Student Visitor Training #1
Making the Most of Your
Exchange Opportunity

After Completing Student Visitor Training Module #1, Student Will:

Understand how host families think about having an exchange student
Understand their role of being a student embassador.
Know their #1 priority as a year-long student visitor..

America:  The Land of Opportunity

You have a grand opportunity with your being a student visitor in America.  We want to prepare you to make the best of this opportunity.  You get to decide who you will be, how you will be, and how you will relate to others.  These training modules will help you make wise choices.

Lukas shares a few benefits from his exchange.

George and Lukas are taking full advantage of their opportunity in America by learning excellent English, becoming independent, and appreciating new perspectives.  What opportunities do you look forward to the most?

is the Land of Opportunity

Have you ever heard someone say, "It's not what you know, but who you know that matters."  In many ways, this is a true statement about the value of networking.  Knowing the right person can help you get a job or they can write a good referral for you.  But there is more to the statement.  Knowing people from other cultures can broaden your perspective and help you better understand the world, enriching your life's experiences.

Building relationships will be an important aspect of having a successful exchange.  In future modules, we will talk about building friendships at school and in your community.  In this first module, we would like to talk with you about developing your most important relationship of your whole exchange year:

The most important relationship to strengthen, for your entire year as an exchange student, is with


What are host families like?

Host families can be younger or older.  They can live in the city, in a small town, or the countryside.  They all have in common is that they are interested in learning about you and your culture and they want an experience of caring for you for a year.  Host families aren't paid and they open their home, inviting you to make it your home for a year.  They want to build a friendship with you that lasts.  They might be interested in visiting your country after your exchange and meeting your family and friends.  They may has the same interests as you or they may be a little different.  They want you to make friends, get involved in your school and in the community, and they want you to have a great time while your in America. 

Host parents are human.  They make mistakes and might mispronounce your name or fail at making your favorite food, but they will try.  Our HSUSA host families go through training to know how to understand you and your situation as a foreign teenager in America.  Good communication, patience, and mutual respect will help you have a fantastic year together.

What's it like in your family?  Do your parents give you lots of freedom?  Do your parents have high expectations of you? 

Realize that you've had at least 15 years to build the relationship that you have with your parents.  It will take time to build a friendship with your host family.  Have you thought about this?  Maybe, you envision your exchange being about seeing awesome American sights and making cool American friends.  This will happen.  But we want you to spend some time thinking about your relationship with your host family because if you get that right - you'll have a fantastic year in the USA.

How do American Parents Treat their own Teenagers?

To help you understand American parent and teenager relationships, watch the video to the right.  Rachel Cruz is the daughter of a well respected American named Dave Ramsey and in this video she talks about how she and her sisters earned their freedom from their parents through making good decisions and taking on responsibilities. 

What are you learning about making a good first impression and a good lasting impression with your host family?  American adults value certain things that are simply a part of the American culture.  These things may or may not be valued as strongly in your culture.  For example:  Being on time.  How important is being on time in your culture?  Most Americans appreciate timeliness, but it would be good to ask your host family (after you've gotten to know them for a while) how they relate to time.  Cleanliness.  You'll learn as soon as you enter their home if they keep a tidy or relaxed  home.  Titles:  In the southern states in America, adults often prefer to be called by Mr. or Mrs. and their last name.  Others prefer their first name or nickname.  Simply ask, they'll let you know.  Privacy/Modesty.  North Americans are typically more modest than Europeans and South Americans and they are often more private.  Modesty means how much skin they show.  Conservative areas of the country feel it's disrespectful for a boy or girl to show their stomach or too much of their thigh with short-shorts.  There are no nude beaches in the United States.  Wearing clothing that is too revealing can make a host family very uncomfortable.

Does this sound crazy or fairly normal to you?  The most important question for you is, "What does it mean to culturally assimilate?"

Wouldn't it be tragic if someone from the United States came to your country and by their attitude, their judgements, their dress, their expectations, or some other cultural offenses, broke your cultural rules?  You could be embarrassed for this person, or worse, want to isolate from them.  Maybe you'd want to teach them how to follow the cultural norms in your country.  We're trying to give you information in advance to know what to expect from your host parents.


Your host family will also love treating you like their own.  Host families are known for taking their exchange students with them to wonderful places.  A few examples may include professional sports games, concerts, traveling and sight-seeing, hiking in the national parks, seeing the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Disney, New York, Chicago, Washington D.C. or Minneapolis.  Host families will include you in their Christmas celebration maybe with gifts and a family feast.  You will forever be in their memory and they want you to have an experience you'll never forget.

George & Lukas share about their experience and some tips for having a great relationship with your host family.

To be treated like an adult, you must act like an adult.

Have you ever heard this in your own home?  My parents would say this all the time.  To them, this meant that when I acted responsibly the way that adults do, then I can make adult decision.  Let's look at each of these.

What do adults do that children don't do:  Adults keep the house clean.  When they finish with a dish, they put it in the sink or the dishwasher.  They keep their room clean.  When they are in a conversation, (in America) they look the person in the eye and they give the conversation their full attention (not their phone or screen).  Adults tend to their responsibilities first and then they play. Adults are respectful of others.

What are adult decision?  Choosing which friends you want to spend time with and when you want to spend time with friends.  Basically having the freedom and independence to do as you'd like. 

As an exchange student, your host parents will assume that you will behave with adult behavior, which includes cleanliness, timeliness, and respect.  Because they assume this, they will also respect you to make your own decision.  It's up to you to maintain a mature relationship with your host families.  Your relationship with your host family is the most important relationship for you to maintain.

What about misunderstandings?

You are sure to have misunderstandings with your host families.  They expect that there will be times when you don't understand one another.  Here are two tips to memorize for your exchange.

  1. YOU CAN'T OVER-COMMUNICATE.  If you think you and your host family are thinking different things, if you think you are disagreeing, if you think you are seeing an issue from a different perspective - you probably are.  Speak up!  Let them know your feelings.  Be transparent.  If you disagree with them, first become curious.  Learn why they feel the way they do and they will try to do the same with you.
  2. It's more important to be for what's right than to be right.  Making sure that you and your host family have a good, honest, transparent relationship - this is more important than any other objective you will have during your stay in America.

Having a great relationship with your host parents is more important than:

  • Getting good grades.
  • Going out with your friends.
  • Participating in your sport or activity.



When your life at home is good, all of life is good.  Your host parents will be your #1 supporters, your #1 providers, and your #1 care-givers.  Protect and serve your relationship with them for the whole year.