Your family has just had an incredible year. You now have a new family member – a son or daughter who has laughed, cried and discovered new things with you. Who has opened your eyes to the wonders in your own backyard and introduced you to ideas and traditions you had never expected. You’ve supported them, cheered for them, worried about them, loved them. Your exchange student has redefined your family in beautiful ways. So how do you handle the drive back to the airport and the weeks that follow? How do you say goodbye?
1. Put together a scrapbook
Going through photos and mementos from the year can help your family remember all of the great things you have experienced. Make it a family project to put together a scrapbook for your exchange student that you can mail to them in their home country.
2. Send a care package
Enjoy thinking of little things your exchange student might enjoy from America — did they fall in love with Cheez-Its while they were here? Is there a local newspaper or magazine that includes fun news from your community? Is he or she a Sudoku fanatic?
3. Set up a monthly Skype or video date
Between Skype, Google Hangouts, Facetime and many others, there is no shortage of ways to keep in touch. Set a date to catch up with your student in the next month. Remember, your exchange student will be re-entering their own culture, re-connecting with family, friends and classmates. Give them some time to adjust to life back home, but also let them know that they are still an important part of your family.
4. Eat dinner in honor of your exchange student
Does your student have a favorite recipe that they love to cook or eat? Did they teach you a traditional dish from their home country while they lived with you? Plan a dinner in honor of your exchange student. Cheers to them and enjoy!
5. Keep a journal
Writing things down can often be a helpful way of processing your emotions and recording your thoughts. Consider keeping a daily or weekly journal, reflecting on what you’ve learned from hosting, what you miss about your student, or favorite moments and memories.
6. Share your reflections
Write a letter, blog post or speech at a local organization about your experience hosting an exchange student. Sharing your reflections with others can help create a network of future host families with whom you can share your experiences, advice, and memories.
7. Connect with other host families
Talk with your local Aspect Foundation coordinator. See if he or she can put you in touch with other local host families also saying goodbye to their exchange students. It helps to talk with people who know how you are feeling. It can also be a wonderful way to make meaningful new friendships in your community!
8. Consider hosting again
Every exchange student is unique, and will hold a special place in your family’s hearts. Consider giving the same love and support to another exchange student this year. Ask this year’s student if they’d like to help you look through profiles and pick next year’s student. Everyone can be involved in growing your great, big beautiful international family!
See new profiles of exchange students waiting for host families at aspectfoundation.org/student-profiles