Host-Family Rules for Exchange Students

Norma, 2007

Norma, 2007

This is our Host-Family Rules for exchange students. Actually, it is more like a survival manual for living in our home. Our host-family rules began ten years ago as a two page document, but each exchange student has left her mark on the rules with an added paragraph here and there…the girls laugh because they know exactly for which parts they are responsible. The length has also grown since AYUSA began requiring certain things to be included, particularly in the area of internet use and safety.

Written rules help the exchange student to integrate more quickly into the family. They aid the student in learning the normal routine of the home and the unwritten rules of the household. Additionally, exchange students usually arrive with a much stronger command of written language rather than spoken.

I am posting our host-family rules not as a shining example of how they should be written, but simply as an example.  Every host family is unique with its own routines, quirks, and tolerances; therefore, each set of host-family rules should be unique as well.

Note that our rules are gender specific.

Guidebook for Surviving Our Household

Rule #1!

Never be afraid to ask questions about anything that you do not understand! We know that we often use slang and colloquial expressions that are hard to understand. Do not hesitate to say that you don’t understand us and that you need for us to talk slower or repeat something that we have said.

A Typical Day

Please feel free to make yourself completely at home, but if you use something, put it back. If you get something dirty, clean it up. Please treat our house and our belongings with respect as we will still be living here after you return home. If you turn something on, be sure to turn it off. Thus applies to the computer, stereo, washer, dryer, TV, DVD, and all kitchen appliances. We will show you how to operate everything in the house, but please do not hesitate to ask questions if we forget to tell you something. Also remember to be considerate with regards to the volume of the stereo and TV.

We both get up before 6:00 am to get ready for work. We often get up before 5:00 am to exercise. This may seem very early for you and you do not have to get up at this time. We will wake you before we leave for work and it will be your responsibility to get to school on time.

We will be at work for most of the day. The times that we get home vary, but generally it is between 6:00 and 7:00 pm.

The week’s meals are usually planned on Sunday and we purchase all food for the week on one trip. Either one of us will start dinner depending on who gets home first so that dinner is ready between 6:30 and 7:00 pm. Everyone helps to clean-up so that it gets done quickly.

We usually go to bed around 9:30 or 10:00 pm. If you need to stay up later in order to study, you may as long as you are quiet. You need to play the TV and stereo very softly after 10:00 pm.

During the weekend, the schedule can vary quite a bit. Sometimes Gary has activities with his students. Sometimes Terri has activities involving our dogs. We also like to go to festivals, museums, and parks during the weekends. We like doing things with our exchange daughters and would like to keep you very busy showing you all the wonderful sites in and around Dallas.

Household Chores

You are responsible for keeping your own room and bathroom clean. If guests are coming over, your bathroom must be very clean as it may be used.

No one in this household likes to clean; therefore, everyone pitches in to help with the chores. These will not be extensive because we run a very casual home. Some examples of daily chores are picking up the mail, emptying and filling the dishwasher, straightening the kitchen, taking out the trash, and picking up anything that is out of place.

The cleaning ladies come every other week. Some chores need to be done to prepare; for example, everything needs to be put away so that they can clean…they only clean and do not pick-up items and put them away. Also, sheets need to be taken off of the bed and clean sheets left for the ladies to make the bed.

We might also need to clean some during the week when the cleaning ladies are not coming, especially if we are expecting guests. All of us will work together to keep the house nice.

We may also ask you at times to help take care of the dogs and cat. There are things that must be done with the animals by whoever comes home first in the afternoon. This will usually be you. We will show you everything that needs to be done. We would greatly appreciate it if you would brush the dogs occasionally. Brushing is something that often gets neglected and the dogs will love your attention.

Personal Stuff

Americans generally shower once a day and wash their hair at least every other day. In our hot Texas climate we might shower more than once a day if we become overheated. You are free to use either the downstairs bathroom as needed. If you wish to take shower upstairs, please check with Gary as he also uses the upstairs bathroom. You will be able to purchase the shampoo, toothpaste, soap and other personal items that you need from the grocery or drug store.

We will purchase toilet paper for the house. It is safe to flush toilet paper in the toilet, but not Kleenex. You can flush the toilet after each use.

You only need to wear your clothes one day before they are washed.  You should not wash until you have a full load in order to save water and electricity. Laundry is usually done during the weekend. Clothing and towels are done once a week. Sheets are done every two weeks. We will show you how to use the washer and dryer so you can do your own laundry if necessary, but we will usually do all the work on the laundry together. You will have a laundry basket in you closet to keep you dirty clothes in until laundry day.

