Welcome to Amicus and Young Life

A WARM WELCOME TO YOUNG LIFE AMICUS HOSTS

Thank you for your hospitality and willingness to share your heart and home with an international student. As you anticipate the months ahead, it's likely with mixed feelings of excitement, trepidation and adventure. What a wonderful opportunity to draw close to someone from another country and in the process develop a greater understanding and appreciation of a different culture. By hosting, each member of your home will have the opportunity to grow, mature and serve. Most of all, we thank you for your desire to reach out with unconditional love to an international teen.

A SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP

Amicus {a-Me-cus), which means "friend" in Latin, began in 1980 as a program of Young Life, an organization offering friendship to teenagers around the world. Through Amicus, families from across the United States have hosted more than 1,000 exchange students.

As a Young Life Amicus Host you enter into an agreement to allow your student to become a part of your home whereby you provide not only just a "roof' but a "relationship" based on unconditional love. We have seen many lives forever changed as the student experiences the security and the love of their Host.

AMICUS AND YOUNG LIFE

Young Life in the local high school provides Amicus students the option to participate in a weekly club, regular small groups and weekend camps. Young Life offers exchange students the opportunity to have close and meaningful friendships with American teenagers.

At the end of the school year all the Amicus students will be week-long guests at a premier Young Life camp. Students often describe the experience as a highlight of their year. Immediately following camp, they meet together in Washington, DC for a time to reflect on their year and begin the necessary transi­tion for returning home and reentering their culture. The final events in Washington, DC mark the end of the Amicus year and all hosting responsibilities end when your student goes to DC. Attending camp and the final session in DC are mandatory events for all Amicus students.

Your Young Life Amicus Mentor

YOUR YOUNG LIFE AMICUS MENTOR (Formerly called Reps.)

Your Amicus Mentor is a trained volunteer who serves as the personal liaison for you, your student and the school where your student is enrolled. Your Mentor will provide both you and your student with an orientation to prepare you for the year ahead. He/she will also provide on-going support throughout the year, and connect regularly with each of you. Please contact your Mentor immediately with any questions, concerns or counsel, as well as sharing good reports and fun times. Your Mentor is a valuable resource.

Planning Your Student's Arrival

The Amicus office provides you and your student detailed instructions about arrival in the US. After consulting with you about a day, time and city of arrival, your student will make his/her travel arrangements. We recommend students arrive approximately one week before the opening of school. If an earlier arrival is desired, please contact the Amicus office (amicusintl@younglife.org). Amicus will not grant permission for early arrival without your request or approval. The actual arrival date of your student must be documented by the Amicus office to the Department of State.

Welcoming Your Student

Meeting your student at the airport will be an exciting event for you and your family, as well as for your student. You are welcoming a new addition to your home. Keep in mind, however, students are sometimes quiet when they arrive due to jet lag and fatigue from the long trip. They might have eaten along the way and may not be hungry. Most likely he/she will want to sleep. While a celebration is a great way to start the year, waiting a day or two is best.

NAMES

You as the Host(s) should take the initia­tive to let your student know what name you would like your student to call you, e.g. first names, mom, dad, etc. Having the student call you mom and/or dad helps to promote intimacy and belonging, but allow your student time to adjust and feel like a family member before expecting this. Ask your own children for their input on this as well.

LANGUAGE ABILITY

A few exchange students will initially have difficulty with conversational English, but usually there is a major improvement within a short time. Your student may be reluctant to ask you to repeat what you have said. Speaking clearly and slower at first is helpful as well as explaining colloquialisms such as "feeling blue," "buzz off" or "it will take an act of Congress."

In some countries words such as "please" and "thank you" are rarely used, but as your student acclimates to our culture, he/she will become more familiar with these American nuances. Each Amicus Student has received training prior to departure from our Amicus leaders in their home countries. However they are receiving a lot of information and cannot asorb it all! So patience and letting them know about customs said with kindness goes along way!

