Held when the students arrive, this orientation 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 and 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.
While this is still a time to address the AFS Educational Goals, because of the timing and emotional state of the students, keep the learning touch points simple, practical and relevant for the first few weeks. Volunteers conducting this orientation should focus on helping students understand that AFS is there to support them and show them ways to seek practical support.
The arrival orientation is usually the first formal contact students have with AFS in the host country. The most significant role of this orientation is for students to receive logistical information and contact details about the local AFS organization, including tips on how to stay safe.
Below are the resources you need to conduct an arrival orientation. All handouts are attached here.
- Arrival Orientation Leader Guide.
- Arrival Orientation Powerpoint Presentation (optional but highly recommended). Note that a less colorful version is available here.
- Required handout: Student and Host Family Questionnaire
- Required handout: School Questionnaire
- Optional activity: The AFS Pledge
- Very useful handout for students: AFS Educational Goals
- First Days checklist (This is used by some area teams that have newly arrived students students stay with the host family for a few days prior to arrival orientation.)
- Arrival Orientation Survey
- Contact Information List for Hosted students