Always knock before entering either a bedroom or a bathroom. Privacy is very important to most Americans. We will always knock before entering your room.

If you wish to move furniture around your room, ask for assistance from Gary so that you do not scratch the wood floors. You may also hang pictures or other decorations as you like. Again ask Gary for assistance.

You may use the phone to call your fiends locally. You may receive phone calls between the hours of 8:00 am and 10:00 pm. You are responsible for paying for any long distance calls that you make, and remember that long distance calls to your family will be expensive. E-mail is fast and free. If you can, send e-mails in English to help improve your language learning. Beware that while texting may be cheap in your country, it is very expensive in the U.S. Terri will help you to get a cell phone and explain all of the costs so that you are not surprised by a large phone bill.

Unless it is very close to meal time, don’t hesitate to get yourself a snack to eat. We are often very busy with work, and sometime supper is late. Don’t feel that you need to starve while you wait for us to come home from work, but when we eat dinner at the table you will be expected to eat with us. During the week you will be responsible for making your own breakfast and lunch, or you may buy your lunch at school.

If there is something that you want from the grocery store, please write it down. We try to go to the grocery store only once a week. If you need something that cannot be purchased at the grocery store, please speak with Terri.

AYUSA program rules forbid you to drive a car. This seems to be at the top of the list of forbidden activities.

School

A bus will come by the house to take you to school and to bring you home. As you get to know the other students, they or their parents may offer to drive you…this is OK as long as we know who you are riding with, and we want to meet any student that every offers you a ride in their car. Gary and I will drive you to any school activities as needed when we are home from work. You are also free to walk if you are feeling energetic!

Please let us know of any events at school so that we can attend or any problems you might be having. We are here to help and support you. U.S. schools are very different from those overseas, and what is accepted practice in your school at home may not be allowed here. We will review the dress code together once you start school.

We also want you to become involved in as many activities at school as possible. Just be sure to let us know if you are going to stay at school later than expected.

Internet Usage

While the internet can be a wonderful thing for communicating and advancing our society, there can also be problems with it.

First and foremost, there are dangers on the internet. AYUSA has an internet pledge that you are required to sign reminding you that not everyone on the internet is telling the truth about who they are and what are their true intentions. Secondly, too much time spent communicating with your friends and family at home in your native language can be detrimental to your development of language skills and friendships in the United States.

We have one computer in our home, and it is for everyone to use. You may use the computer to do any school assignments that you need to do. You should not be on the internet continuously for more than two hours; there are too many other things to go out to see and do. You are not to communicate on the internet with anyone that you have not also met in person. You may not download any software onto the computer without discussing it with us first. You may spend time once each week communicating with your family to assure them that you are doing well.

You may also contact friends once a week to do the same. Birthday greetings or other special occasions are an exception to this rule. Please feel free to discuss with us any concerns you have regarding computer usage.

We do not have unlimited internet usage. If we use the internet too much over a 24 hour period, our internet speed is cut drastically back. If you cause this to happen, your internet usage will be seriously curtailed.

Going Out with Friends, etc.

The dogs must be put in their kennels before you go out and there is no one else home. We will show you how to do this.

You are free to socialize with your friends outside of school. However, it is very important that all times we know where you are going, when you will be home, with whom you are going to be, and how we can reach you. We want to be introduced to your friends and those students you go out with beforehand so that we can put names with faces. If you are going to be late, you need to call. On school nights you must be home by 9:00 pm unless special arrangements are made with us. During the weekend you will be expected to be home before midnight.

Please remember two things. The first is that you have had your entire life to build the trust between you and your parents, but you have but a short time to build the same trust with us. The second is that we are “borrowing” you as a daughter, and normally you take greater care of something that is borrowed than something that is your own.

You may invite friends over to the house as long as you ask us in advance. You are not allowed to be home alone with boys.

Please remember that drinking and use of drugs are not permitted and is against the law for someone your age. Some American teenagers that you socialize with may do these things but remember that breaking these rules will have far more serious consequences for you than it will for them. Please do not do anything that would jeopardize your stay with us. Even being in the presence of illegal drugs, even if you do not touch them, can get you sent home. Drinking can be more dangerous in the U.S. than in your own country because in the U.S. most teenagers have automobiles accessible to them. Never get in a care with a driver who has been drinking as many teenagers are killed this way. You can always call us from anywhere and at anytime, and we will come and get you.

