Meeting your exchange student at the airport will be a memorable experience for both you and them. Make it extra special by doing something creative to welcome them to your home and community. Here are a few simple but fun ideas:
- If you have young kids, let them make a welcome sign for your student that includes their name and a welcome greeting.
- Greet them with a red, white, and blue floral bouquet.
- Have balloons and wave miniature flags to greet your student.
- Create a sign that says welcome and hello in their native language.
- Include extended family in your welcome party.
- Choreograph a fun dance or song to say welcome to your exchange student.
After your student finds you, you’ll give them a big hug. But don’t be offended if they don’t hug you back. It could be cultural or they might be hesitant to get too close having been on the plane for several hours.
Take lots of photos at the airport so that your exchange student can share them with their parents at home. A warm welcome can go a long way in setting the tone for the rest of your student’s visit. Small gestures can be huge to someone who is coming to stay with strangers in another country.
Leaving The Airport With Your Foreign Exchange Student
Your exchange student will have lots of bags so it will be important to rent an airport cart for convenience. Once in the car, your student will be a little nervous. They will also be eager to see the city. Although you might want to take them on a tour, remember they will be exhausted from their long flight. Therefore, it is important to take them straight home. However, feel free to point out landmarks and other interesting places like the school if they are on your route. Even if the extended family came to the airport, they shouldn’t follow you home. Instead, they should say goodbye to you at the airport and promise to stop by to see the student the next day.
At Home With Your Exchange Student
If possible, take the day off from work so you can spend the rest of the day at home with your student. To make things easier, you should prepare your home for your student before leaving for the airport. This includes having their bed ready and the house clean for their arrival. You might also decorate the home and bedroom with balloons and banners that continue to make them feel welcome.
Be respectful of the fact that they’ve flown half-way around the world to get here. That said, they will probably be eager to freshen up. You can make this experience easy by having towels laying on their bed for their use. A gift bag with body wash, deodorant, lotion, and other toiletries will keep them from having to search through their suitcase for personal items. Add a card to the bag that includes a short message from each family member. Before your student showers, go over some basics about the bathroom. Show them how to turn the shower on and off, how to get the water hotter and colder, and how to flush the toilet. Don’t assume that they know, explain everything to them just in case. Always keep a smile and let them know you are close by if they should need you.
Once they’ve settled in, make sure they contact their natural parents and let them know that they’ve made it safely. Next, you can offer them something light to eat and drink like a sandwich with chips or a salad. Don’t give them anything heavy right away.
After eating, your student might want to take a nap. If so, don’t let them sleep more than a couple of hours. If they do, they might have trouble sleeping at night. Instead, spend a little time talking about their trip and do something relaxing like watching a movie (in their language with English subtitles for you). You should also plan for an early bedtime so your student will be well-rested the next day.
The day after your student’s arrival, you can have a few friends and family over for a get-together. Introduce them to their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. You can also take a quick trip to the beach or take a walk around downtown. It can be tempting to try to show them the whole city, but remember, they will be with you for a full semester or year so you’ll have plenty of time to take them around. Later in the evening, allow them time to unpack and get more settled in their room.
The First Few Days
Try to keep them busy the first few days so they don’t start to get homesick. Your exchange student program will also have planned an orientation for them so you’ll want to schedule activities around that date. You’ll also need to take them to the school to register for classes and sign-up for Fall sports if they are interested.
Be patient with your student as they will struggle to communicate with you in English. They might take a long time to answer your questions or simply smile when they don’t understand your question. Try to remember to speak slowly and make them feel comfortable enough to let you know if they need you to repeat or explain something. You should also congratulate them on their decision to study abroad and assure them that they will be safe and always welcome in your home.