Host families believe that hosting an international student is a rewarding and mutually beneficial experience for themselves and their student.
Host families come in many styles, including single parent, young couple, retired couple, and two-parent families. Host families are individually unique while sharing an interest in other cultures and people.
The below information is an electronic version of the Host Family Handbook. If you would like a paper copy, please contact International Programs staff.
Expectations of Host Families
- Provide a furnished private bedroom (with Internet access) for the student as well as a clean, pleasant, and safe living environment.
- Provide plentiful nutritious food for three meals per day.
- Arrange transportation for the student to and from campus: driving, walking (20 min. max.), bus (40 min. max.).
- Involve the student in daily home life, including everyday activities and special outings when appropriate.
- Help student adapt to U.S. culture, as well as provide opportunities for them to engage in community life.
- Familiarize student with the community and how to access resources such as banks, grocery stores, shopping, etc.
- Provide emergency and safety instructions as well as contact information to student.
- Contact the International Programs office about any concerns with the homestay arrangement, severe sickness, or other concerns.
Expectations of Students
- Pay the homestay fee directly to their hosts each month by cash or personal check from a US bank.
- Abide by the terms laid out in the Student Binder regarding homestay fees for partial month stays and vacation leave.
- Participate in the daily home life and other activities of the host family.
- Respect and follow the host family's house rules regarding Internet, curfews, visitors, smoking, alcohol, etc.
- Communicate their needs and requests directly to their host family such as needing a particular item or having any special plans.
- Keep areas that they use in the home clean and orderly.
- Take responsibility for their own money. Host families will not be responsible for any lost money.
The homestay fee will be paid monthly in cash directly to the host family on a predetermined date set by the student and host family (usually the first day the student arrives in the home). From this fee, hosts are responsible to pay for meals, utilities, and any other extras you may choose to provide. Hosts may elect to provide the student with a bag lunch for school and are obligated to pay for hot meals at school when bag lunches are not available. The student is expected to cover personal expenses such as toiletries, stationery, school supplies, postage, clothing, snacks purchased outside the home, and entertainment.
With the exception of summer vacation, students are expected to pay the full homestay fee each month, even if they plan to be gone for vacation some of that month. Homestay fees do not need to be paid for summer vacation. A prorated homestay fee can be applied for partial month stays depending on when your student leaves and returns from summer vacation.
Host families need to give a 30 day notice should they need a new placement for their student. If they ask the student to move out before 30 days, the student is not required to pay the full month's homestay fee. In addition, students need to give a 30 day notice if they plan to move out of their host family. If they choose to move out before 30 days, they are still required to pay the full homestay fee for that month.
The host family is not obliged to host students during the summer vacation. Should students desire to stay in their host family during the summer vacation, they need to ask permission from their host family to make sure they are agreeable to such terms.
The Homestay Coordinator has the discretion to dismiss any student or host from the program for non-compliance with the requirements. The homestay coordinator has the discretion to move a student with less than 30-days' notice if it is determined to be in the best interest of the student of the host family. The homestay coordinator will determine the final homestay fee in these cases.
What to do Before your Student Arrives
Read about your student's home country and culture. Knowing more about the environment in which your student was raised will be a first step toward getting to know and understand your student. Look for information in your public library, and update yourself on current events related to that country. Learn what foods your student is used to eating and how to prepare some of those foods. Keep an open mind and avoid stereotypes of your student's culture to influence your judgment. Some assumptions or prejudgments may inhibit your ability to understand and enjoy your student.
Contact your student by telephone, email, Skype, Facebook, etc. When communicating with your student, include information about your home, family, weather, and daily activities. Pictures are always welcome. Describe your community, the surrounding area, and the school. Share a little bit about the school and how the student will travel to and from school. Having this information before arrival bolsters the student's confidence.
Students are required to have their own room. Please prepare fresh sheets on the bed, a blanket, comforter or quilt and pillow. Make sure there is a dresser, desk, and chair available for the student to use as well. Other items to consider are a night stand, alarm clock, radio, laundry basket/hamper and bookcase. A little welcome basket with some snacks, basic toiletries, and/or other goodies is also a nice gesture to make them feel welcome.