Expectations and Adjustments

Adding a new member to your home will be an adjustment for everyone. This is true whether the new member is an exchange student, a newborn, a son or daughter-in-law or blending a family. Give yourselves and your student time. When your student ceases to be a guest and feels more like a family member, you're on your way to adapting to each other.

As your student adjusts, he/she will need both time alone and time with family and friends. Whenever possible, having his/her own room allows for the needed flexibility. You can help your student adjust and plan for the year ahead by asking what goals he/she hopes to accomplish during the year.

It is important for you to establish expectations and guidelines for your student shortly after his/her arrival. Because each family operates differently, use this Expectations Worksheet as a discussion guide. It will help you identify your family's unique way of doing life together. Don't assume your student will know what you expect concerning how your household operates. Explain and clarify your expectations right away. You may have to remind him/her occasionally - as is the case with nearly every teen. Also keep in mind your student's level of understanding English.

Some Helpful Tips

  • Treat your student as would your own children with regards to responsi­bilities.
  • Clarify house rules as soon as possible (e.g. curfews, chores,etc.).
  • Establish meal routines.
  • Discuss transportation. Setting up carpools for student activities can help with driving needs. Amicus students cannot drive.
  • Demonstrate how to use the appliances in your home.
  • Explain laundry procedures.
  • Make a point to ask the students what they want to do and see while they live in the US.
  • Make a determination with your student on how they will handle their spending money. Decide how finances will work.
  • Consider setting a specific time for the regular, once/week communication time with people back home.

Often students come from cultures where there is less crime or little fear of it, as well as being able to travel alone on public transportation, even in the evening. Your student may have fewer concerns regarding personal safety and therefore will have greater expectations of freedom. Convey to your student that any personal limitations you have are for his/her safety and not because of a lack of trust.

Do not be alarmed about occasional homesickness, it is natural to miss both family and friends and all that is familiar. Feeling alone is quite common. How­ever, if your student has activities he/she enjoys and, most importantly, if he/she feels a part of your home, these feelings will usually pass quickly. Connecting with family and friends back home more than once per week will only add to home-sickness.

For your student, all the usual components of identi­ty (family, friends, school, etc.) will have changed by coming to the US. Adapting to so many changes in a short time period of time creates both challenges and opportunities. By understanding the adaption process that is normal when crossing cultures (see the next section), you can help your student adapt.

The Adaptation Cycle

The chart below shows the normal phases of adjust­ ment experienced when a person crosses cultures.

Most every student will experience these stages, but the timing and duration of each phase is unique to the individual. As you understand the phases shown below, you can help your student adjust and adapt to life in the US and in your home.

Please make a special effort to include your student in family activities during holidays, particularly during the Christmas season since this can be an especially lonely time.


COMMUNICATION WITH THE HOME COUNTRY

We have learned that excessive communication with family and friends in the home country robs students of opportunities to develop friendships here.

Your student has been instructed to limit communication with family and friends at home to once per week throughout the exchange year (common practice among high school exchange programs): This policy is not to restrict your student, but to maximize opportunities to form relationships here which will ultimately provide a more rewarding exchange experience. The technology guidelines given to the students are available here. After your student has arrived, help him/her designate an established time for the weekly connection with family back home.

Computer Usage

With internet access common and necessary, stu­dents arrive expecting to use computers regularly. Many students will bring their own laptop; others might plan to use the home computer. You can set limits of use; we advise you to do so. Also, have a personal login for each user, as well as install a filter to prohibit access to inappropriate websites. At the very least determine a strategy to ensure that your student uses the computer appropriately. This might include using the computer in a common area and limiting the time spent on the computer. Your exchange student should have the same boundaries regarding electronics that you have established for your own children. We advise that cell phones, laptops, etc. be charged overnight in a public spot, e.g. kitchen, as opposed to your student's bedroom.

Conflict Management & Resolution

In every family there will be times of conflict. When conflicts arise there can be the temptation for both the student and/or family members to think that the solution is to change families. As families of faith, we understand that challenging circumstances are opportunities for growth and change. Stumbling blocks can become stepping stones! Moving a student is a last resort. Most areas of typical exchange conflict are somewhat predictable. Please contact your local Mentor to help guide you. Your Mentor has been trained to help you navigate challenges you might encounter as you host.

