1. While walking home from school one day, bring home flowers.
2. ALWAYS ask if you're able to take a shower. This is courteous to do even in the comfort of your own home.
This is especially important if your host family has only one bathroom/one shower in the house. It’s a simple politeness that
3. "I'm too shy" is NEVER an excuse.
In most cases, you learn and grow from what you do and say. If you’re always too shy to open your mouth and take action, how will you grow?
4. "I don't know what to say" is also not an excuse.
Whenever I had time to myself, I worked on a note in my phone and wrote down every question (in French) that would start an interesting conversation. I would memorize two or three questions before each meal to start up a good conversation. It worked! Conversation flowed long after dinner was served. The more you talk, the more quickly you will get comfortable with your host family.
5. Treat your host room as if you were living in the family room.
Keep it clean. "I was never an organized person" is not an excuse. Even if you have the luxury of having your own room, you must keep it clean. While you’re most likely not required to vacuum every day, keep your things (such as dirty laundry) off the floor. In some households, it's also impolite to eat in one's room as well. Keeping your room clean shows that you appreciate having a room in the first place. So keep it tidy, make your parents proud.
6. Speak in the host country's language.
You're going to hear this a lot. This isn't a cliche-whatever rule, this is
7. There will be days when it feels like you've been living in your host country for ten years, and days when it feels more like ten seconds.
Make the best out of every minute of it. There will be more embarrassing moments than you can count. Make the embarrassment your friend, not your enemy. Every embarrassing moment will always (and I mean always) become a funny story later on.
8. Excuses don't work here.
Excuses are a popular way to justify failure to do something. This is never a good practice. Your exchange should highlight that. If you have done something wrong or forgotten to do something, like offering to do the dishes, do not to make yourself feel better by mentally feeding yourself excuses (i.e. "I'm too tired," "I didn't know how to say it in x language," "I thought she was going to say no anyways.") Baaaaaaad!
9. Show your gratitude.
You can never say thank you enough. It's better to say thank you too often than too little. If there's one thing you can overdo, it's saying thank you.
10. Suggest to make breakfast for the family one day.
Give them a taste of what it's like to be American -
11. There is always free wifi at tourism offices!
Okay, you don’t really need to know this to have a great exchange year. But if you're on the go and in desperate need of a wifi hotspot, tourism offices should have them for free. You don’t even have to go inside, simply standing near the entrance will do the trick.
(*****This knowledge is based off of my experience in Southern France