From the Host Family Manual:
An Orientation Guide to Prepare For Hosting an Amicus Student
Table of Contents
Message From the Director
You are high priority to Amicus!
I want to extend a warm welcome to you, the Host Family! You are joining the lineage of over 1,000 U.S. families of faith who have opened their hearts and homes to an Amicus student. Amicus is Young Life's student exchange program and brings more than 30 years of field experience to your family through your trained local Amicus Representative. Let me encourage you to stay in close contact with your Rep. He/she will conduct both a family and student orientation to set the stage for a successful exchange experience. Contact your Rep with any questions and certainly about any con- cerns/problems as they emerge. By hosting, you are welcoming a different part of the world into your home, school and community, giving you the opportunity to gain a better understanding of our world. And hosting is a unique way to fulfill the Great Commission while living out your faith in daily life! Your student will learn about your family's traditions and American culture. An exciting year of blessings and challenges lies ahead. And after the exchange year ends, many of our Amicus families continue in a relationship with their student for years to come, visiting one another, attending family weddings, etc. Thank you for providing not only a roof, but a loving relationship for your host son/daughter. Be assured that you have been and will be prayed for throughout the year. In hosting, may you find that Jesus is more at home in your own heart!
Expectations and the Exchange Year
Most of us make assumptions based on what we’ve heard or read. Exchange students often have expectations based on the media, movies and perhaps even a previous visit to America. In contrast to their perceptions, they encounter more normal American lifestyles: work- ing moms and dads, living modestly; host brothers and sisters with after school activities and jobs, etc. They discover what it means to be a part of your household with chores such as taking out the trash and doing their own laundry. They come to love life here, but it’s often not what they expected.
Likewise, you as a host family may have expectations such as the student helping you become fluent in their native tongue or cooking a native dish. Instead, you might receive a student who leaves dishes in the sink and whose feet end up on the coffee table. Just like teenagers all over the world, your exchange student texts too often, sleeps late, feels homesick one day and overconfident the next. All of these are indicators of a normal teenager, but not exactly what you were expecting.
The success of the exchange year depends on how quickly you and your student adjust expectations to accept and enjoy reality, recognizing that cultural differences are neither right nor wrong, just different. One of the great blessings of hosting is seeing one’s family and country through a different set of eyes.
It is expected that students follow your family’s rules, but it is your responsibility to clearly communicate those rules. Use the Expectation Guidelines Worksheet as a tool for a discussion of what you as a host family expect. Going through the Worksheet as a family prior to your student’s arrival can be fun and will help each of you define your unique identity.
Then go through the Worksheet with your student within a few days after his/ her arrival to communicate expectations and help prevent misunderstandings. Put the worksheet in a visible place so everyone in the home can refer back to it throughout the year.
Yes, your experience and that of your student will likely be different than what you imagined. Be FLEXIBLE! Don’t let preconceived notions keep you from enjoying your student and the exchange year.
Getting Ready For Your Student
Plan for a Great Year! What do you want to do or learn through this exchange? How do you want to grow personally and as a family? What might God want to do in your life during this year? Families sometimes focus so much on trying to help their exchange student have a wonderful experience that they forget to consider their own interests and wishes. Identify them before your student arrives. Share with each other as specifically as you can what you think would make this a great year for each of you. Write them down. Each family member probably has a fairly clear idea of how they see the student fitting into your family life. Clarify how the following areas of family life will be affected:
- Personal space and privacy
- Communication within the family—be mindful to check in individually with your own children throughout the exchange year. They need the reassurance that mom and dad are still there for them.
- Family or household schedule
- Activities outside the home (sports activities, clubs, church, volunteer work, etc.)
- Family “style” (How you like to do things—eat meals, relax, notions of cleanliness, sharing chores, etc.)
Share Goals for the Experience. Once you have identified your wants/needs individually, and as a family, write down some specific goals. Have each member of the family come up with two reasons why they want to host a student.Then as your exchange student arrives ask them about their goals – what do they hope to accomplish while here. Goals are dreams with a deadline. Brainstorm together to come up with specific things you can do to accomplish these goals. In making your choices, try to ensure that each person will have at least one goal met. Record them. You have only 10 months to make these dreams come true. At midyear, revisit the goals. Have you made progress? Do they need adjust- ing? Re-evaluate and make revisions. At the year’s end, hopefully there will be a sense of deep satisfaction that the exchange experience has been enjoyable and successful!