Pets

Whether you want the dogs around is up to you. If they are playing too roughly in the house, they can be put outside. If you have visitors, it is best to either put them outside or in their kennels. You will soon learn how to handle the dogs to avoid problems between them.

Money

You will receive a monthly allowance of $125.00 as part of your scholarship. This may seem like a great deal of money to you, but items in the U.S. can be very expensive. Some of your friends at school may have quite a bit of money and the temptation may be to spend your money as freely as them, but remember your money must make it from month to month. Terri will help you to budget your money so that you will have every thing you need and money to participate in fun activities also. Please feel free to ask any question and for our advice about how to best use your scholarship

It is very important that you save all receipts because you will be reimbursed by AYUSA for your school expenses up to $300.00.

We like to eat in restaurants. When we go out as a family for meals or activities, we will pay. If you go out with your friends, you will need to use your own money.

Religion

We are not religious people, and we don’t attend church very often. Terri’s mother does regularly attend church if you have an interest in seeing what a Christian church in the U.S. is like. American teenagers often participate in social events at their churches during the week, and this can be a good way to meet new friends. If you are interested, let us know.

We do observe major religious holidays. We hope that you will enjoy sharing these holidays with us.

Americans can seem very strange to others and these guidelines may seem very strange to you. We hope that we can learn to understand each other and become close friends. We will do our best to welcome you into our home and make you a part of our family. Hopefully you can excuse any of our oddities and have a very enjoyable experience living in the U.S.

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55 responses to “Host-Family Rules for Exchange Students

  1. Thank you for posting this. It will give many host families a way to begin their house rules…

  2. I hope it is helpful to somebody. I’ve been re-reading it and notice it really needs to be re-organized. The structure makes sense to us because we know what was added, when, and why. Probably not so much for a first time reader.

    • Loving this post – thank you. We’ve made initial enquiries about becoming a host family and somehow seem to have landed our first student within less than 48 hours!!! Although we’re in the UK and some of what you say isn’t relevant, the vast majority of it is. It’s given me a great starting point to bring together some of our own guidelines in a very small amount of time!

  3. But isn’t that the point? It’s a jumping off point for another family, not meant to be duplicated as every family is different. You host with AYUSA. I’m AFS. You live in TX, I live in MI. The only thing you might add (IMO) is that you host YES students – the reference to the $125 allowance may be misunderstood by someone not familiar with the way programs work, and not familiar with the State Department Public Diplomacy Initiative scholarships.

    However, if you do revise it, be sure to post as I’m sure it will be as insightful as your previous advice to host families and exchangers.

    • Ann is correct. All exchange students do not receive scholarships. I believe there are currently four scholarship programs offered by the U.S. Department of State:

      1. FLEX Program, which helps students from countries of the former Soviet Union
      2. CBYX, which helps students from Germany (also U.S. students going to Germany)
      3. YES, which helps students from Middle Eastern and predominately Muslim countries (now also U.S. students traveling to a select group of countries)
      4. A-SMYLE, which helps students from Serbia and Montenegro

      We include the discussion of money in our rules because our girls have come from either the FLEX or the YES programs. Teaching money management is very important because some of these students are almost entirely dependent upon their scholarship money, and their previous experience in budgeting money can be negligible.

  4. This is valuable info for a first time host family like ourselves. I will take this and arrange the words to apply to our home and needs. Thank you for posting.

  5. A friend pointed me to your website. I have a 16 year old French ex student coming for a month in addition to a 19 year old nephew. Never had teenage boys before so this helps a lot!

  6. Good luck with that Laura!

  7. Wow! This is great! I wrote a list of rules, but I was feeling like it was too overwhelming, with 20 rules on the list. I think you covered it all but in a much more friendly format! We’re hosting a student from Sweden in 2 weeks, and we live near Austin! Thanks!

    • I grew up in Austin and love that city. Your student will love it as well.

      The good students, and yours will be one, don’t mind rules (even a lot of them) as long as they are rational. They find rules natural and appreciate having guide posts to help them navigate through their new family life and culture.

  8. thanks so much for posting these. I too was not sure where to begin. This will be a great to use in my house for my exchange students. I have a few things to change though.

    • As every family is unique, so should be host-family rules. This is especially true when it comes to the unwritten rules of the home.

  9. These are great and like a lot of the host families I have stayed with in Canada and even here in the States.

  10. Exchange Student in U.S

    Hi! I am in a cool family of Illinois, and probably you dont care about my opinion all the rules that are posted are pretty much dumb. Chances are that I would hate my life in the United States with that family, because you cannot put stupid rules to all our lifes.

