AFS Welcome Families make it possible for international students to arrive in the U.S. in a timely manner and start making the most of their exchange experience. These welcome families usually host for 6-12 weeks before students move to permanent host families for the remainder of their program.
Many volunteers and welcome families have found that the more social and involved in the community students are, the easier it is to find them a permanent family. To help your team secure permanent placements for students staying with welcome families, you can:
- Encourage students to join school activities and sports. This offers the opportunity to make friends with other students and even get to know their parents.
- Bring students along to community events like fairs or sports games and introduce them to your friends.
- Express how much fun the students are having in the community and mention that their current families are not able to host for the full year.
- Engage the help of other supporters in your community. Let them know you are on the lookout for great families to host students.
- Share the attached documents with welcome families and welcome students with tips for making the most out of their experience together.
Real-World Example: Andre from Brazil
Helping exchange students integrate into the community has been a useful way for teams to introduce new people to the idea of hosting with AFS. Take, for example, the experience of Andre from Brazil. When he first arrived in Missouri, he stayed with a welcome family, the Trickels. They weren’t able to host for the entire year, but they made sure to help him find another amazing family to share his experience with.
Andre jumped right into life in the community and joined the cross-country team at his high school. This allowed him to make lots of new friends, including his future host brother, Fred. Andre spent a lot of time with Fred’s family, the Williams, and before long had a new place to call home!
This is how Tricia, Andre’s new host mom, described her family’s decision to host: “We weren’t looking to host a student, we didn’t even really know much about the program at all. It just kind of stumbled onto our laps, and we couldn’t be more happy about that! But really, cross-country was what probably brought us together.”
Throughout his exchange, Andre’s welcome family, the Trickels, continued to keep in touch with him and his permanent family as key AFS Volunteers. According to Andre: “Both my old host family and my new host family, I’m going to remember them for a long time.”
Students like Andre who are staying with welcome families have the unique opportunity to meet interested families before they decide to host. In fact, many families have an easier time agreeing to host an exchange student they have met in person rather than someone they have only read about. So be sure to encourage your students to get out there, make friends, and share their experiences as international ambassadors!