Amicus Student & Parent Handbook

Welcome to Young Life and Amicus

You are about to embark on a ten month journey. You will encounter new experiences, new challenges and new rewards.

Students, you will make new friends, be a member of a new family, new school, new community and learn more about yourself. This will be a year of true exchange-one in which you will give and receive. We hope this is a very special year for you and we look forward to walking with you through out the journey.

Parents, the year will hold challenges for you too. Your support of and compliance with the Program Policies will help your child have a successful exchange experience.

Amicus is designed to promote success and safety for all-you, the Host Family, the school, the com­munity and the Young Life Amicus program.

Amicus provides a carefully selected Host Family, secures enrollment in the local high school, provides a local Amicus Mentor for the duration of the exchange year, insurance for illness and injury, and a week long camp at a resort-quality facility at the end of the year along with a final session and touring in Washington DC. You will have an orientation in your home country before you leave and another in the US shortly after you arrive.

Parents, we highly recommend you also attend an orientation with your in-country Representative. It is equally important that you be prepared and equipped for the 10 months your child will be in the US.

New Opportunities Throughout Your Exchange Year

Throughout the exchange year, you'll have many new opportunities for...

  • New relationships

Amicus (a-Me-cus), is the Latin word meaning "friend." We have carefully chosen this name because it represents a central theme of your Young Life Amicus year. As you reach out to others to make new friends and family, you'll discover in a new way the value of relationships and in the process you will learn more about yourself. What adventure could be greater than that! Friendships and family are treasures that last a lifetime. You'll have the opportunity to establish such relationships while you are in the US.

  • New learning opportunities

You will encounter new classroom experiences as American high schools are unique, but even more than that you will learn some lessons that can only be learned by living in another culture for an extend­ed period of tim e. You'll be challenged to try new activities and to think about things you may have never thought about. It is very important that you lay aside specific expectations and be open to learning new things.

  • New appreciation and insight into family life

We believe the family is so important that our placements are based on relationship, not on geographical location. Amicus students and host families are carefully chosen. Some of our families have teenagers, some young kids and some don't have children or their children are grown and out of the house. All Amicus students should enter the U.S. grateful that both their natural and host families are sacrificing to provide them with the opportunity to have this exchange experience. Your Host is not paid or compensated in any way, but is looking forward to having you be a part of their family. As in every family; however, you will have fun times and challenging times. There will be joy and likely some sorrow. Sometimes you will feel distant from your Hosts and sometimes you will feel close to them. These are all normal aspects of Amicus. We hope that living with your Hosts will also help you appreciate your family of origin even more and will prove helpful when you have your own family.

  • Improved communication skills

While in the US, your English and your ability to communicate with others will improve. If you will step outside your comfort zone, you will have many opportunities to learn new ideas and different ways of thinking. You will expand your worldview. You will have the opportunity to become a better listener, and as a result, a better communicator.

  • New opportunities to give

It is as we learn to give that we truly receive. Look for ways and times that you can give during your exchange year. You can give in simple ways by expressing gratitude, doing assigned chores promptly and having a positive attitude.

You can also give as you volunteer to serve in your local school, neighborhood and community. Sharing the culture and values of your country in a respectful manner will give others a bigger picture of the world. Later in your exchange year you will identify a special project or charity to be involved with. When you return home, you can promote understanding by helping people in your home country appreciate what you learned from living in America. We hope you will learn in a deeper way the value and joy of giving.

  • Opportunities to develop personal qualities

Take some time to think seriously about your year ahead. What are some personal characteristics you want to develop this year? For example: courage, flexibility, self-confidence, patience, etc.

Goals and Personal Characteristics for a Successful Exchange Year

Take some time now and identify your goals for the upcoming year! Your experience as an exchange student will be shaped by what you put into it. Prepare now keeping your goals in mind.

Two important characteristics for a successful exchange year are:

1) openness and

2) maturity

Openness is being willing to see a situation from another person's perspective. It means...

Being flexible

• Accepting differences without feeling threatened

• Greeting the unknown with a positive attitude

• Being willing to change one's ideas or opinions

Maturity means...