    • You are correct that I don’t care much about your opinion…the reason being you haven’t given anything in your comments that would lead anyone to respect your opinion. I don’t know which program you are with, but probably somewhere in your contract it states that you are to follow the rules of the host family, so yes, a host family can impose rules on the exchange student who lives in their home. Perhaps if you could provide a valid argument as to why one of the rules is out-of-line I might reconsider that particular guideline. Keep in mind that many of these rules are set by the exchange program, meaning that if you don’t like the rules, don’t agree to follow them by signing your program contract.

  11. Exchange Student in U.S

    Hi!:
    First: If you would put me that rules, i will follow them without a problem, I am not the kind of rebel teenager.
    Second: There are many rules in the exchange program contract, but it’s up to the family to follow them or not.
    Third: If you change all that rules or not its up to you, but I am sure that any exchange student will have a more relaxed and better time in a family without so many rules. It is not even the rules, it is the way of life you have that make difficult a student to live there, because your rules come from the way you live.
    I use as an example my family: It is a good family, we do a lot of things together, we have a good relationship and they have no problem at all with me; but using as an example one of your rules, they will not care if I stay till 4 a.m. watching tv or playing video-games, that’s up to me if I want to be a zombie the next morning, so I will take care of myself, that make us, the extudents mature and grow up, that is part of the exchange program.
    That is enough reasons to get some respect, right? :)

    • Thank you for providing some elaboration.

      On your first point…good for you.

      You are incorrect on your second point. Host families are given program rules just as exchange students and the program is expecting families to follow the rules. For the exchange student, it is ultimately the exchange student’s commitment to follow the rules that were agreed upon. Any action by the host family does not absolve the student of this commitment, and the program can send the student home for breaking rules regardless of any approval, vocal or tacit, given by the host family. Most families will enforce the student-program rules because they do not want their student to jeopardize his or her exchange.

      Your final argument is not valid because the example you gave does not exist in my post. I suggest you study the post more carefully.

      The home and life of the host family is their own. It is the responsibility of the student to adapt to the host family. The student does not have to like the life of his or her host family, but the student is responsible for making the adjustment. Hopefully, the coordinator and host family have done a good job of matching the student to the family. If you finish your year successfully, then I would say you and your family have been a good match. Recognize that while it is true that you might not feel relaxed in our home, conversely the students who have thrived in our home might feel uncomfortable with your host family.

  12. Hi,
    Thanks for posting such an informative list. I will use it for a jumping off start with our new exchange student. This is our first time hosting and we want the student to feel at home – within the rules that we have set up for our own children. Do you have any tips for first time host families? Also, would it be beneficial to include some rules about the school? Our student will be from Korea and they are not accustomed to speaking to the teacher (they receive lectures only).
    Thanks,
    Denise

    • Hi Denise…welcome to hosting. Tips? First, I would suggest reading my post “Advice for the Host Family.” Second, I would suggest going to http://www.hostparent.com . It’s a board with some very experienced and knowlegeable posters. There are some host parents there who have much more experience with Asian students than me. Also there is a sticky post titled “Candi’s Very Important Practical Things to Know about Hosting” which has a lot of great ideas.

      If there are special things about your school you might include them, but your student will arrive having already spent hours and hours in orientations. I would try to stick to those things that are more unique to your family, school, and community.

  13. Thank you for such an informative blog. :) My family will be a first-time host family in a few weeks, and we are all nervous and excited. I’ve enjoyed reading through your suggestions.

  14. Thank you for this. So far, 3 weeks into our first hosting experience, I am seeing red flags of this becoming very negative. I hope that if I amend these rules and post them, maybe it will help a little. (They match almost perfectly how our home has always been run aside from 2 things or so.) I just wish there was a way to get our student to understand “caving is not sociably acceptable here” and “quit outright ignoring your host mother. You’re making her miserable.”

  15. I have hosted a male exchange student from Germany and I am now hosting a17 year old girl from Khazakhstan. She like all teens like their space, like to hear loud music and be left alone day dreaming. I do not take this personally since I am not expecting the kid to be making circles around me. We do make time to talk during breakfast and dinner. Also before going to bed, but I want her to feel just like she was at home . She is always giving me hugs when she is grateful and happy. That is all I care.

