When you decide to take part in a High School Exchange Programme somewhere in the World, you will be required to write a “ Dear Family” letter which should tell your proposed Host Family all about you and your life in your own country and what you hope to achieve during this Exchange Programme. You should think about this very carefully as it will be your first contact with your new Host Family and will enable them to form a picture of who you are.
So make sure it’s an open and honest letter. Try hard not to send a duplicate letter or the same letter to lots of host families as this will be noticeable and show you as being “ cant be bothered and lazy!” Not a good start….
You don’t want to make it too long but about a page in length. Make sure you send them lots of photographs of you and your family as it tells them a lot about you. The saying is “ONE PICTURE SPEAKS A THOUSAND WORDS” and its very true. A photograph can say so much about you, so make sure it’s a positive one.
You will want to ask questions of course.
You will want to know about the room you will be sleeping in.
Will there be another Exchange student there?
Is there wi-fi in the bedroom; the whole house or maybe just the lounge.
How will you get to school and will your host family take or show you?
Do they have Pets and will you like them?
Jackie Verrall,MD of English Language Homestays
Maybe you have special likes and dislikes for food. This is another way to show your independence. Just say that you like “ everything “ and give “ everything a try” You may be very surprised about what you end up liking and again, if you don’t try it, how will you know if you like it?
How to start?
Tell them a LOT about yourself and your family. Tell them how you spend your day and what you like to do. Ask questions as well about the family you are going to be staying with.
They will be curious as to know why you wanted this High School Exchange and even though it is a great way to see the world; make new friends and become independent, you will need to say more than those usual phrases. So think hard and tell them exactly why you want to come and spend time in their country. It is very likely they will already have had Exchange Students in their home, so they are probably more used to the experience than you!
Ask them questions about their home life; how they spend the weekends; what is and isn’t allowed and tell them about places in the area you would like to visit. It will be important to them that you have found out something about the area you are going to be calling “ home!”
How to keep in touch before you arrive?
Nowadays there are so many ways to keep in touch as well as writing a letter. See if your host family have a Skype Account as this is the medium that many people use. Otherwise you can Try Whats Ap or Google Hangouts. Whatever you choose you will have to have a video link conversation with them well before you arrive. It’s a great way to meet them beforehand and reassure both them and you that it will be a fun placement having you living with their family. The more contact you have with your family before arriving, the better the placement seems to work out.
Of course you will miss your own family but hopefully keeping in touch with your new family before you arrive will lessen the feelings of being homesick. Make sure about Time Zones. Before you call them, make sure the time is sociable and not very late at night or very early in the morning. That’s a sure way to get off to a bad start.
Maybe you have other Overseas friends that you have made through school or social media and if they are living in the country you will be studying in, then this would be a good time to get in touch and find out more about their country.
Perhaps you have friends who have visited that chosen country of yours or even done a High School Exchange and speaking to them will be both useful and reassuring.
After all of that, and having made contact with your new host family, just relax; take a deep breath and enjoy the experience. It will be over before you know it so be sure to devour every experience you have in your High School Exchange Programme.