Thinking of others before yourself

• Asking for help or clarity when you don't under­ stand (ask your Host or Amicus Mentor)

• Seeing challenging or difficult situations as opportunities to learn and grow

We hope your exchange year is another step in your life-long process of becoming more mature and being a responsible citizen of the world.


Keep in mind that expectations (realistic or not) can influence your experience and take away from your enjoyment of the present. You will likely be disappointed when your expectations are not met. It will take time to adapt to cultural differences which are frequently the reason for unmet expectations. Learning to adjust and trust is part of the exchange experience. We hope you will see each day, each disappointment and each obstacle as an opportunity to grow and mature. We want this to be a memorable year for you and your Host.

Young Life and Amicus

Amicus is one of the programs of Young Life. Young Life is an international youth organization that began in 1941 and is now active in all 50 states and more than 100 countries. Young Life is open to all students regardless of their religious interests or background.

Many Amicus students enjoy the local Young Life group. There are weekly clubs, small groups and weekend camps. All are fun events and perfect situations to get to know other teens from your high school. Participat­ing in Young Life could very well be one of the highlights of your exchange year.

Amicus provides a $100 scholarship for you to participate in a fall Young Life weekend camp (optional). We highly recommended you attend. Contact your Amicus Mentor for more information.

At the end of the year all Amicus students attend a resort-quality, week-long, high-adventure Young Life camp with several hundred other teenagers. Many former students say "it was the best week of my life." The summer camp is not optional; it is part of your Amicus exchange year and program.

Your Amicus Mentor

Amicus Mentors (previously called Representatives) are specifically trained local volunteers who select Host Families and maintain contact with their students and Host Families throughout the year. Your Amicus Mentor will play an important role in your exchange year. He/ she is looking forward to getting to know you and will contact you at least once a month to see how you are doing. He/ she will also check in with your family and school. If you have any ques­tions, difficulties or concerns, he/she is there to help you.

Your Host Family

Your Host Family has specifically chosen you to be a part of their family. They are anticipating getting to know you. As a member of your Host Family, we expect you to participate in family activities. Often these family times will create some of your best memories. We strongly encourage you to participate fully and learn to enjoy life with your Host Family.

Your Host Family will ask you to follow family rules and help with responsibilities around the house. These may be different from the rules you have in your home family. Generally, American parents want to know the whereabouts of their teens. American teens have earlier curfews than teens in other coun­tries. You may not agree with the rules or expecta­tions, but you need to abide by them. Your Host Parents have rules because they care about you and are concerned for your safety. If you do not understand, ask them to discuss their reasons with you.

In most familites everyone shares the household chores. You will want to help out by doing your part. Do the chores they assign to you (e.g. taking out the garbage, mowing the grass, folding laundry). Remember to complete them regularly without being reminded. Making your bed and keeping your room clean are expected. We have asked your Host to talk with you early in the year about what they expect in order to prevent misunderstandings. If you have any problems, call your Amicus Mentor.

Adapting to a New Culture

Do not be alarmed about occasional homesickness; it is natural. When entering a different culture, most everyone experiences several phases of adjustment.

The Adaptation Cycle shown here identifies the stages of adjustment although the timing and duration of each phase will be unique to each person.

For exchange students, the usual components of one's identity have all changed. Having to adapt to a new family, friends, school and social interactions in a short time period of time creates both challenges and opportunities. Feeling alone is quite common; however, those times of loneliness are also opportuni­ties to bond with your American Host Family and friends and to become involved with school activities. Do not fill your free time with more social media time with your family and friends in your home country. Those activities hinder you from connecting with your Host Family and actually increase the feelings of loneliness. Challenge yourself to disconnect so that you can connect with your new family and friends in America.

Keep in mind that your Host Family is making ad­justments too. Amicus Host Families do not receive any financial compensation for hosting even though their expenses increase. They have invited you into their family because they care about you. Be sure to say thank you and express gratitude often. In the US, the small phrase "thank you" is always appreciated.

Even in the best situations, you will likely experience a few difficulties. Conflict is a natural part of living closely with other people. It is also an opportunity to develop a greater understanding and ultimately a better relationship with your Hosts. Please work through any misunderstanding and conflict. Do not avoid the issue or let anger or resentment build. You are responsible for communicating your needs,thoughts and requests so that your Host Family and Amicus Mentor can help in resolving problems or issues. Other people cannot read your mind. If you have tried several times to discuss problems with your Host Family, talk to your Amicus Mentor. He/ she can help you and your Host Family or host sibling work through the issue.