Communication With Your Student's Parents

Amicus recommends a minimal amount of cordial communication between Host Parents and natural parents. This is a student exchange and not a family exchange.

There is an Amicus Representative in your student's home country who serves as the liaison for communication with your student's natural family. As a parent, you can understand the temptation of natural parents to be overprotective of their child when a difficulty arises. We inform our students and their natural parents that problems in the U.S. must be solved in the U.S. and cannot be solved from afar.

Please DO NOT communicate with your student's natural parents, especially in matters of conflict. Such communication complicates matters.

Amicus informs both the natural parents and Hosting Parents that the communication between families, should be handled via the local U.S. Mentor for the U.S. host and with the student's in-country Rep for the natural family. Each of these people report to the Amicus office. We call this the Bridge of Communication (shown below). Let your local Mentor know if there is a communication issue. If needed, you can remind natural parents of this bridge of communication.

Your student and his/her natural parents sign a Policy Agreement. You will receive a copy of the Policy Agreement with your Placement Letter. We trust our students and parents to uphold their agreement; however, if there is any policy violation, please contact your Amicus Mentor immediately.

The course of action for a policy violation and the program status of any student is the responsibility of Amicus. Hosts will never be put in the position of determining whether a student goes home.

National Feelings

Your student will naturally feel proud of his/her own country. Your student may seem somewhat defensive or may make critical remarks and comparisons between the United States and their homeland. We encourage you to be patient as this is usually temporary. Over time students often tell their parents and friends back home all the great things about your family and their life in the United States.

Attending an American High School

The American high school experience will be very different from your student's previous school experience. American education tends to be broad in scope with exposure to many subjects and many different teachers and learning styles rather than specialized study which is more typical elsewhere. American schools are also more social with ample opportunity for extra curricular activities. We encourage students to take a class or subject that they would not be able to take at home. We also strongly advise getting involved in at least one extracurricular activity as it is easier to make friends in that smaller-group setting.

Students are required to maintain a "C" average in each class. Please check on your student's academic progress periodically. Amicus has the right to require tutoring if the grade average is not maintained. Falling below a "C" can result in a policy violation so alert your Mentor immediately if your student's grades are poor. The school or a teacher may also recommend tutoring for a particular subject. The cost for any tutoring is the student's responsibility.

For most Amicus students, classes taken here will not transfer back to their home school. Nonetheless, we expect students to attend all classes regularly and do their best work. Enrollment for future Amicus students in the school depends on the performance of the current student(s).

Grade Placement and Graduation

The U.S. high school will determine your student's class placement. Neither Amicus nor the home country school has input regarding class placement.

Most Amicus students receive a certificate of attendance, not a diploma. Because exchange students attend school for only one year and have not met the requirements for graduation, a diploma is not given. However, some schools allow exchange students to participate in graduation exercises without receiving a diploma. The school in the student's home country will determine whether or not any credits are accepted for their studies here and also make the decision as to class placement for their next year in their home country.

Church and Young Life

CHURCH AND YOUNG LIFE ATTENDANCE

Though Amicus Hosts usually attend church regularly, many students come from backgrounds in which church is not a fundamental part of life. We encourage all Amicus students to participate in their Host's normal life, practices and traditions as this is part of a cultural exchange. Church youth group is also a great way to connect with other teens. However, if a student is opposed to church attendance, speak with your Amicus Mentor. Requiring too much attendance is often more detrimental than constructive.

We strongly encourage students to attend Young Life events, but attendance is not mandatory. Contact your local Young Life staff person and inform him/ her that you are hosting an Amicus student. As is the case with our own children, students are often more likely to accept an invitation to club or other Young Life activities from other teenagers who are active in Young Life or from an adult Young Life leader.

