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YFU Blog - Recent stories about Youth for Understanding

What Not To Do As An Exchange Student


I've had my fair share of living in the house of strangers abroad, whether as an exchange student or as a guest, ever since I was fourteen, and even today, I still makes mistakes. So while various people will make suggestions as to how you should behave or what you should do to make a good impression, I will provide you with my top warnings as to what habits you should avoid committing when living in a guest's house and interacting with students.

Remember: YOU ARE A GUEST.

This is arguably the most important point I will make in this entire blog, the idea which encompasses all the ideas I will state further. My family hosted a Chinese girl for two years, and she fitted into our family so perfectly. When my family recalls back to those days, we were impressed with how she managed living in another person's house. Though she was like a sister to me, she constantly maintained a degree of politeness

Don't assume things.

Always check with your host family when making a plan. Ask before you eat that bowl of pasta (Though I'm not saying you need to confirm everything you eat, but use common sense). You may know their schedule, but sometimes they may forget to mention a doctor's appointment that will result in you being picked up late. Most importantly, ask whether or not something you want to do is okay with them. 

Don't be a picky eater.

If you're vegan, that's fine. If you have a shellfish allergy, that's fine. If you have any reasonable excuse as to why you can not eat certain foods, then you should not worry about imposing on your host family's typical meal plan. However, if you don't want to eat the family's cooking because they included mushrooms, you're least favorite food, then there's nothing I can tell you. If you go into a country avoiding any foods you don't like or not trying anything new, then you will be missing out on a vital, and delicious, part of the culture, and you're here precisely to experience a new culture.

Do not complain/gossip about your host family, especially to people they know. 

I admit, I've committed this mistake a few times, regardless that my complaints were minor. You don't know who your host family knows, and whatever you may say can come back full circle to your host family, to your deepest chagrin. This is not only a host-family-related behavioral habit but also a general life-decree you should follow. That being said, if you have a real problem, don't keep quite. Which brings me to my next point:

If you have Genuine problems with your host family, seek to resolve it immediately.

Maybe your host mother hates you. Maybe your host sibling did something to make you uncomfortable. Whatever it is, if something makes you feel upset, find someone to talk to immediately, whether it be a trusted adult, your family, or a program advisor. If this is an immediate problem, your program probably has a 24-hours hotline. Don't compromise your comfort for the sake of being polite. 


These are only a few issues I've touched upon, but these are issues I find to be the most important. To summarize, use your common sense, keep an open mind, and always be on your best behavior. Do these, and your host experience is sure to be a fantastic one.