Prepare a cupboard/drawer for their personal toiletries.
Set aside a small cupboard/refrigerator space for their special foods.
What to do After your Student Arrives
- Don't plan a huge reception. Your student will likely be tired and could be overwhelmed.
- Have your student call home to advise their parents of their safe arrival.
- Give a short house tour: bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, common areas.
- Make sure the student knows how to operate the toilet, faucets, electrical outlets, showers, where to put toilet paper, where to find soap and towels, and how to access wifi.
- If early evening or later, let the student sleep. Whether is is morning or afternoon, try to keep the student up until 6 or 7 pm to minimize jet lag and help with body clock adjustment.
During the first couple days it may be best not to introduce the student to a tightly packed schedule of events. Allow the student time to recover from the long journey, become accustomed to the new time zone and begin to feel comfortable. The following are some important things that can be done during the first week home:
Attend Host Family Orientation
Attend the Host Family Orientation with your student. It will familiarize you with what to expect and how to prepare to be a host family to an international student. It will also orient you to program rules as well as who to contact at International Programs when the need arises.
Take nothing for granted. Nearly everything will be new and strange for the student. These things may seem obvious, but your student may need you to explain to them:
- How to use the faucets, appliances, the dishwasher, the washing machine, etc.
- What food they may eat, where to find it, what they can use to cook with.
- Where trash (including feminine hygiene products) can be disposed of
- Where to put toilet paper
- Where cleaning supplies are stored and how to use them
- Home safety: how to lock doors, how to use the security system, emergency procedures, emergency numbers, where to exit in case of a fire, etc.
- Mailing address: How to address mail and how to share a mailing address.
Overview of Family Lifestyle and Schedule
Explain your family's habits and routines, including:
- Your weekday schedule for work and school.
- Your family meal schedule.
- What you do on the weekends.
- Your family religious practices.
It is important to be very clear on your expectations and household rules from the beginning. Students are expected to conform to the host family expectations regarding family rules, but don't expect the student to remember everything. Please try not to give the student all these rules at once as it can be very overwhelming. Perhaps introduce a couple new topics each day. We strongly recommend that you put these expectations in writing.
- What jobs are shared around the house? What chores/cleaning will your student be responsible for?
- What is the usual routine for using the bathroom?
- What is the procedure for doing the laundry?
- What is the procedure for locking the front door?
- What are your guidelines for technology use: cell phones, Internet, TV? When and how often to use?
- What transportation are you able to provide? What are your expectations for requesting rides? What other forms of transportation are available?
- What are the guidelines around food? What snacks are allowed to be eaten? Are there rules for helping oneself to what's in the refrigerator?
- What are the weekday and weekend curfews?
- What are the guidelines for smoking and/or alcohol use?
- What are the guidelines for having visitors over?
- What are your financial expectations? What are the things the student needs to buy? What will you be providing?
A short tour of your neighborhood and community will be helpful for your student. Show them where they can get food, where they can go shopping, where their school is, where the post office, the bank, etc. Bring them to the campus for a tour.
If your student needs to take local transportation, now would be a good time to show them how to get around. Determine what transportation is needed to get to and from school. If your student is expected to ride the bus, it might be helpful for you to ride with your student the first time. Purchase a bus pass for the first month, give them the bus schedule and explain how to use it.
Make sure your student attends the mandatory New Student Orientation at the college.
Assist the student in setting up a bank account and securing a cell phone if not already done. Banking and cell phone options are listed under resources.
Go over any emergency procedures, give emergency numbers, show where to exit in case of a fire, etc. Also provide a card with your family name, address, phone numbers and emergency contact information; perhaps something they could carry with them.
What to expect When you are Hosting
We guarantee that your student will experience some form and degree of culture shock, but each student may experience it differently. The information below describes some of the phases of cultural adjustment which may help you and your family better understand some of your student's behavior.
- They are very positive about the culture.
- They find the culture exotic and are fascinated by it.
- They are largely passive; don't confront the culture.
Anxiety: Discomfort Begins - Honeymoon Over
- They begin to interact with the culture and begin to dislike aspects of the culture.