When there is an issue, avoid the temptation to contact your family of origin as you will cause them undo concern and they cannot resolve the matter. If you are having problems, address them promptly with your Host Family and/or your Amicus Mentor.

High School

High school in the US will be very different from your school in your home country. In the US, all students receive a broad education with exposure to many areas of study.

The school will determine your class placement. Neither Amicus nor your home-country school can decide your class placement.

Along with the required courses, consider participating in a class or two that you would not be able to take at your school back home. We encourage you to enjoy the oppor­tunity to experience a different educational style. Extra-curricular activities are also an important part of American high school life. By participating in school activities, you will increase your opportunitiesto develop friendships with other students and more fully experience life in an American high school.

Athletic eligibility or participation in any school sport or activity is not guaranteed. The State Athletic Association and the local school district where you will be enrolled determine who is eligible to participate in any sport. Amicus can not and does not guarantee participation in any sport.

Even though your grades may not transfer back to your home school, we expect you to do your best work. Amicus is an academic exchange program. You are required to maintain the minimum "C"average in every class. "D" and"F" grades are not tolerated and are a violation of the Policy Agreement you and your parents signed. We will check your progress regular­ly. Amicus has the right to require tutoring if the"C"average is not maintained. If tutoring is needed, you are responsible for the cost. You are also expected to behave in a respectful manner toward all school personnel. Your behavior will affect whether or not Amicus can enroll students there the following year.

Many high school campuses are "closed," meaning that when you go to school in the morning, you must stay on the campus until your classes are over for the day. An "open" campus allows students to leave during lunch and return later for remaining classes. American public schools are supported by the tax­ payers of the local community. You will not have to pay tuition to attend school, but there will be signifi­cant school expenses at the beginning of the year for textbooks, school supplies, yearbooks, etc. and then other expenses at the end of the school year for prom, special end-of-the year events, etc. Please be appreciative of the opportunity to attend the local school because the property taxes which enable the school to operate are paid by your Host and the other members of that community.


Most Amicus students receive a certificate of attendance. A diploma cannot be given because exchange students attend school for only one year and have not met the require­ments for graduation. However, some schools allow exchange students to participate in graduation exercises without receiving a diploma. Your school in your home country decides if they will accept any credits from your U.S. school.

Your Community

As an Amicus exchange student, you will be an important addition to your new community. You maybe asked to speak at a community gathering. It will be an opportunity for you to tell others about your country, its customs and culture. You may be the only person from your country that the local citizens will meet, making you your country's ambassador.

Church Relationships

The religious heritage of the US strongly influences American life. Many people attend church regularly and consider their faith an important part of their lives. Church is often an important gathering place for teenagers and provides another place and opportunity to make friends.

Most Amicus Host Families are active church mem­bers. Regardless of your background, as a member of the Host Family, we encourage you to attend as this is part of American family life and culture.

Traveling Documents & J-1 Visa

Documents Needed:

1) Passport

You need a passport from your country to enter the United States. It must be valid for the duration of the exchange program plus six months. Check the expiration date now and renew if necessary. If you do not already have a passport, apply for one immediately as processing your application will take some time.

2) J-1Visa

In addition to your passport, you will need a J-1 visa. This is a non-immigrant visa that is granted by the American Consulate or Embassy in your country, making it legal for you to be in the United States for the duration of the exchange program. The visa will be valid for specific dates and cannot be extended beyond the exchange year. The DS-2019 form sent from Amicus will become your J-1 visa when signed, validated and stamped by the American consulate.

The DS-2019 Certificate

With the written notification of placement with your Host Family, the Amicus office will send you a DS-2019 Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status. You must present that original DS-2019 certificate to the American Consulate or Embassy when you apply for your visa. When approved and the certificate is signed, the con­ sulate will return the certificate to you, becoming your J-1 visa. Some countries also add a stamp or visa form to a pass­ portpage.

