Teams are required to provide the following orientations for our host students and host families:
Host Student Orientations
Host Family Orientations
- Online Host Family Orientation (required as part of the host family application process)
- Pre-Arrival Orientation
Although a number of teams in the U.S provide a mid-year orientation, it is not required. It is also important to note that teams organize and deliver the orientation content in a variety of different ways. Factors that influence how a team delivers their orientations include; where students are hosted in the team, when host students arrive in the team, and number of host students. The volunteers responsible for organizing and implementing the orientations develop the orientation plan that works best for their team.
Host Student Orientations
Although all orientations are important, arrival orientations provides the opportunity to begin creating a supportive relationship between and among the volunteer team and the hosted students. Held when the students arrive in the summer (January for Winter participants), it happens at a time when the students are brimming with emotions, some of them contradictory in nature. It is a time to be gentle and reassuring. Language levels will vary greatly in any one group of participants as will the ability to take information due to other factors such as jet lag.
In general, the first priority is meeting basic physical needs. This usually includes making sure the students have enough sleep and food. Sometimes they are so jet-lagged and overwhelmed that they aren't even sure of their own needs. This really has an impact on the type of site chosen for the orientation: quiet zones for sleep, accessible meals, showers. Another basic need that gets met in the beginning is often the natural parents' need to hear that the student has arrived. If there is an internet connection, Skype is a good inexpensive tool for this.
During the event you may also wish to help participants adapt to the local time zone. We urge students to try not to sleep until 10PM of the time zone we are in based on the idea that if they begin napping now their jet lag may take much longer to dissipate. This also means finding lively activities for the students to do during the day: long walks, hikes, swimming, playing games, soccer, etc.
The Post-Arrival Orientation is the second Orientation that occurs after a Hosted Student arrives in the US.
This Orientation occurs on different dates in every region of the country. The date is set by each individual Team. However, as a general rule, this Orientation is usually held approximately 4-6 weeks after the Arrival Orientation.
The Post-Arrival Orientation is the first time that an Team gets to check in on the Hosted Students after they have arrived. It is often the most critical orientation for evaluating the relationship between the Student and the Host Family. Also keep in mind that for many students, this is the first orientation in the US that they will understand, as they are finally beginning to truly learn English.
The Mid-Stay Orientation is intended to be both a look back at the students' exchange so far and to think about how to grab the maximum benefit from the remainder of the exchange. It can be an opportunity to assess any support issues, reiterate any points that need emphasis from previous orientations, and most importantly have fun, giving the students something to look forward to during the post holiday doldrums.
AFS standards are that the Mid-Stay is optional in that teams can provide a Mid-Stay or choose not to provide a Mid-Stay. If a team chooses to provide a Mid-Stay, it is a mandatory orientation for the students.
Usually the Mid-Stay is on a weekend in January (May for Winter Participants) with at least one overnight stay.
The Pre-Return Orientation is designed to prepare Hosted Students for their impending return to their Home Countries, as well as families and students to say goodbye to each other. It generally occurs 4-6 weeks before Departure Day. Often this orientation is combined with the Pre-Departure Orientation given to outbound AFSers, as it gives these students a chance to interact with current AFSers and ask them questions.
This orientation should provide host families and students with detailed information about the End of Stay including drop-off time, location, purpose, as well as any luggage limitations. Students should also fill out their program evaluations.
Students should be reminded that after school is out, there might be a number of friends and teachers whom they will not see again, so they need to say goodbyes and thank yous before school ends. Focus discussions on what students have learned, how they have changed during their exchange, and what lessons they should be taking home with them.
The End-of-Stay Orientation is the last Orientation that occurs before a Hosted Student returns to his or her home country. It occurs the day before D-Day (Departure Day from the Gateway site). D-Day is generally the last Monday or Tuesday in June.