- They find the behavior of the people unusual and unpredictable.
- They feel anxiety, stress and anger.
- They begin to criticize the culture and its people.
- They want to go home.
Adjustment: Understanding the Differences
- They begin to understand the behavior of the people.
- They feel more comfortable living in the culture.
- They feel less isolated.
Acceptance: Cultural Competency
- They enjoy being in the culture.
- They function easily in the culture.
- They prefer certain host country behavior more than that of their own culture.
- They adopt certain behaviors of their host culture.
Much of the information here has been adapted from L. Robert Kohls' Survival Kit For Overseas Living, published by Intercultural Press and available on Amazon.com and from other booksellers.
Symptoms of Culture Shock
- Withdrawal, being alone
- Excessive sleeping
- Compulsive eating
- Calls home frequently
- Family tension and conflict
- Hostility and stereotyping of Americans
- Anxious, depressed, crying
- Wanting to speak primarily in native tongue, not English
- Not performing well in school
- Physical ailments such as headache, stomach ache
Although it is likely your student will experience some form of culture shock, most students do not experience it severely. They might exhibit one or two of the listed symptoms. Keep in mind that your student cannot totally control his or her reactions or symptoms. Some students are adept at concealing their discomfort, while others become very vocal. Some students will withdraw and spend as much time as possible avoiding people. Others will become highly critical of everything in their new environment.
How to help your student going through Culture Shock
- Talk to the student about the signs you are seeing. Ask open-ended questions, allowing the student to talk freely.
- Be supportive, gentle, non-judgmental, and understanding. If your student is critical, don't take it personally. Often a student who says “I don't like this” means “I don't understand this and it makes me uncomfortable.”
- Encourage your student to become involved in activities, even if it is hard at first, as this will help them make friends and keep busy.
- Offer or help arrange for additional language assistance.
- Encourage your student to talk to a college counselor.
- Notify International Programs if the student is encountering any exceptional problems such as illness, significant difficulty adapting to the host family or school, anxieties about family matters, or serious homesickness.
Expect some communication difficulties with your student especially in the beginning. Most students have a basic knowledge of the host country's language, but book knowledge often does not prepare them for daily language use. Remember it can be very exhausting for your student to communicate all day in a new language! Be open to potential misunderstandings and frustrations that may accompany communication with the student, and please exercise patience. As you help conquer the language barrier together, you will be able to take great pride in the student's accomplishments and will likely create a close bond that will last for many years.
Helpful techniques that may aid you in communication with your international student:
- Speak slowly, deliberately and distinctly - not loudly! Face your student so he or she will benefit from your expression and body language.
- When necessary, repeat what you have said or rephrase it. If you don't understand what is being said to you, say something to the effect of "I'm sorry, I'm not sure I understand what you are saying, could you repeat that?” If necessary, try using a dictionary that has English and your student's language.
- Listen carefully to what your student says to you, and offer genuine encouragement! If needed, ask the student to repeat information back to you and encourage the student to ask for clarification.
- Avoid asking, "Do you understand?" A student's nod may simply indicate that he or she is listening, but not necessarily understanding.
- Write down anything that is important, such as a meeting place or time.
- Use Google Translator download the app.
- If communication becomes a challenge and you would like some assistance, contact International Programs staff.
One of the most beautiful things about hosting an international student is the opportunity to learn about their culture. This can be a very rich learning environment, but it can also be confusing. It is common for students and host families to have misconceptions of each others cultures. What you may consider to be rude or unacceptable may be normal behavior in the student's culture and vice-versa. It is important to communicate clearly with your student about any cultural misunderstandings. Please be patient with one another as you go through this learning together.
As a host family, you will undergo many changes as a family. These changes have many positive aspects, but they also often create transition stress, which is normal, natural, and will surface in different ways for different people. As a host family, the following are some changes you can expect:
- Change of culture in your home
- Change of lifestyle (schedules, meal times, how you travel around, amount of free time)
- Changes in the way you communicate
- Changes in your roles and relationships
It is critical to prepare yourself—and your student—to manage the possible stresses in this transition.