Keep the signed DS-2019 with your passport. You must bring both to the United States and keep them with you throughout your exchange year

Traveling to the United States

You will make your own travel arrangements to and from the United States. (You will consult with your Host Family as to the date and time for your arrival). Airfare to and from the U.S. are a personal expense.

Before booking any flights, please talk or email with your Hosts so that together you can set a date for your travel. You should plan to arrive approximately one week before school starts.

If for some reason an earlier arrival is desired, you must email Amicus ( the Amicus office must know of and approve an earlier arrival. Your actual arrival date must be recorded by the Amicus office.

When making your travel arrangements with the airline, please list your Host Family as a contact. Doing so enables the airline to give them key infor­mation about delays or changes in your travel. The airline cannot release flight status information to anyone unless you list them as a contact.

When traveling to the USA and throughout your exchange year, always carry these documents:

1. Your passport.

2. The DS-2019 certificate, stamped by the U.S. consulate or embassy.

3. The insurance card you will receive from the Amicus office.

4. Your Host Family contact information, especially their phone number.

5. A cell phone or a phone card valid in the U.S., so you can reach your Host Family if your flight is delayed or you have difficulties en route.

Traveling During Your Exchange Year

Trips with your Host Family are usually permitted. Amicus normally allows travel with your HostFami­ ly's friends or relatives and with Young Life and church or school groups when adult supervision is provided.

Amicus does not allow students to travel when no adult is assuming responsibility for supervision, or when your well-being and safety cannot be assured.

Any travel you are considering needs to first be approved by your Amicus Mentor. Do not book flights or purchase tickets until you have spoken with your Amicus Mentor. All major holidays (Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter) are to be spent with your Host Family as these are important times to be with family and experience cultural traditions.

Whether you are traveling with your Host Family or a group approved by your Amicus Mentor, you must provide your Mentor with the trip dates, location, and your contact information while trav­eling. When you travel with someone other than your Host Family, Amicus requires a letter of permission from your natural parents. While traveling, carry a copy of that letter as well as a permission letter from your Host Family and your insurance information.

When you plan to travel outside the U.S., you must contact the Amicus office so that your DS-2019 certificate can be validated by the Amicus office. In order to re-enter the United States you will need your validated DS-2019, a permission letter from your natural family and your passport. If this travel is without your Host Family, a permission letter from your host parents specifying the exact dates of the trip and location is also required. Carry your insurance card and medical information.

Insurance for Illness and Injuries

Amicus provides international travel insurance for you while you're a participant in theprogram. The insurance includes medical treatment of covered illness and injury.

The Amicus office will email information about the insurance coverage and an insurance ID card to you before you depart your home country. This enables you and your natural parents to be informed of the provisions of the policy. The insurance information will also be sent to your Host Family shortly before you arrive in the US. Your Host Family and Amicus Mentor can assist you with any insurance questions. Always carry your insurance ID card with you.

We strongly advise that youhave a thorough medical checkup before you leave your country. You will also need to have documentation of all required immun­ izations before being allowed to attend your U.S. high school. Pre-existing conditions are not covered under the Amicus medi­cal insurance. Please notify the Amicus office of any medications you take for pre-existing conditions.

When you are in the U.S., you must notify your natu­ral parents before receiving any optional medical treatment as it is a personal expense. If you must be hospitalized, the Amicus office, your U.S. Amicus Mentor and your natural parents MUST BE contacted immediately.

Amicus insurance DOES NOT cover routine dental treatment or eye examinations. In the U.S. these services are expensive so we strongly advise that you have a thorough dental exam that includes cleaning, cavity filling and any other procedures your dentist recommends before you leave your home country.

If you need eyeglasses, contacts or other eye-care, schedule these appointments before leaving your country. If you need service for dental work or eye care while in America, those costs will be a personal expense.

On occasion and only when necessary, Amicus will recommend and or require professional counseling because of a recognizable problem. In such cases, the intent is to increase the likelihood of success and to overcome the difficulty. Amicus insurance will cover a limited number of counseling sessions. If further counseling is deemed necessary, it will be a personal expense.

Spending Money

Your Host Family will provide room and board, but you are responsible for your personal expenses such as school and activity fees, school supplies, sports physicals, extra events like prom and graduation, a yearbook, entertainment, clothing, toiletries, gifts, souvenirs and postage. We suggest a minimum of 250-300 USD per month for routine expenses.

