The Ultimate Experience
The thought of sending your child halfway around the world to a new country where they don’t know anyone and can barely speak the language is a scary proposition. But if you’ve read to this point, you probably know it’s the right thing to do.
A Leap of Faith
A leap of faith is a good way to think about it. First, you have to trust your child. Does he or she have the desire and ability to thrive in a situation that requires him or her to be adaptable? Second, you have to trust the program, and for the record, Rotary Youth Exchange is the largest and one of the most established available. Finally, you have to trust yourself. Are you truly capable of letting your child go?
What Will Happen to My Child?
While every situation is different, there’s a high probability your child will return more worldly, more mature, and more capable of living an independent life.
Have a child heading abroad or currently overseas? Consider these ideas and suggestions.
A Fictional Mother’s Letter to Her Outbound Son
Being the parent of an outbound exchange student comes with its own set of concerns. But just like RMRYE has suggestions for students to help them make the most of their exchange, we also have some suggestions for parents. Consider the following fictional letter:
How are you doing? I know it isn’t always easy being an exchange student, and we are proud of you for having the courage to go on exchange.
After hosting several exchange students, I can share with you some helpful suggestions. I realize that you know these things already. So, consider them to be reminders.
Keep all of your personal stuff in your room. Don’t leave socks, papers, and gym gear lying around the common area of the house.
Don’t leave your clothes and towels on the bedroom or bathroom floor.
Keep your bathroom toiletries in one special place (in a toiletries bag or in a drawer), and be neat about it.
Offer to do your own laundry. Do it about once a week to avoid a foul smell in your room.
Put your clean laundry away in drawers or in your wardrobe. In other words, use the wardrobe and drawers, not the floor or the furniture.
Getting into the habitat of making your bed each morning would be great!
Don’t take dishes of food into your bedroom. However, if you do, be sure to promptly return the dishes to the kitchen after you have eaten.
Every time you get out of someone’s car, say “thanks for the ride” even if it’s a regular ride to school. Be sure to show that you are appreciative every time.
While you’re being driven somewhere by an adult, do not text or talk on your cell phone. The adult driver is not your chauffeur.
Here at home, you have your own car, which allows you to go where you want and when you want to. Now that you’re on your exchange, you don’t have a fraction of the transportation freedom that you had at home. Please do not burden your host family with too many requests for rides.
Don’t be gone from home all the time. Host families don’t sign up because they want to offer a free hotel.
When your host mom or dad prepares dinner, always tell her or him what you especially liked about the meal or just say “thanks for dinner.”
Before dinner say things like “something smells good” or “that looks great.” Engage in conversation during dinner, and don’t ever text or talk on your cell phone during dinner. In fact, do not take your cell phone to the dinner table.
Very often, almost always in fact, ask “what can I do to help?” Or, if you don’t want to say that, look around for what needs to be done and do it.
Without being asked, offer to help around the house: vacuum, sweep, set the table, take out the garbage. Do things that show that you are a help to your family.
If your host parents are doing chores like shoveling snow off the sidewalk, without being asked, offer to help
Greet each family member in the morning. Say good night to your host family before you go to your room for the night.
You are not the first exchange student that your host parents have hosted. Your host mom said that her first Rotary Exchange Student spent an unusual amount of time in the bedroom, with the door closed. They didn’t know what he was doing for so much of the time. Not good!
When someone in your host family is sick or has had something bad happen, take the initiative to do something to help. Also, express concern. Send a card.
Tell your host parents when they can expect you home in the evening and phone them if that time changes. Let your family know well in advance when you won’t be home for dinner.
“It’s all about me. It is all about what I want.” If this ever became your tune during your exchange, change it. As we raised you to behave, think about others.
Do something to recognize the family: occasionally make dinner or dessert, bring flowers and a card home, and so on.
When you’re around your host parents, don’t have earphones in all the time, listening to music.
Remember last year when I wanted to go to a show at the Princess Theatre and no one else was interested in going with me? Then, Jeremy said, I’ll go. I think you and Ben couldn’t believe that Jeremy would volunteer to do such a thing. Well, I thought it was such a nice gesture. I really appreciated his going with me to the show. So, if your host mom or dad wants to go somewhere or run an errand, but not especially alone, you might want to say, ”Would you like me to go with you?” Even if you don’t especially want to go, your offer shows that you are part of the family and you will be there for your family. Know that we often email your host parents to express our appreciation for their kindness.
Now that you have been there awhile, ask your host parents if there is something you need to do differently or if there is anything that you are doing that bugs them.
Okay, enough of all that good advice. Dad and I think you are doing a really super job as an exchange student and we wish you continued success.
We are missing you very much.
P.S., We’re proud of our culture. Share it with your host family. Spend as much time as you can to learn about theirs, of which they are also proud.