  16. Just a few comments to make. Is it common for exchange studes to arrive with “entitlement” attitudes? Are they all from wealthy families and have EVERYTHING done for them? Do they not have rules at home? Have they EVER been told the word “NO”? These are all issues that we’ve been dealing with since our student arrived. Our student has one agenda and that is socializing with friends. It does not include the host family or host siblings in any way. Our student feels entitled to doing what he/she wants, whenever he/she wants with no regard for the host family. The student has lied to us about plans, activities and homework. Gives the rep and us lip service but does not change. We are only a boarding house and chauffeur service. Our student does not clean up after him/herself, does not keep his/her bedroom or bathroom clean, and does not put laundry in the hamper. I pack lunches for the student daily but have only had food and drink containers returned twice. This student is irresponsible, loses things on a regular basis but it is always someone elses fault, does not turn in assignments, is very close to failing some classes because homework and assignments aren’t being done and has not paid school fees associated with athletic activities even after numerous reminders. This student has already planned after school activities for the entire school year so that interaction with with family is not necessary. Our family rules which this student agreed to follow are not that strict and are the same rules by which our own children must abide. No dating until age 16. May go out with groups or to adult supervised activities, but we must be told in advance who they are going with (including everyone), where they are going, what they will be doing, when they will be home, and if there is any change of plans, we must know in advance. Also all state and local laws must be followed such as no more than one passenger with a driver under 18, driving curfews between midnight and 5 a.m. For some reason, our student feels that he/she needs to lie to us, or not inform us of the plans. We cancelled his/her plans at the last minute recently because we found out that we were being lied to. This student stated to the rep that he/she is not happy with us because we won’t allow the coming and going as they please. We have had several meetings with the rep, and spoken to the district rep by phone. The student has given us all lip service. This student is 15 years old and is way to immature to be on an adventure such as this. We had all sorts of activities and trips planned to do with our student, but anything we want to do, the student doesn’t. Quite frankly we aren’t going to waste the $ by dragging him/her along and having them ignore us and text with friends the entire time. We quite frankly didn’t sign up to be a boarding house, chauffeur service or policing agency. The area rep is just as frustrated as we are. The district rep is ready to send this student home and quite frankly so are we. This is not the cultural experience that we signed up for. We keep explaining to the student that it is ultimately our responsibility to ensure his/her safety but we can’t do that when he/she is ignoring our rules and disobeying us. Quite frankly, our own children would have been grounded from all activities and electronic devices for a very long period of time had they tried this with us. We have gone out of our way to try to include/incorporate this student into our family, but we are continually shunned. We’re obviously below this students class. The exchange program this student came through strongly recommends that students not bring laptops, but that was the first thing our student unpacked. This student is in constant contact with friends and family at home, and friends here which the program strongly discourages. When the student is not skyping, he/she is texting. We recently had an activity with other exchange students in the area, and they all seem to be adjusting to their families and are interested in learning to cook American foods and learn about our culture. Our student wants food on the table when he/she walks in the door after activities, clears his/her place and then goes to his/her room for the remainder of the day. We’ve barely had 20 minutes on conversation out of the student in 2 1/2 months. It’s obvious to us that there is very little if any adult interaction or supervision at home. This student does not know how to relate to adults at all and does not have any respect us or our rules in any way. We are beyond frustrated. Yesterday the area rep called to say that our student wasn’t happy with us due to the fact that we wouldn’t allow him/her to come and go as they please. The rep asked how much longer we wanted to continue and if we would like to have the student move on. My husband said that if they can find another family that will allow this student the free will that he/she feels they deserve, then go for it because we weren’t going to cave in when it came to following our family rules. We can’t have one set of rules for our children and another set for our student. It isn’t fair to any of us.

    • As someone who works in the international student exchange business, I am very sorry to hear you’re having a hard time with your student (or had, if he/she moved by now). While many students do come from families with a decent amount of money (they pay a lot to come here, unless they are on a scholarship program like FLEX or YES), I can confidently tell you that they do not all have the sense of entitlement that you ask about. True, there are some students who are more difficult (and they are all teenagers, no matter what country they’re from), but a good majority of them are respectful, outgoing, and appreciative. There are plenty of exchange students who are very eager to participate with their host families.

      I hope that this experience doesn’t prevent you from hosting again in the future! I’ve heard so many positive remarks from families who now have lifelong friends around the world thanks to hosting.

      If anything, I would recommend thinking about hosting well before August so that you have time to prepare mentally for a teenager (or another teenager, if you already have any in your family) to be living in the home. Work with your local representative to find a student that really seems to be a good match, and choose him/her early… this will help you to get his/her contact information sooner so that you can begin corresponding well before he/she arrives. You can lay out your expectations well in advance, and you might get a sense of a bad fit right away. Conversely, you and your student might be all the more comfortable when he/she arrives.

