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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.