The everyday love you demonstrates to your student will likely have a greater impact than church or Young Life attendance. However, when your student has heard a sermon or Young Life club talk, you may want to help him/her process what was heard. Ask for one point that stood out. As a third party and not the originator of the message, you can serve as a safe sounding board.

Some Amicus students come from Catholic backgrounds and attend Mass weekly. When possible, please accommodate them so they can attend Mass if they wish to do so. Sometimes that can be on a Saturday evening. If you are unfamiliar with the Mass and would like more information, please con­tact the Amicus office.

Traveling in the USA & Outside the USA

TRAVEL DURING THE EXCHANGE YEAR

Any travel of your student must first be approved by your Amicus Mentor. Trips with you, the host, are allowed. Amicus usually allows travel with a host's friends or relatives and with Young Life and church or school groups when adult supervision is assured.

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

Whether your student is traveling with you or an approved group, you/your student must notify your Amicus Mentor of the trip dates, location and the contact information for your student so he/she can be reached, if necessary.

TRAVELING IN THE U.S.

When traveling in the U.S. with your student, be sure to have with you the insurance card that you received from the Amicus office as well as a copy of the student's medical information, particularly the immunization record.

When your student travels in the U.S. with someone other than you, Amicus requires a letter of permission from the natural parents, and advises that your student have a permission letter from you as well.

TRAVELING OUTSIDE THE U.S.

Before traveling outside the U.S., your Amicus Mentor must be informed and give approval. With approval, your student should then send his/her DS-2019 certificate to the Amicus office to be validated for travel. The DS-2019 certificate gives assurance that your student is still in good standing with Amicus and therefore can legally re-enter the country. In addition to the DS-2019, your student should carry a permission letter from his/her natural family, his/her passport as well as his/her insurance card. If travel is NOT WITH you, a permission letter from you is also required to eliminate questioning and delays at the border when re-entering the USA.

Friends and Family Visiting

Amicus does not allow visits from parents, siblings or friends during the exchange year. Such visits can affect the student's relationship with your family and others here. Amicus has instructed your student and his/her family to visit after the conclusion of the program in Washington, DC in late June. Per Amicus policy, Hosts are not responsible for hosting additional exchange family members at any time. If you are feeling any pressure from the natural family to allow a visit, or if you receive undue communication from them, please contact your Amicus Mentor.

Insurance for Illness and Injuries

Amicus provides a travel insurance policy for your student while he/she is a participant in the program. It includes medical treatment of covered injuries and illness. The policy covers your student from the time he/she leaves home until the conclusion of the program, ending with the final event in Washington, D.C.

The Amicus office will email the insurance coverage information along with an insurance card to your student before his/her arrival in the United States. Amicus will also send you a hard copy of the insurance card and information of the coverage to your home before your student arrives so both you and your student have all the necessary information. Please read the information thoroughly so you know the correct procedures for submitting claims for reimbursement, obtaining prescriptions, ER coverage, etc. Amicus provides the insurance, but it is essential that you and your student know the procedures as outlined in the insurance information packet.

Pre-existing issues ARE NOT covered. Routine dental treatment and eye examinations are also NOT covered. If these services are needed while the student is here they are a personal expense to the student.

If hospitalization is necessary, the Amicus office, your Amicus Mentor and the natural parents MUST BE contacted immediately. The natural parents MUST BE notified before your student receives any optional treatment. The cost for any optional treatment is also a personal expense to the student.

Spending Money/Expenses

Hosts provide room and board. School lunches, as well as meals out with the family, are considered part of room and board. You may have your student pack lunches or offer an equivalent lunch allowance. Again, treat your exchange student as you would your own child.

Your student has been informed that he/she is responsible for personal expenses including toiletries, clothing, entertainment, school fees or supplies, prom and graduation costs, gifts, postage, etc. Personal expenses are often higher the first month and again at the end of the school year because of school related costs like activity fees, sports physicals, prom, etc. Please notify your Mentor if your student appears short on funds. Amicus discourages students from borrowing from their Hosts or friends.

