the economy, the educational system, the land, and the climate. ○○ Online Resources. The internet offers a wealth of resources to get up-to-date statistics, news, and information about recent cultural trends. Some websites to consider include: 1. Embassy Websites. Most countries’ embassies in Washington, DC, have websites in English with cultural and news updates and educational CCP HANDBOOK - 13