"It has been such a great year for me and I can't wait for camp! I hope my brother andI will always stay connected to Young Life! I'm so thankful for Amicus/Young Life. This year had a great impact on my life"
-Spoken from the heart of a 2014-2015 Amicus Student
Suggestions for the First Days
Your student may arrive shy, exhausted and overwhelmed by the fact that he/she is finally here after months of preparation and hours of travel. Meeting you is the moment of truth. It is an experience that few ever forget.
Imagine yourself in your student's place, arriving in a foreign country after a long trip and expected to speak a language 24/7 that you might not have spoken outside the classroom. No doubt you’d be tired and a little apprehen- sive. Keep this and the points below in mind as you plan your student's welcome.
- Meet your student at the airport with a welcome sign with his/her name. Take flowers, balloons or a small US flag for your student.
- Greet your student with a smile and take cues from him/her whether to shake hands, hug or simply say welcome.
- Take photos of the special day to reflect on later.
- Retrieve your student’s luggage.
- Take a few minutes to clarify what each person wants to be called.
- Discuss how he/she is feeling and if they need something to eat, drink or use the restroom.
- Be yourselves. Keep your hospitality simple and spontaneous.
- Don't plan anything too ambitious for the first few days.
- Quietly introduce your student to life as it really is in your home. Save the welcome party for later.
- Give your student several days to rest from the trip and settle into your home.
- Intentionally make time for quiet conversations to get to know one another.
- Be patient. Do what you can to make your student feel like a member of the family.
Don’t be surprised if your student is quiet or even withdrawn at first. He/she may feel homesick and over- whelmed by so much that is new and different. And, of course, the continual need to speak English is tiring. Speak slower; comprehension improves dramatically after just a few weeks.
Hold your exchange student to the same standards as your children. This promotes harmony and assimilation.
Having family/household rules written down can help avoid confusion and misunderstandings. Using the Expectations Worksheet, take time to clarify your family’s expectations and lifestyle, including:
- Computer, phone and television use
Your student may be accustomed to domestic help. It’s possible that vacuum cleaners, washers, dryers and dishwashers operate differently than in their country. Orient your student to the appliances in your home. A clean room and a regular chore should be required for participation in family and school activities.
Things go more smoothly if expectations are made clear from the very beginning.
A Few Do’s and Don’t’s
- Do plan a specific time together in your home, free from other distractions, to explain how everything works, i.e. vacuum cleaner, washing ma- chine, dryer, ice-maker, etc.
- Do give your student a tour of your neighbor- hood, the high school, perhaps the town/city.
- Do remember that everything you say is likely in a language used infrequently or perhaps never used or heard outside of the classroom. Both the language and the information are new, so speak slowly and use simple words.
- Do remember that the mental picture of America that your student has probably comes from via the media so will likely be expectations that are not fulfilled.
- Do be flexible and keep your sense of humor.
- Do expect that God is using His grace to challenge and change you during this exchange year.
- Do remember that it will likely be a while before he/she understands and appreciates the real America — your America!
- Don’t plan a big party to welcome your stu- dent immediately after arrival. Students are tired, timid and overwhelmed. It’s hard to speak English all the time at first. A family par- ty or neighbor get-together is much more successful later.
- Don’t treat your student like a guest. Don’t give your student special treatment by prepar- ing special foods or providing special favors at the beginning of your student’s stay. Special arrangements can confuse expectations.
- Don’t assume your student understands because you are receiving smiles and nods in response. Smiling and nodding in agreement can be a non-verbal way of pleasing you, but does not mean that you have been under- stood. He/she wants to please you, and under- standing your language will please you.
- Don’t expect your student to think everything you have, all that you are most proud of, is wonderful. And don’t expect your student to rave about everything you share with him/her or show him/her.
Learn About Your Student’s Country of Origin
Before your student arrives, learn about your student’s country of origin, its culture and customs. You can find infor- mation on the internet, at your local library and even by reading children’s non-fiction books about your student’s coun- try. The websites of various humanitarian and missionary organizations will have information about specific countries.
Below are a few things you and your children should know about your student’s country:
- The name and location of the capital, a few key cities, and the location of your student’s home city/village.
- The form of government and names of key political leaders.
- What is the country best known for (travel destinations, landmarks, food, entertainment, events, etc.)?
- What are the key holidays and how they are celebrated?
- What role religious faith plays in the culture – what are the main faith groups?
These are just the starting point. Everything you can learn about your student’s country and the customs your student has experienced will foster a deeper and more genuine understanding of him/her, and pro- vides a excellent learning opportunity for your family as you discover more about the world. In our global society, we all benefit from cross-cultural awareness.
Learn About Your Student’s Family of Origin
Exchange students have been known to “google”everything (schools, churches, satellite images of your home, even people!) before their arrival. For fun,“google” members of your family to see what you find. Next, try googling your student and members of his/her family. (You may need to add their city to your search.)