The amount needed will vary from student to student and from month to month depending on your needs, desires and personal shopping habits. Any tutoring is also a personal expense.

Many Amicus students use an ATM debit or credit card for purchases and access to cash. Others open a checking or savings account at a local bank enabling easy withdrawal of cash when needed. We suggest you discuss your plans with both sets of parents to arrange for a mutually beneficial sys­tem. Remember to budget your money for the entire year. At the beginning of the year, you will likely have extra school expenses for things like activity passes, sports fees, a yearbook and expenses for specific classes such as photog­raphy or biology. If you plan to purchase a major item such as a camera, you'll need extra funds that month. In the Spring you might have expenses for prom or graduation.


As a secondary high school student, visa regulations do not allow you to be employed either full or part­ time. As a J-1 visa holder you are a non-immigrant alien. If you accept paid employment you are subject to deportation. You may, however, accept small jobs (no more than 10 hours per week) such as babysit­ting or grass cutting. Talk to your Amicus Mentor if you have financial difficulties. Do not borrow money from your Host Parents or friends.

Friends and Family Visiting

Amicus does not allow visits from parents, siblings or friends during the exchange year. This is for your benefit and that of your Host Family. It is the standard practice of most exchange programs as such visits affect the new relationships you are establishing with your Host Family and community. If family or friends want to visit you, tell them they should plan to do so after the conclusion of the program which is in Washington, DC in late June.

When you leave your Host Family for Washington, DC in June, your Host Family's responsibilities end. Amicus students are not to return to the host home after Washington, DC. Please do not ask or exert any pressure on your Host Family to provide lodging or meals for family or friends who want to come to the U.S. Although many Host Families and biological families form a close relationship during the year, your Host Family needs to be able to make their own summer plans without feeling pressure to extend additional hospitality.

The U.S. Department of State grants a 30-day grace period from the end date listed on your DS-2019 for the purpose of travel within the USA.

Please note - all Amicus responsibilities, including insurance coverage, end the last day of the Wash­ington, DC session in late June. Travel insurance becomes a personal responsibility that day.

Handling Difficulties

At various times during your exchange year, you will probably encounter a few difficulties. This is normal. This is life in every country. Any true adventure includes some challenges. Try to have realistic expectations and remember to ask for clarification or help. Your Host Family and your Amicus Mentor want to help you, but they will not know of the diffi­culty unless you tell them. The same is true for your teachers and advisors at school. Do not assume they should know. Do not wait for others to "discover" the issue or your problems.

You must take the initiative; ask questions when you do not understand or when you do not know what to do or when you are struggling with an issue or with someone. Ask yourself... Is the situation requiring me to be more flexible? What can I do to make the situation better? All of us in Amicus want you to succeed and we are here to help you.

Your Amicus Mentor is your advocate for any situa­tion. Call him/her to discuss any concerns you have.

Early Departure

Amicus students are not allowed to return home unless there is a family or medical emergency AND you have been given approval from your U.S. Amicus Mentor and the Amicus Director.

Once a student (with his/her natural parents) makes the decision to return home for any reason other than an Amicus approved emergency, he/she may not return to take part in camp or the final events in Washington, D.C. No refund is given for early departure or dismissal from the program after arrival in the U.S.


Any student who disrespects and disregards the policies and procedures of the Amicus Program, or who disgraces himself/herself and/or the Young Life Amicus organization as a representative of his/her family, community, school, Host Family or host community could be subject to dismissal. It is the sole discretion of Young Life Amicus as to the dismissal of a student from the exchange program.

Termination for any reason means the student must return home immediately. There are no exceptions. This is a regulation of the U.S. Department of State.

No refund is given for dismissal or termination from the program after arrival in the United States.

Program Policies

The program policies are in place to protect you, your natural fami­ly , Host Family and Amicus. Violation of any Amicus policy will be addressed and can result in immediate termination from the program. The program policies stated here are consistent with program policies stated on the Policy Agreement form to besigned by you the student and your parents.