      This isn’t fool-proof. It’s often hard to predict just how the student will act before he/she arrives, but I know that hosting can be a very positive experience, and I truly hope you don’t let one student prevent you from all of the wonderful opportunities hosting an exchange student can bring.

      Good luck!

  17. Lawrence H. Climo, M.D.

    I am researching the host-parent experience. There is very little published in book form. This website is helpful. Can anyone direct me to written texts, memoirs, studies? Much thanks.

  18. Here is a great book that I lucked into finding: Host Family Survival Kit, A Guide for American Host Families–by Nancy King and Ken Huff

  19. Hollyhousewife

    What a GREAT site!!!
    Yes we changed the ‘rules’ to suit our family and we really hope all goes well. This is our first time hosting a student. I’m going to check out the other links that are posted. The young man we are getting is Muslim, no problems here with that only that he does not eat pork and I did not realize until I looked at our past menus(posted on the calendar) that we do eat a fair bit. We will repsect his religion in the hopes that he will be open to our culture. The nights we have pork I’ll just make him something else.

    If I were in a culture that served say horse meat I would be disgusted but I’d keep my thoughts to myself and hope that they would server another meat choice as we are doing. Who knows, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed that things go well.

    • Good luck with your student. We ended up substituting lamb for pork which in itself opened up a new world for us as lamb had never been on our menu.

  20. I so wish we had found your site in August, before we started our exchange experience. We haven’t had any major problems, but even the small ones could have been eliminated if we had been able to share this at the beginning. We are currently dealing with a “boyfriend” issue. I just found out when I saw it on Facebook, so we haven’t had the opportunity to ask her about it. I know that FLEX has some information on dating, but I am at work and my handbook is at home! It’s not that we don’t want her to get to know people, or even date people if FLEX allows it, but we are concerned that she will become too involved with this one person and miss out on other opportunities. She is a very strong willed young lady, which we encourage as it can serve her well in life, and we don’t want to break that spirit, but I fear that we are headed for a problem.

    • It sounds like it is time for the “We are really enjoying having you as our exchange daughter and hope that nothing happens that would jeopardize or lessen your exchange experience” speech. Then you have to hope she makes good decisions. This is one of the most common speeches made to exchange students.

      Where is your student from?

  21. Oh, wow. My husband and I were working on our house rules tonight (we’re hosting our first student for the 2012-13 school year) and came across your survival guide. We love the format and will be using it as a template. Thank you!

  22. Wow, The house rules really would have helped us in the beginning (this is our first year). It is such a common sense thing! Makes me feel kinda dumb for not thinking of it on our own. Anyway, our problem is more with our coordinator than with our student. Our coordinator has a host daughter and her coordinator is related to our coordinator. The 3 girls from the different homes have become friends, which is wonderful. At a recent night that the girls were spending the night at our house, the girl staying with our coordinator just started telling us about how they were pushing harder and harder on her about their religion. (He is a pastor) We are christians ourselves and our host daughter did go to church with us once, but she does not believe in God and has not gone with us since. This is ok with us as we do not believe that we have a right to push her to go. The coordinators “daughter” was upset and I told her that she “needed to tell them how she felt” She did talk to them and now they are angry with us and our host daughter because the feel that we got involved where we didn’t belong and that we turned her against going to church. This couldn’t be further from the truth! As I said, we are christians and would love for the girls to go to church with us, but they are not here to be “converted” they are here to live the life of an American teenager. I feel that it is very disrespectful of us to try to change something in these girls life that they don’t practice in their own homes. Any others have problems with this???

    Thank you

    • Conversion is considered to be a life changing decision and thus is entirely improper. I would report this up the chain of command. Once you do this, you have fulfilled your duty in this matter and it is up to the organization to take action or not. I’m sorry that you have been put in this position. Good luck.

      • Thank you so much for your response. I agree with this being a life changing decision and we have no right to overstep those boundries. I will talk to someone up the chain of command and let you know how that goes. Thanks again.

  23. Well, we reported it, andthen the s#*t hit the fan. Our local coordinator has done everything is his power to slander us and get this girl sent home. He stomped out of our house and even kicked her off a cruise she had paid to go on. He then said that he shouldn’t have to return her money and called the regional coordinator and when she didn’t send the girl home went over her head to the head office. All of this on Easter weekend while he should have been preparing his sermon for Easter. He is furious with us and it took several phone calls and a threat to take them to small claims court to get her money back. We have a new local coordinator now and hope that the rest of our time with our exchange student and with this organization goes smoothly, but We will definately be writing a letter when this is over and praying that this man is never able to be a host parent or a coordinator again. We will never host again thanks to this man and his wife.