You will want to learn about your student’s family before he/she arrives. It’s easy to overlook the fact that your student will arrive with deep roots in his/her natural family – a family you likely know little about.
Though the goal will be to “graft” your exchange student into your family, his/her own family will continue to have a strong influence on him/her while here. Each Amicus student carries the hopes, dreams and invest- ment of a family that is thousands of miles away.
By taking the time to learn about your student’s natural family, you’ll develop a better understanding of who your student is and how he/she will blend into your family. To avoid asking the same questions and to be able to share the information with your entire family, keep notes on your conversations with your student and his/her parents.
Here are topics you and your family could discuss with your host student:
- Gender and approximate age of siblings
- Which siblings live at home
- Interests and hobbies of the family
- Favorite at-home pass-times
- Names of key extended family members (grandparents who live with family or nearby)
- Holidays and special events that the family celebrates together. Note these on a calendar to reference during the year. How do they usually celebrate? Is special food served?
- How long has your student’s family lived in the area? (Don’t be surprised if it’s centuries.)
- Ask about specific statements made by the student’s parents in their parent letter, if you would like anything clarified or explained.
- Is the family known for a specific “family business”?
The more you know about your student’s family of origin, the more you will be able to understand how your family and theirs will be “blended” to care for the same child.
Your student will very soon have two sets of parents – the natural parents and you, the host parents – one set of parents on each side of the ocean.
Transportation and Safety
One of the many adjustments your student will need to make is in the area of transportation. They are not allowed to drive, attend Drivers’ Education or Driver Training classes while here.
In most sending countries, the system of public transportation is both extensive and reliable. Students are accustomed to a lot of independence and can feel restricted here in the U.S. Many students are unsure how to ask for the rides they need or want. From the host family perspective, driving students can be very time consuming and is a sacrifice. Work together with your student to create a system that works for all of you. Arrange car pools as much as possible. Let your student know how much advance notice you need for driving.
Also, safety is not as much of an issue for our students in their home countries. Being out late or alone at night is not as great a concern to them. Let your student know that being alone or out late is often not as safe here. Curfews and concern for his/her well being are not to meant to limit his/her independence, but are manifestations of your love and care.
What is it?
It describes the physical and emotional discomforts often produced when a person moves from one culture to another. It’s associated with stress, anxiety, confusion and
feelings of being lost or out of place. It affects the way a person thinks about themselves and others and the way they interact and handle their emotions. In an extreme culture shock scenario, a person can be lonely, dissatisfied and tempted to opt for an early return home. It might manifest as family conflict, lowered self-esteem, feelings of inadequacy and ambiguous goals.
Stages of Cutue Shock
1. Tourist or Honeymoon stage. As imagined, this is the time peri- od just before and just after arrival when everything is new and exciting. Energy and enthusiasm are high and it feels, for the most part, like a holiday.
2. Crisis or Irritability/Hostility stage. During this stage, there can be strong feelings of dissatisfaction and difficulty as any original excitement turns into discomfort. Generally thought of as the "culture shock," this stage can be recognized for difficulties in communi- cation, impatience, anger, sadness and a feeling of incompetence.
3. Adaptation/Adjustment stage. A sense of direc- tion as well as a sense of humor begins to re-emerge and the person may begin to feel a certain life balance. This stage is signified by a feeling of increasing confi- dence and a sense of belonging. The student will begin to find that many of the customs, habits and cultural practices are easily adopted and integrated.
4. Re-entry shock. When returning to the " starting point", (when your student returns to his country and family of origin) people often experience "reverse culture-shock" whereby re-adjusting to the old culture is as hard as, if not more difficult, than the original move.
Refer to the Adaptation Cycle diagram in your Host Family Handbook. LINK UP!!!
How to Help Your Student
Imagine for a moment changes and transitions you have faced in your lifetime. All the while you were surrounded by family, friends, col- leagues and a community that, in effect, helped you. While you wrestled with the change, you were able to look at and tap into what was commonly understood and acceptable all around you. For your student, those support systems are missing. So, at a time when he/she is seeking the answer to the question, "Who am I?" his/her surround- ings are asking, "Who are you?"
As host parents, you can encourage, inspire, motivate and challenge your student to make the most of each opportunity and to welcome the adjustment to their new country. The following tips can ease the stress of the cultural transition and help your student stay on track.
1. Assure him/her that what they’re experiencing is normal. What starts as an exciting experience can often lead to a time that is uncomfortable. There are many ways to work through the transition and as he/she adjusts to the new environment, opportunities and enjoy- ment will likely increase. Be gentle and patient with him/her.
