Hosting an exchange group is one of the most exciting and unforgettable experiences for you, your students, and your school. Here’s some advice on how to create the best exchange experience!
1. Prepare participating families & students
- Set expectations for host families: Start with the basics, families should provide a comfortable and clean personal space for their student, three meals per day, and provide rides to and from school and to social events.
- Discuss cultural differences: Remind families that meals times are earlier in the US than in Spain, greetings are different in Europe than the USA (in France and Spain it is common to greet someone with two kisses on the cheek, in the US it can either be a hug or a handshake), etc.
- Organize planning meetings with families: Set up several meetings with the families and students to discuss program preparation and brainstorm together activities to organize for visiting students. Some examples could be a picnic at a park, a barbecue, or a welcoming or farewell party. Ask for parent volunteers to organize these activities.
- Identify a Parent Liason: Choose a parent that can act as a liason and can provide easy communication between yourself and the parents. The liason can also create a group message for parents (through SMS, GroupMe,Google Hangouts).
2. Engage visiting students in class
Here are some examples of activities you can organize with the visiting international students:
- Speed Friending: Students create a list of questions for the visiting students and vice versa. Visiting students rotate from table to table in five-minute intervals. At each table, students introduce themselves, share about their life and culture and ask each other questions.
- Team Building Activities: Create teams that mix international and American students and organize a competition made up of different challenges.
- Class presentations: Give the European students time to work on a presentation for the American students about student life in their country. Students could also teach a traditional dance, organize a food tasting, or present on a current event in their country.
3. Involve the entire school community
Promote opportunities for other faculty and departments to engage with the exchange students. For example:
- Visit to a middle and/or elementary school: Have the exchange students get to know the entire American educational system while also promoting language and cultural exchange at the lower grade levels in your school district.
- Class visits: Offer the opportunity for other faculty members to invite the exchange students to their classes. Class visit activities from past exchanges have included:
- Art – students create a piece of artwork together
- History/Geography/Government – exchange students quiz the class on the geography of their region/ continent.
- Chemistry – exchange students assist class with conducting an experiment.
4. Organize local field trips
Have your school and host families arrange some local field trips. European students come to the US to experience the daily life and culture; thus, the activities do not need to be overdone – almost any activity or field trip in your town/city will be different from their daily life at home. If possible, arrange with your school to provide a bus for the day and, if you are not able to join the group, identify a parent to serve as the “Ambassador” for the group and to accompany them for the day.
- Visit some public institutions such as the fire station, police station, or city hall.
- Attend a school sports game/ practice
- Visit any interesting nearby sights (historical monument, natural area, botanical garden, etc.)
How can you finance those activities/excursions?:
- Collect an extra $100-$150 per participating student from your school
- Ask your school for the necessary funds
- Fundraise through the French/Spanish club (see our Fundraising Ideas Guide)
- Solicit support from your local Rotary Club, Optimist Club, Kiwanis Club or Lion’s Club
- Ask local businesses to organize activities for free to promote their business (ex. chocolate workshop, whale cruise)