    • If you have enjoyed your student, please consider hosting again. All veteran host parents will tell you the quality of the the local coordinator is very important to your experience, but that variability is unfortunately another trait. Give another coordinator or organization a try. We have gone through rough times but have not regretted returning to hosting.

  24. Thank you for the list of rules– we are hosting for the first time and will use it as a template. Our local coordinator seems excellent and recommended setting the groundwork for our student’s arrival and your info is very helpful.

  25. Oh boy, I wish I had found this 2 years ago – we would have avoided so many misunderstandings regarding expectations! :-) We have hosted 5 Korean teen girls in the last 2 years and many of these rules have been ruminating in the back of my head for the last two years without a clear articulation.
    Last night, I picked up our new Chinese student at the airport. I have already copied your rules and am making modifications as they suit my family.
    After the group of 2 girls arrived 2 years ago, it very quickly became evident that I needed to set up a Tech Rule. All phones, ipods, laptops, translators, etc – anything that can get wifi or an internet connection- comes to me at 9pm. (If you don’t turn it in, you lose it for several days.) The girls were emailing, texting, on Facebook, Skype, etc ALL NIGHT! Learned that one very quickly and I make no exceptions to it.
    Again, thank you for putting The Rules in writing! I am going to share with other host-families that I network with.

  26. Heather – I need the tech rule (as do many other host parents in our area). 2 weeks into this host and we have a bit of a monster on our hands.

  27. Us, too. I can’t get my 17 year old out of his room. He is from Germany. I shut the Internet router off and that seems to help but I feel we need to set more formal expectations. He has been here 45 days and we’ve already been through money, girl, and Internet issues. Oh my – what did we get ourselves into

  28. This is an AWESOME list of rules, and I hope you don’t mind if I copy and adjust for our family. I do not think it is strict at all- I think they are clear and respectful boundaries. Thank you so much for sharing!!

  29. Great idea with the rules. I thought about doing it myself but wanted to see how the first experience went. I just told him the big ones at the beginning. No tattoos. No smoking and no babies at 16. Really they were for his momma than him. I would hunt down the host parent if my son knocked up a girl.

    He was a good kid already so we lucked out. He played dumb German kid on a few things but I think it was more a teenager thing than a German thing. I did learn that rules are better followed if you explain why they are there. The best one was when he broke an unwritten undiscussed rule with a young lady.

    When he broke it He wimped like a child you don’t trust me anymore. I said I never trusted you. You are a 16 year old boy. If I trusted you then you would not be a teenager. You don’t want me to trust you. One of these days he will understand what I said. He said that his mom would allow what he did back home. Then I called him out and repeated back what he did and asked if I could ask her and he said that I better not. Classic.

    The funny thing is I trust him more than the American girls that give him bedroom eyes.

  30. Glad to find this site. I am single woman, no kids of my own but have a lot of experience with the teenage mind! Expecting my first foreign exchange student (female) from Korea in a few weeks… she is a high school senior and is already 18, wondering if there are any rules you would modify (or perhaps any you’d add!) at that age?

    • Best of luck. We just hosted an 18 yo from Finland, but Finland is about as far as you can get culturally from Korea. My advice is to contact some people who have hosted Asian students as that will be the most important characteristic, more so than age.

    • Jenelle,
      How lucky you are to have a student from Korea! We have hosted 5 Korean girls + 1 Chinese girl in the past 4 years. We are preparing to pick up our newest student (Chinese) in a couple of weeks. Here are some helpful tidbits that I have learned in the last 4 years:
      1. Buy a rice maker
      2. If you live in a metro area that has an Asian supermarket, take her with you and let her help you shop – she will be delighted to show you her favorites and will enjoy sharing her food experience with you.
      3. Stock up on Kimchi – this is a Korean specialty made from fermented cabbage. May sound yucky, but you will develop a taste for it if you host Asian students.
      4. Most Asians find American food extremely salty and/or too sweet. They use very little salt in their foods, due to limited use of processed foods. Our chocolate and sweet deserts will be over-sweet. The Asian girls I have hosted generally did not care for cheese – they use very little dairy in their diets.
      5. If your student is a Senior this year, find out if she plans to apply for college in the US. If so, help her get signed up to take the TOFEL exam – it is an exam for foreign students entering US colleges. Help her get signed up for the SAT and ACT. My suggestion is that she take all three, multiple times, for maximum score. These tests are hard enough for American kids, imagine taking them when you are a foreign student!
      6. If your student is a Senior, help her find colleges to apply to and help her with the application process. We discovered very late in the process with our student that she was relying on her guidance counselor for everything – overwhelming to the guidance counselor who was not familiar with the requirements for foreign students. Advise her to be realistic. Yes, the big name colleges are awesome, but again, they can be difficult to get into. Our student applied to 20 colleges and got acceptances to 4 – based upon her TOFEL, SAT and ACT scores. Hard to watch a kid go through the rejection letters. We figured out that smaller, private colleges LIKE foreign students because they generally pay cash for their higher education.
      7. Asian students are accustomed to living in apartments – if you have a house, she may be shy about coming out of her room. You might find that she hangs out in her room with her computer, phone or ipad most of the time. Like all teens, she will love her technology. ENCOURAGE her to interact with you. Ask her to help you make dinner, walk the dogs with you, watch an episode of your favorite show. You will have to draw her out, but it is very worth the effort.

