Saturday, February 7, 2009

More Information about Hosting

Wow, it's great to hear from some of you! I'll try to answer all your questions in this post.

First of all, here's the general goal of hosting: to provide the opportunity for a Russian teenager to learn about America and improve his or her English by living with an American family for a period ranging from two to four weeks. Obviously, the American family would also be enriched by the exchange.

What would be involved?

Extending an invitation so the student could get a visa to the US
The parents would take care of the rest from here. You would basically just need to write a formal letter for student's application to the US consulate (there are form letters available to show you what it would need to say).

Providing a place for the student to sleep
You wouldn't need to have a separate room; the student could also share a room with your other kids (or sleep on a couch at night, etc). 

Involving the student in summer activities 
You could go about your regular summer plans, just have the student participate, too. Trips to visit relatives, opportunities for the student to see historic places/other places would be ideal. If your child will be involved in some kind of summer camp, the families could pay to have their child participate, too. If your older children would be involved in volunteer work of some kind, that could be something for the Russian student to do, too.

Home Setting
There are many possibilities here, but ideally the host family would have kids the same age as the student coming -- or live in a neighborhood where there are plenty of other teens who would include him or her in their activities. This would enable the student to learn the most about US culture through peer socialization. It would also help with his or her English aquisition, too. 

It's best if Russian isn't spoken in the house -- or, if it is, that the kids who speak Russian realize that speaking it with the student being hosted would be contrary to the whole reason he or she has traveled to the US. 

Having been a hosted student myself, I think it's basically important that the family is kind and a fun, a place where the student would feel welcome. The idea family would do things (interact, play games, go around town, play sports outside), not just stay at home. It would also be super if there were neighbors with teenagers, too. 

It would also be important that the family is a healthy place: that parents and kids aren't fighting; that the adult relationships are good (i.e. no impending divorce); that there aren't some emotional problems that could affect the hosted student. I speak from experience: when I lived with a host family, the father had just died and it was very hard to fit in with a family still grieving and quite depressed. The girl in my host family was in no condition to have me around and that it made it very hard!

The student's parents would pay for the student to travel to and from your home and provide money for incidentals/pocket money. They could pay so their teen could join activities your child would be involved in, too. They could also cover the cost of the student's food. You would basically just need to provide a place to stay and the opportunity for activities.

Another side of the money question...
While most of these students would be looking to "join" a host family, I do know of one 19-year-old girl who would also be open to babysitting while in the US. The whole idea of working as a teen is foreign to these families; teenagers don't work in Russia. There simply aren't jobs for them and it's not "done" in this culture. That being said, the chance to experience working a bit would be an interesting experience for them. This would, of course, need to be informal -- i.e. helping to mow the neighbor's lawn, watching a child for little bit, etc. Helping out as a "counselor-in-training" at your child's camp might be good, too.

About the students
Most of these families are fairly well-off; otherwise they couldn't afford to send their kid to the US in the first place. I wouldn't recommend being hosted, however, to a kid that I don't think would be a gracious and adaptable guest. The students and their families wouldn't expect luxury; they would be thankful for the chance to see "life like it really is" in a family.

One student that I'd LOVE help find a family, however, doesn't come from a wealthy home. They could cover his transportation costs and some money for expenses while in the US, but not much. He would be so darn appreciative of this opportunity that he would gladly engage in just about any activity your family already had planned.

I don't have more specific information about the kids since I've never really delved into the matter with my students and their parents. This might work best if I first learned of interested host families and what they would be looking for in age/gender/interests and then I thought of possible matches.

It would be very clear to the visiting students that they are "ambassadors" of Russia while in America. They would be expected to exhibit high standards of behavior at all times, following the host family's rules. It bears stating that if a family situation didn't work out, that obviously changes would be made: perhaps another family could step in and host, or the child would return to Russia. 


Rachael said...

This sounds like something I might like to do in a couple of years. Say, when Kristen is a little older. Right now, I'd be worried that a teenager would be bored in our house, since we don't live in a big city and our kids are all younger.

nates5bs said...

Let me think on this one. I like the idea. Just not sure if it's the right season of life.

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