2. Encourage your student to take care of themselves. Get plenty of sleep. Eat well and exercise. Take time to understand and become comfortable with their new surroundings.
3. Challenge your student to learn about their new community, school and home. What are its customs, traditions, and language? How do people get around? Are there different expectations at school?
4. Communicate carefully with others. Not only is your student transitioning to new surroundings, but others are trying to get to know him/her. In our place of origin, much of how we act and communicate is through shared mean- ings for things whereas in a new location, nuances of behavior can be very different. Encourage your student to listen carefully and be clear on what is being said. Observe your spoken language as well as the self-talk inside their head. Is it positive or is it negative? Encourage your student to abide by the Amicus policy of once weekly communication with family and friends back home via ANY AND ALL forms —email, IM, text messages, SMS, phone calls. Contact with home will make adapting to the new environment more difficult and exacerbate culture shock.
5. Create a strong community around your student. Encourage your student to deepen the healthy relation- ships they have within your family and to create positive ones through school activities, sports, recreational activi- ties, etc. Encourage your student to not be afraid to say, "I don't understand" or "I need your help." Many people welcome the opportunity to help others, particularly if they clearly know what it is they need. Having a strong commu- nity of loving and positive people can make a big differ- ence in an intercultural transition.
6. Avoid negativity. Stay positive and encourage your student to surround themselves with others who have a positive outlook. Challenge your student to avoid toxic people who drain them of energy.
7. Look forward instead of backward. Often when we move, we remember “the good old times” of our other location. Encourage your student to enjoy this year and not spend time comparing “there” and “here.”
8. Set goals. Early in the exchange year, encourage your student to create some short-term goals that are a true reflection of who they are, what is important to them and what they need. They should be clear, realistic and fun. Write them down.
9. Remember "Opportunity." Above all, let your stu- dent know that his/her year in America is a year to find the opportunity within each event and appreciate differences.
Tax credit for hosting an exchange student is addressed in the IRS Publication 526: Charitable Contributions. As with all tax matters, consult with your tax advisor. Per Publication 526, you can deduct up to $50 a month for each full calendar month the student lives with you for qualifying expenses for a foreign student who lives in your home under a written agreement between you and a qualified organization (Amicus). Qualifying expenses that you may be able to deduct include the cost of books, tuition, food, clothing, transportation, medical and dental care, entertainment and other amounts you actually spend for the well-being of the student. Depreciation on your home and the fair market value of lodging or any similar item is not considered an amount spent by you. General household expenses, such as taxes, insurance and repairs do not qualify for the deduction.
Travel Requirements/Amicus Policy For Student Travel
Note: Amicus is an academic student exchange program that focuses on building relationships with family and the local community. While your student may want to see as much of America as possible, Amicus is not a travel club. T ravel opportunities vary from host family to host family. T raveling without you, the host parents, requires special permission from the Amicus office and the natural par- ents. The safety of your student is a top priority for Amicus. The following policies have been implemented for their safety, yours and Amicus
Student travel WITH YOU, the host parent(s):
IN THE USA... make sure your Amicus Rep knows the dates of travel, the route and destination and has good contact information for you and your student.
OUTSIDE THE USA... make sure your Amicus Rep knows the dates of travel, the route and destination and has contact information for you and your student, AND follows these critical procedures:
- Have the Amicus office validate your student’s DS-2019 Certificate (per Dept of State regulations). Mail the DS-2019 to the Amicus office in time for the office to validate, mail back and be received by you or your student before departure.
- Your student must carry their passport and J-1 student visa documentation when traveling.
- Your student must carry a permission letter from their natural parents authorizing the travel which includes the destina- tion and dates of travel. The permission letter must also be sent to the Amicus office.
Student travel WITHOUT YOU, the host parent(s):
Before any travel plans are made or flights booked, clear the plans with your Amicus Rep. Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter are special family times. Travel without you, the host family, at these times is not advised.
For your student to travel without you, he/she must be with an adult or group who takes responsibility for providing adequate supervision. The adult/ group must be approved by your Amicus Repre- sentative and the following procedures must be followed:
IN THE USA, with the approval of your Amicus Rep:
- Your student must carry their passport and J-1 student visa documentation.
- Your student must carry a permission letter from their natural parents authorizing the travel which includes the destination and dates of travel, and identifying the responsible person or group. This permission letter must also be sent to the Amicus office.
OUTSIDE THE USA... with the approval of your Amicus Rep AND with an adult/group who takes responsibility for providing adequate supervision for your student, follow these criti- cal procedures:
- Have the Amicus office validate your student’s DS-2019 certificate (per Dept of State regula- tions). Mail the DS-2019 to the Amicus office in time for the office to validate/mail back and be received before departure.