      I wish you the best and hope this helps you. Enjoy every minute – you have the makings of a lifelong friendship with this young lady.

      Heather

  31. Hi. We are hosting a child from Slovakia starting later this month and I’m wondering how you present these rules/guidelines

    • Since these days we get to meet our students electronically prior to their arrival, we get to tailor the presentation to the student. Generally we present the rules either the the day they arrive, sometimes the next – it depends on the time of their flight. We give them an evening to read them over then sit down together to answer questions. I try to emphasize the practical nature of most of the document and stress that much of it is required to be there by the organization. Being handed a three or four page list of rules can be a shock for a student, especially if they are largely independent at home or they think they are escaping a strict home for total freedom on exchange.

      We ended up negotiating a later curfew with our last student. She hated rules. By December though we had worked out the situation so that it was tolerable for all.

      We only had one student who was overly negative about receiving the rules and she was home before November.

  32. Thank you for your response, I am quite excited, but also nervous. I do not have children and I can be a pushover so I want to establish guidelines quickly.

  33. Love your Guidelines! Thank you so much for posting! I have been thinking for months to put together something in writing for our family and your Guidelines gave me a wonderful starting point that has finally enabled me to do this!
    As an fyi, we have hosted 2 high school students (from Brazil and Germany respectively) and have now started hosting adult students who come over to the US for 2-4 weeks to learn English. The 2 high school exchange students fitted in extremely well and became part of our family but we experienced similar “headaches” on a day to day basis as we do with our own 2 teenagers. Now, we still keep in touch with them both and I feel like we will have that strong bond for life. However, I have to say that hosting the adult students on a day-to-day basis has been much easier with hardly any issues at all, but I don’t feel like the connection with our family is as great. The adult students are more independent and tend to do their own sightseeing and social activities (including using public transportation to go anywhere). So it’s a trade off and depends what you are looking to get out of the hosting experience. It works for our family right now, but at some point in time we may go back to hosting high school students again.
    Thanks again for your interesting and helpful blog!

  34. So funny – right after posting my comment, our high school exchange “son” from last year Skyped me and we talked for 45 mins! He said it had been a little over a year since he first came to the US, and he wanted to talk to me and my 2 kids about football and school. He misses us still and can’t wait to come back to the US to visit. I can see us keeping in touch for years to come and look forward to visiting him in Brazil one day. Definitely a great kid and we feel privileged and lucky that he and our whole family had such a worthwhile emotional and educational experience.

  35. Thank you for posting – and for all the following posts. I wish I had found this when we hosted an 18yo boy 2 years ago. He thought our rules were stupid, and ended up going to another family 6 weeks before the end of his program (we were the second family – so I have finally realized that maybe it wasn’t my family but maybe the student) anyway – we are hosting again – I am picking her up this afternoon, and I will be using not only your rules, but several comments. Many of the family rules are understood, or learned over years, these students seeing it in writing, may be overwhelmed, but it will make the family dynamic go much smoother – I hope.thank you again for your list, and generating such an informative comment section!

  36. Thanks for sharing! I too wish I would of seen this list last Aug when we hosted our first exchange student from Germany. We used more of the exchange programs rules as our base seeing those are the biggies that can get the student sent home, but did not really think about the ” house rules/expectations” to make the transition into our family life go smoother. We sort of “winged it” and ended up having some issues and hurt feelings along the way. We got through it by talking it out though. I guess it is live and learn. If we host again I will keep all these suggestions in mind.

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