Should I Buy My Exchange Student Christmas or Birthday Gifts?

You’ll often hear the local and regional personnel from your exchange student program say – “treat your exchange student like one of the family.” As one of the family, you’ll want to honor and celebrate them on special days like Christmas and their birthday. 

You don’t have to break the bank to show your exchange student you appreciate them. Small gift items and treats will make them feel a part of the family. 

Birthday Gift and Celebration Ideas With Your Exchange Student

On their birthday, your exchange student might get a little homesick. You can make sure they have a memorable time in the United States by doing something special for them. Before making any plans, it is important that you familiarize yourself with their birthday customs for added fun. 

Here are a few ideas that will make them smile:

  • Invite the extended family over for a backyard birthday celebration.
  • Try to incorporate a dish from their culture to make them feel at home. 
  • Take the student out to a restaurant and have them sing “Happy Birthday” to them. This will be a new experience for most exchange students.
  • Decorate their bedroom with balloons and streamers to celebrate their birthday.
  • Don’t forget to get or bake a birthday cake for them. If your student is from China, instead of a birthday cake, honor them with a meal of extra-long noodles to symbolize long life. Students from Mexico will be tickled to see a pinata in your backyard for their birthday festivities. 
  • Prepare their favorite meal and let them invite over a friend from school. 

Even if your budget is tight, you can get your exchange student a gift for their birthday. These small tokens of love will make your student’s birthday a happy one:

  • Put together a basket of American goodies and treats.
  • What about something practical but endearing like a blanket/throw, slippers or mittens/gloves?
  • Give them memorabilia such as a t-shirt or sweatshirt from the local university. If they like to eat at Chick-Fil-A, what about a mug or shirt featuring their logo/slogan?
  • Gift them with a music CD from their favorite artist. 
  • Similarly, you can buy them a DVD of their favorite movie.
  • Put together a nail polish set with a variety of colors. 
  • If your student is into art, you can make them a kit with a sketchpad, pencils and paints.
  • Magazines are a rare find for many overseas. Give your student a few fashion or sports magazines for their library. 
  • You can also give them a gift that entertains them like movie tickets, bowling passes or a gift certificate to a pizza parlor. 

Christmas Gifts and Celebration Ideas With Your Exchange Student

Christmas is celebrated differently in other countries. To treat your student as part of the family, make plans to incorporate some of their customs in your holiday plans. This can include food or decoration traditions.

Try to take them to traditional Christmas activities or events like:

  • The Nutcracker ballet.
  • A Christmas tree farm.
  • A Santa Claus parade.

Get together with your neighbors for a round of caroling to give your student a Christmas they’ll never forget. 

On Christmas morning, most families in the United States exchange gifts. If this is your custom,

you’ll want to buy a few things for your exchange student so they won’t feel left out. Here are a few fun gift ideas which are sure to make them laugh:

  • An ugly sweater.
  • Crazy socks with their picture.
  • A child board game like Chutes & Ladders.
  • A Polaroid camera to capture the memories of their stay. 

You can also buy them a gift that they can keep forever like a personalized Christmas ornament or stocking.  

Homemade Gifts

If you have young children, get them involved in recognizing your exchange student on their birthday or Christmas. They’ll be so proud to make them a handmade gift. It will also endear them to their new older brother or sister. Some ideas include:

  • A friendship bracelet.
  • Snowglobe.
  • A plate of baked cookies.
  • Dreamcatcher.
  • Shell picture frame (put a picture of them in it).

With an exchange student, it is definitely not the gift but the thought behind it. Take the time to consider the wants and needs of your student when choosing gifts for their birthday or Christmas. This will let them know that you have really gotten to know and love them.

Besides Christmas and birthdays, it is a good idea to recognize the holidays your student might celebrate in their country like:

  • Saint Nicholas Day celebrated on December 6 in Germany, Poland, and other European countries.
  • Carnival celebrated in late February/early March in Brazil.
  • Diwali celebrated by Hindus on November 14.
  • Bonfire Night held in England in early November. 
  • The Chinese New Year celebrated in mid-February.