When Problems Arise
You can help your student by keeping communication open and clear. Don't be afraid to have sit-down family meetings. Gently share concerns and encourage the student to be open and express to you what he or she is feeling. Accept those expressions without becoming defensive. Be a good listener.
Be aware that your family has unspoken habits and rules that are so familiar to you that you are hardly aware of them, but which can be completely new (and misunderstood) by your international student. Show your student that his or her feelings matter to you enough that you want to clarify them. Accept that there may be confusion. Be patient when resolving the confusion.
When you notice the student making advances toward fitting into your family, acknowledge those efforts. Make sure to model solving problems within the family peacefully and still being able to love one another afterwords. Give lots of reassurance.
Should a problem arise that you are not able to resolve within the home, please contact International Programs staff for assistance.
Tips for Hosting your Student
- Be clear and specific from the beginning as to your expectations.
- Ask questions! Get to know your international student and their culture.
- Be patient as they learn and adjust to a new culture.
Understanding your International Student
In American culture we value punctuality. In many other cultures this is not the norm. In other cultures relationships are valued more highly than being on time. So be patient as your student adjusts to being on time.
In many cultures there is a strong hierarchy when it comes to social status and even gender roles. The US has a strong value that “all people are created equal”, therefore there is an expectation that everyone should be treated equally regardless of their rank, status, race, gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. This may not be the value in the country your student is coming from and may reflect in some of their behaviors and attitudes.
Americans tend to be more direct in the way they communicate than many other cultures. They often will tell you directly what they are thinking or feeling even if it is in disagreement with you. Your student may not be used to this direct way of communicating and may not tell you directly what they are thinking. In addition, try to avoid situations in which your student would lose face in front of you. This can be very embarrassing for many cultures.
There are certain topics that Americans accept as “sensitive topics” and are not frequently discussed with casual friends. This may not be true of the culture your student is coming from. Do not be caught off guard if your student asks you questions that seem overly personal such as how much money you make or if you have gained weight. They do not intend to be rude, these topics simply aren't sensitive topics in their country. Other subjects may include religion, politics, money, and race.
Americans value privacy within their home. It is considered impolite to go into other people's bedrooms or to touch other people's things without permission. In many other cultures this is not the case. Rooms and items within the home are shared. Politely instruct your student as to which areas of your home are shared and which areas are private.
Americans tend to be very polite. It is not uncommon to see people greeting one another on the street or opening doors for each other. It is considered respectful to always say please and thank you. This may not be true in the culture your student is coming from. Many other cultures do not practice saying please or thank you. They do not greet one another on the street. Please be patient as your student adjusts to learning these new gestures for being polite.
Some of the students may not be accustomed to the casual lifestyle of Americans. This can be very shocking, especially for those coming from very formal cultures. For instance they may find it difficult to address someone by their first name or to joke around with their parents.
Many of our students are coming from cultures where family life may look very different from here. The relationship between the parent and child may be more formal. Often times the children are sent to a boarding school at a very young age and so they are not used to living in a family environment. This can be a big adjustment for a student moving into a family. They are not used to family meals, rules, chores, participating in family activities, and other family expectations. Gently help your student understand and adjust to this new living environment.
Many international students are not used to having pets inside the home and certainly not pets who are a part of the family. Allow time for your student to adjust to this new setting.
You may notice your student is quiet during meals. This does not necessarily mean that your student is unhappy, but it could reflect some cultural patterns from home, or maybe just some nervousness.
Most of the English your student will have learned in their country is written English, but they do not have a lot of experience with listening or speaking in English. That is why it may be difficult at first for them to understand your spoken English and be able to communicate back verbally.
International Program Guidelines
Many students arrive with a prepaid debit/credit card. This way their parents will have the ability to add funds as needed. If students arrive with cash, hosts should not take the student's money to disburse it on an as-needed basis. International Programs staff will help assist the student in opening a checking or savings account. A list of recommended local banks can be found under Local Resources, especially those with banking options for minors. Host parents should not be co-signers on the account or have access to the student's funds. Additionally, never borrow money from your exchange student. If your student seems to be having financial problems or asks to borrow money from you, please seek assistance from International Programs immediately!