- Your student must carry their passport and J-1 student visa documentation.
- Your student must carry permission letter from their natural parents authorizing the travel, stating the destination and dates of travel, and the responsible person/group. This permission letter must also be sent to the Amicus office.
When Difficulties Arise/Handling Conflict
There will be conflicts that arise during your exchange experience. We all experience conflicts within our own culture, with our own family, church members, neighbors, business associates, etc.
Life is a process of meeting and solving problems. Think of solving problems as an opportunity and way to develop both emotionally and spiritually. There are several ways to approach conflict and each individ- ual has their own default style. Regardless of one’s style, the most constructive attitude for conflict resolution is one of trust—we will all work together to make this exchange year a success. Rather than pray for a life that is problem-free, ask for one that is solution-full.
We recommend that before your student arrives each family member identify their own style of con- flict management. To determine your style, we have included in your Host Family Manual a Conflict Manage- ment Guide Sheet. We encourage each of you to identify your style. Then, when you hit conflict (whether in your home or outside of your home), knowing your style will add to your emotional skill set!
The Chinese glyph for the word “crisis” contains two symbols - one means danger and the other opportunity. James 1 provides insight into handling life's problems. The Message Bible says;"Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you can become mature and well developed, not deficient in any way."
One area that poses an obstacle for students and families is instant communication now possible via current electronics. However, we sometimes lack wisdom in its use. We need to learn to disconnect from technology in order to connect with those who are our priority and in our presence. This is especially true for exchange students who can be living under your roof, but virtually still with friends/family in their home country. We have provided the Technology Guidelines brochure to help address the challenges we all face with electronic advancements. Read it and follow the guidelines for a more successful exchange year.
PLEASE NOTE: Per the Department of State regulations, hosting parents cannot remove, withhold or confiscate a student’s personal electronics (phone, computer, I-pad, etc.), or their government-issued documents (i.e., passports, DS-2019, etc). However, family rules can be that electronics are to be used in common areas of the home and remain in common areas during the night.
Insurance Coverage for Your Student
Amicus provides international travel insurance for students while they are a participant in the program. It includes medical treatment of covered illness and injury. Students are covered from the time they leave their home country until the conclusion of the program which is the final event in Washington, DC.
The Amicus office will send an insurance card and information summarizing the insurance to your student via email before his/her arrival in the United States. Amicus will also send a hard copy of the coverage and another copy of the insurance card to your home so both you and your student have all the information. Before medical services are needed, be prepared by looking up doctors, Immediate care facilities and hospitals in your area who are approved providers. You can find them via the online website stated in the insurance packet sent to your home. Please use in-network providers.
If hospitalization is necessary, the Amicus office, your Amicus Representative and the natural parents MUST BE contacted immediately.
Pre-existing conditions, routine dental treatment and eye examinations ARE NOT covered by the policy. If these services are needed while the student is here, they are a personal expense to the student. The natural parents MUST BE notified before a student receives any optional treatment. The cost for any optional treatment is also a personal expense to the student.
In the event of severe illness, accident, hospitalization, serious inability to adjust, runaway, emotional trauma, police incident or death:
- Take appropriate emergency action to relieve the immediate situation, keeping in mind that Amicus has a signed medical release from the student’s parents that gives host parents authorization to handle situations.
- As soon as possible, notify by phone your local Amicus Representative and the Amicus Director who will in turn immediately contact the natural parents and overseas Amicus Representative to inform them of the situation. If the media is involved, DO NOT disclose any information or details. Young Life will handle all media requests.
- Contact the Insurance company as soon as possible (use the toll free number on your insurance card)to get the required authorization for hospitalization.
The Amicus Director, in concert with the student’s natural parents, the Amicus Representative, the host family and Young Life support services will decide the best way to proceed for the long term after the immediate crisis has subsided.
When going to the doctor or the hospital, be sure to take the insurance ID card sent by the Amicus office.
- Before services are needed, be prepared by looking up participating doctors, immediate care facilities and hospitals in your area via the online website stated in the insurance packet sent to your home.
- Take appropriate action to ease the immediate situation. Call your Amicus Representative to inform him/ her of the situation.
- Contact Insurance as soon as possible to get any required authorization for treatment and be sure to file any necessary claims within 90 days of medical service/treatment.
(decide with michele what should be here in the online version)
Police or Fire...call 911 immediately
Amicus Director: Michele Sbrana
Amicus Office: 420 North Cascade Ave, Colorado Springs, CO 80903
Amicus Office Phone: