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Oh dear...We just picked up our Chinese exchange student....


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And when she arrived at our house she walked into her room, burst into tears and said she wants to go home.

 

Poor sweet.

 

She's 18. Never been away from home, wanted to go to a Chinese university, but her parents wanted her to come to the U.S. She's counting the days until Christmas break already, so that she can go home to visit. (At least it's changed from "go home" to "go home for the holiday" in the last few hours.) I gave her a hug, listened to her, and told her that it's normal to feel this way and that it will be okay. I think she'll need a good bit of "mom" vibe for a while.

 

She did unpack her things, and she got to talk to her mother on the phone, both of which helped, and she's made plans to meet a friend tomorrow. She is a delightful young woman and I think we'll really enjoy her once she settles in.

 

Anyone, host family or former exchange student have tips for how to help her feel more at home, or just btdt?

 

Cat

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awww, poor thing. Friends of ours always have students from Korea. I don't think they've been without 2 or 3 students at a time for, oh, maybe 15 years. It does help that the wife is Korean, but she said the kids always have a hard time at first. Our friends always encourage them to write in a journal, and also to talk about home. Grab a book about her country and ask her to teach you and the kids everything she can about her country. She'll feel welcomed and ready to learn about your country sooner.

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I have been an exchange student and I also went to another country for college at 15. I was so lonely as an exchange student, but it was only for a month. I just sucked it up. I did enjoy talking to my parents on the phone. That was also my lifeline in college. I remember the first night I arrived for college, I laid down on the kitchen floor where I would be living, and cried and cried. I was told that I could go home if it was that bad since my parents wouldn't want to see me so unhappy. But then I imagined my parents faces if I showed up home again after all the work and money to get me there, and I thought I'd better pull myself together. The tears are part of the total exhaustion after the trip and the newness of everything. It think things will look better for her soon. We Skype with family overseas and it's free. Phone calls will be precious to her.

Blessings.

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we had an exchange student live with my sis and I in high school (early 90s). She was from the Phillippines. My sis and she were in 11th grade and I was in 9th. She had her own nice room and loved my family, but she cried a lot also especially on the phone with her family. It turned out to be a good experience. Only bad incident was when my pity went awry as one night about 2 am she came in my room crying because she had a book report due the next day and not only could she not read the book but certainly couldn't write about it. So, I skimmed her copy of "Slake's Limbo" and wrote the report for her. Trouble was she got the best grade in the class and my mom overheard she and I laughing about it:001_huh:! Mom made me go confess the next day to the teacher and principal. I think she cried the hardest when mom said we had to go confess the next day; shame's a big issue among Asians. I was ashamed too, but she was devastated about it. But luckily the only thing that they made her do was rewrite it. I shouldn't have done it, but I felt SOOO bad for her knowing how poorly she knew English.

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When I was an exchange student, the worst thing was being alone and not knowing what to do -- what there WAS to do, how to get there, etc. The busier you can keep her, the better. At least, if there is down time, try not to let her go hide in her room or be by herself for long. It's easier to get really depressed and feel isolated that way, especially at first.

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Back in the dark ages when I was an exchange student it was too expensive to call home. lol We had to wait for letters. It must be doubly hard since she didn't really want this experience. I found it important not to spend too much time alone in my room. Include her in everything. They want her language skills to improve. I bet you all become very close and have a great year.

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Is this the first time you've hosted an exchange student?

 

We've done 2-3 week hosting programs with high school students, and last year we hosted a Japanese college student for a school year and a Japanese student for the month of August through this same exchange program.

 

We've got a new Japanese student with us too. She arrived last week and seems to be settling in well. :)

 

And thank you everyone who responded. I knew it was probably normal but it's nice to have that affirmed. Dinner was hard...she looked like she might burst into tears and ate hardly anything. (We had rice and curry vegetables.) I finally got her to take a shower and head to bed. I think tomorrow she will feel better.

 

Cat

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Aw. I've never hosted a foreign exchange student but I did host two different Fresh Air Fund children this summer. The first one was only 10 years old and the second one was only 9 years old, and they both suffered some homesickness!

 

The 10 y/o came first and was supposed to stay for only two weeks but she ended up getting so homesick that she left after a week.

 

The 9 y/o came next and was only staying for one week but even then around day 5 she had a bout of homesickness.

 

All I could do was give them hugs, tell them it was normal, try to excite them with the fun things we had planned, and make them a "countdown calendar" so they could count down the days they had left- and see what fun things were coming up, at the same time. And let them call home when they wanted to. And try to distract them with comforting and then something to do (read alouds tended to work).

 

18 is much older of course but when you're away from home for the first time, it's tough. Sometimes you could just use a "mom" no matter how old you are. :)

 

Good luck, and keep us updated! I hope she adjusts quickly and enjoys her time here!

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my son IS an exchange student in Germany this year for 10 months.

 

Our student was a very nice boy, very quiet, but funloving and all around good kid. He had few Amreican friends so mostly hung out at home with us which was nice. He was never homesick, so I can't give advice about that, but I do think being as "mommy" as you can is probably best for your student. I also agree with keeping her moving, busy, and active-she'll have less time to think about it.

 

Best wishes! I hope she is able to settle in soon.

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My family hosted exchange students multiple times when I was in high school. What helped the most, I think, was for them to go out with me and my siblings. Your 17yo dd is pretty close in age to your 18yo exchange student. The first weekend we had students I would take them to the beach, the mall, etc. I included them in activities with my friends. Keeping them busy helped them relax. We hosted students from Japan, Australia, and Argentina. The one from Argentina is one of my best friends today. :)

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Our FES skyped everyday with his family (frowned upon by the organization, but we allowed it.) We actually grew close to his family by 'seeing' and talking to them everyday, it was a neat experience. It took him about a week to get semi-comfortable. I heard that boys are much easier than girls though.

 

Keep her busy and don't allow her to isolate herself by staying in her room for long periods.

 

Sounds like you are doing a great job!

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Keeping her busy is good. Include her in whatever your family is doing so she is not sitting alone in her room. This is a wonderful time for your family to learn about her life. See if she would want to cook you dinner some night, then go shopping together for ingredients. Be sure she is hanging out with peers who will include her. Once she gets settled in school it should help because she will be busier.

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