It is mandatory for students to carry medical insurance year round. International Programs staff will enroll them in health insurance either before or upon their arrival. If the student is under 18, LCC will have a signed medical release on file. Please inform the International Programs office should your student experience a serious health concern or injury.
While studying in the United States, it is important for your student to maintain their F-1 student status. Their visa says that they are coming to the United States to study. They should not consider any action that detracts from that purpose.
Please refer to the International Programs/Advising & SEVIS web page for detailed information on what your student needs to do to maintain their F-1 visa status.
If you notice your student doing something that is not in compliance, please notify International Programs staff immediately.
International students may travel anywhere in the United States. International Programs staff advises international students to carry their I-20 and passport when traveling outside of Washington State students who are planning to travel outside the US must contact the International Office before making any travel plans, in order to have their 1-20s endorsed for travel and ensure their travel plans are acceptable for their visa. Students traveling to any other country must have valid entry visas to return to the United States.
Please refer to the International Programs/Advising & SEVIS web page for information about travel requirements.
International Programs staff will pick students up at the PDX airport when they first arrive in the US.
Students are responsible to arrange their own transportation for any drop offs/pick-ups for vacations or visits home.
International students are not allowed to work off campus with an F-1 visa status. There may be on-campus work opportunities for F-1 students. Please talk to International Programs staff if your student is interested in working on campus.
Students are responsible for their own cell phone plan. Many international students arrive with a phone from their country that is ready to use. If they do not have a cell phone plan, we suggest setting them up with a prepaid plan and not a plan with a contract, as the length of their stay in the US is unpredictable.
We strongly advise you not to add your student to your family's cell phone plan in order to avoid unforeseen costs. A list of cell phone carriers can be found under Local Resources.
It is possible for international students to obtain a driver's license in the US although it can be complicated, especially if the student is under age 18. Students over 18 may take the required driving tests without completing driving school.
Please refer to this fact sheet on Applying for a Driver's License or State Identification provided by US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.
Should your student decide to buy a car, please make sure your student knows that it is required by law to have automobile insurance and a driver's license. Unfortunately, it is not always easy for students to qualify for automobile insurance.
If your student is having difficulties, consider contacting an insurance broker.
Host families are required to provide Internet access at home. We strongly encourage host families to have Wifi available for their students to use in the home. Many classes require students to do research and turn in typed papers. Host families should set up guidelines for their student's access to the Internet at home.
In addition, we encourage international students to not spend too much time communicating with friends and family back home via email, Facebook, Skype, etc. We have found that students who spend excessive time communicating in their native language with family and friends from home usually find adapting to their host families, school, and community more difficult. In addition, it could interfere with the student's relationship with the host family.
If you feel your student is spending too much time on the computer/electronic devices, but are uncertain how to regulate usage, please contact International Programs staff for advice.
International students are not required to attend religious services of any kind with their host families. It is okay to invite students to religious activities as it can be a wonderful social and educational opportunity for them, but you should not attempt to proselytize the student.
Students are required to follow all local laws regarding the use of alcohol and tobacco products. Should the student be of legal age, guidelines should be discussed between the student and host family as to what is appropriate within and outside of the host family's home.
Family members and friends may visit the student, but the host family is never required to host visitors in your home, although you may do so if you like. The host is not expected to tour or entertain the guests of the student.
All expenses related to hosting a visitor are the responsibility of the student.
For short vacations, hosts should consider the age of their student. If a student is under age 18, a friend or family member should stay at home to ensure the student is safe, well fed and attending class. Students over 18 may have a friend or family member check in with them to be sure there is food and that the student feels supported in the absence of the host family.
Please contact International Programs staff with the name(s) and phone number(s) for any person staying or looking in on a student. For longer vacations, we ask that someone over the age of 21 stay with the student in the home, or an arrangement is made for the student to stay with another host family.
In the event of an emergency involving your student or in which your student is directly affected, please contact International Programs staff as soon as you are able to safely do so. Our after-hours emergency number is (360) 355-0244.
Please familiarize yourself with the Emergency Information provided by the college, and review it with your student, so they understand what to do in the case of an emergency while at school.