Many Amicus students rely on an ATM debit/credit card for purchases or access to cash. Some students open a checking or savings account at a local bank for easy withdrawal of cash when needed. You might assist your student in deciding what is best for him/her.

Most students take their financial responsibilities seriously as it is often the first time they are on their own. Some may be overly cautious; others might be frivolous. Some may need help with budgeting. Remember, all families spend money differently. Your student comes not only from a different cultural background, but from a different family value system as well. Work out a mutually beneficial system which may need to be adjusted over time. Your Amicus Mentor can be a helpful resource.

Employment

Per the Department of State, high school exchange students with a J 1 visa (your Amicus student) cannot be employed in either full or part-time work. However, your student can do sporadic/intermittent work such as babysitting, lawn mowing or yard work.

Hosting Tax Deduction

The Internal Revenue Service considers hosting a high school exchange student a charitable contribution and allows a small deduction for qualifying expenses. General household expenses such as taxes, insurance and repairs do not qualify for the deduction. Please consult Publication 526 and your tax adviser for complete details.

Program Policies

The Program Policies of Amicus are in place to protect you, your exchange student, his/her natural family and Amicus.

Violation of any Amicus policy will be promptly addressed and can result in immediate termination from the program. The program policies stated here are consistent with the policies stated on the Policy Agreement form signed by your exchange student and his/her natural parents.

It's important that you read and know the policies so that you can support your student in complying with the policies and avoid any risk of violation. The PDF document is linked here and some key policies are highlighted below.

Communication: Contact with family and friends back home must be limited to once/week. With cell phones, WhatsApp, Facebook, Skype, email, etc., this is difficult and will take discipline on the part of your student. Talking with family and friends back home can increase homesickness. Helping your student establish relationships here will help minimize home sickness. Please be proactive in helping facilitate friendships for your student.

Driving: Amicus students are not permitted to drive any motorized vehicle (including motorcycles, mopeds and cars). Though obtaining a license in their home country may be considerably more expensive than here in the U.S., Amicus students are not allowed to participate in any driving program, even with the permission or encouragement of their natural or Host Family.

Smoking: Tobacco use, 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.

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, Amicus students must obey all U.S. laws or be subject to termination. Serving alcoholic beverages, or making them availa­ble to persons younger than 21 years of age is also illegal.

Drugs: Using or possessing illegal drugs is forbidden. The use of drugs for non-medical reasons under any circumstance is strictly forbidden and can result in termination from the program. Students may use over-the-counter medicines and medicines prescribed by a medical doctor.

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 transmitting or contracting sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS.

Students are not permitted to visit such places as pornographic shops, adult theaters, drinking establishments or any websites related to pornography. Such activity 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 Every Language" brochure (information about sexual abuse and strategies for resisting abuse) was sent to your student and is also included in your Host Family Manual. Read it thoroughly and call your Amicus Mentor immediately if you have any concerns.

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 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 classes is expected. The school must approve any absences for illness or school-sponsored activities. Not maintaining a "C" grade average or not following school policies can result in early dismissal from the program.

Firearms: Amicus students are not permitted to handle, use, carry or purchase firearms under any circumstances. This includes not taking a class on firearms or firearm safety. It also includes archery.

Hitchhiking: Amicus students may not hitchhike.

CAUSE FOR DISMISSAL... Any student who 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 Host Home or host community, school, and/or his/her natural family can be subject to dismissal. It is the sole discretion of Young Life Amicus as to the dismissal of a student.

A Final Word

Thank you in advance for opening your home and lives to an international student. Please know that the Amicus staff and Mentors will be praying for you and your student throughout the year. May this be a year rich with new experiences, close relationships and a deeper appreciation of God's love for everyone.

Enjoy the journey! Maintain your sense of humor and be flexible! Have fun building good memories. Take time to make it a true exchange of customs, ideas and family traditions as you journey together throughout the school year. Take photos and videos. It will be a year for everyone to remember.

When all is said and done, the most important thing you'll do this year is love your student. Through the joys and frustrations, your constant and unconditional love will make all the difference. Without a doubt, it is what your exchange student will remember the most.