Drugs: Using or possessing illegal drugs is forbidden. Each state has laws concerning the possession and use of illegal drugs. You may use over-the-counter medicines and medicines prescribed for you by a doctor. The use of drugs for non-medical reasons by Young Life Amicus students under any circumstanc­es is strictly forbidden. This includes, but is not limited to marijuana, Meth, cocaine and LSD.

Alcohol: U.S. laws prohibit persons younger than 21 years of age from purchasing, possessing and/or consuming alcoholic beverages. This applies to all Amicus students as well. Though some American teenagers choose to break the law, you must obey all U.S. laws. Choose only safe and legal places to associate with other teens. Some American families object to drinking any alcoholic beverages at any age. We expect you to obey all laws and to respect your Host Family's values.

Sexual Misconduct: Students must not participate in any sexual contact or sexual activity that is culturally inappropriate in the U.S. including (but not limited to) contact with minors or with any members of the Host Family household. Amicus students are to comply with all federal and state laws (which vary from state to state) in regards to sexual misconduct.

Research shows that sexual activity among teenagers increases both the risk of pregnancy and transmit­ ting or contracting sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS. Amicus students should be aware that Host Families hold traditional values in regards to sex.

Students are not permitted to visit such places as pornographic shops, adult theaters, drinking establishments or any websites related to pornography. Doing so can also result in criminal charges, and being expelled from school. Either would mean termination from the Amicus program.

Information Regarding Sexual Abuse: The "No Means No in EveryLanguage" online brochure (information about sexual abuse and strategies for resisting abuse) was sent to you with your Acceptance letter. Please read the online brochure.

Driving: Though obtaining a license in your home country may be more expensive than in the U.S., Amicus students are not allowed to participate in any driving program, even with permission or encouragement from their natural or Host Family. Driving, obtaining or attempting to obtain a driver's license, or participating in any type of driving classes is not permitted.

School Attendance and Grades: The Young Life Amicus program is an academic program. Students must be enrolled and attend high school. If a student is expelled from school for any reason, it is grounds for immediate dismissal from the program.

Students must respect and comply with the policies and guidelines of their local school, including all policies and rules pertaining to attendance, conduct, grade level, classes taken, school activities and/ or any school function. Regular school attendance for all your classes is expected. The school must approve any absences for illness or school-sponsored activi­ties. Not maintaining a "C" grade average or not following the policies of your school can result in early dismissal from theprogram.

Smoking: Purchasing, use of, possession or dis­tribution of tobacco or tobacco products in any form, including vapor products and e-cigarettes, is expressly prohibited. In addition, American schools have strict policies forbidding tobacco use, possession or distribution. Any violation of a school's tobacco policy will likely result in suspension from participating in that sport/activity and can be cause for dismissal from Amicus.

Firearms: Amicus students may not at anytime handle, shoot, take a class or participate in any activity using firearms. This includes bow hunting.

Hitchhiking: Amicus students may not hitchhike.

Home Country Contact: Arranging your travel to the U.S. will require your parents and your Host Family to be in contact with one another to coordi­nate the arrival date, time and location. After this initial travel coordination, cordial communication is allowed, but we recommend it be very limited.

After you have arrived in the US, you must limit your contact with friends and family back home to once each week during the year. With social media and cell phones, this is difficult and will take discipline on your part and that of your natural fami­ly. However, limiting contact will enable you to devel­op relationships here more quickly as well as improve your English. Relationships here will help minimize homesickness and ensure a more successful exchange year.

Succeeding in Your Exchange Year

Keeping a positive attitude is the best guideline for the year ahead. The choice and the responsi­bility are ultimately yours. Make it a great year!

Once again, CONGRATULATIONS on being selected to participate in our Young Life Amicus program. We are certain that if you approach this adventure with an open, mature and enthusiastic attitude, it will be a rewarding and enjoyable year. We wish you the very best! Welcome to Young LifeAmicus!

Succeeding is a verb; meaning:

1. turn out successfully; to have the desired result

2. to thrive, prosper, grow

3. to accomplish what is attempted or intended

4. to attain success

NOTE: Keep this Handbook bookmarked. Save it in a place where you can view it in the USA. It will be used in your student orientation in your home country and in your orientation in the USA after yourarrival.