It's often said that the world is one giant village and this is especially true when you get the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to host a German exchange student. While the process is lengthy and confusing, the time you get to spend getting to know your German student is an experience you will never forget. You'll smile and grow teary as you remember some moments and you'll shake your head, wondering how you got through some of the rougher times. Most important, you'll gain a new child, who will never forget her Americanische mutter und vater (mother and father).
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Things you need
- Approved Host Family Application Form
- Room in your home
Contact your local high school and ask about foreign exchange programs they work with in hosting German students. Check with the German teacher, who should have additional information you could use to start the hosting process.
Find other foreign exchange programs (such as German American Partnership Program) and become familiar with their application processes. Reputable programs require host family applicants to fill out a Host Family Application form and provide references from different sources, such as your employer, a family friend and a source in your community who knows you well.
Fill out the Host Family Application form. Be thorough and truthful in providing requested information. Make copies of the Reference form and give them to your reference resources, giving them sufficient time to respond to your request and the questions on the form.
Make note of scheduled meetings for host families so the exchange coordinator or German teacher can provide all the necessary information about the school and students in Germany, the geographical area the students come from, the proposed itinerary for your German students and what you're expected to provide.
Make preparations for your exchange student's stay in your home. Prepare her room, find out what her food preferences and allergies are, contact the high school and enrol her for classes in the appropriate grade level. If you have a speciality market in your town, stock up on German foods, snacks and delicacies so she can look forward to familiar foods in your home. Don't be afraid to introduce her to the foods you enjoy eating.
Arrive at the airport in plenty of time on the day your student arrives. Prepare a large, colourful sign with his name printed on it and take a small bouquet of flowers or another gift to welcome him into your family.
Give your exchange student time to settle in. She'll miss her hometown, friends and family. Give her access to the phone so she can call her parents on a regular basis. invite her to use your family's computer so she can maintain contact with family and friends as well.
Find out what your exchange student's interests are--if he plays soccer or fussball with a local soccer club in his community, give him the chance to watch local matches or join a soccer team in your community. Encourage him to tell you what his interests are so you can help him make connections in his new home. He's going to live with you for almost a year, so he needs to feel comfortable and fit in.
Tips and warnings
- Don't worry if you don't know any German. Your exchange student wants to work on her English.
- Encourage your children to find ways to connect with their host brother or sister. Give them opportunities to get to know one another.
- Talk about the differences between life in the United States and Germany. For instance, in Germany, the legal drinking age is 16.
- Allow your exchange student to help around the house. He wants to fit in, not feel like a guest for the entire time he'll be living with you.
- Be prepared for conflicts, especially when your exchange student is used to a different standard of living. You can call the exchange program and your high school's guidance counsellor if you run into a conflict.
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