life with your host family

These topics will help to answer your questions about life outside of school.
Click on the links at the left to go to the various topics. If you need more information go to the Contacts page and send us an email.
Your American Host Family
A+ carefully selects host families based on their desire to host a visiting student and ability to provide a safe, comfortable home and positive cultural experience for you in the United States. People of all ages and from all walks of life volunteer to serve as host families. Grandparents, families with younger children, single-parent families and traditional two-parent families have all hosted successfully.

You may live in a home in a suburban community or a farmhouse out in the country. There is no "typical" host family. You could be within walking distance of your High School or you may need to take a bus to school daily. America's communities are as diverse as its people.

Your host family will expect you to join in family activities. They will expect you to share the privileges and responsibilities of being a family member, as if you were a natural son or daughter. This includes doing a few simple chores around the house.

Your host family will want to learn about your country and will want to help you understand life in America. They will be eager to answer your questions and explain things to you when you don't understand. Above all, they want to open their hearts and share their homes with you, their new "son" or "daughter."

Host families are responsible for:

  • Providing you with a home for the academic year.
  • Making sure you have transportation to and from school each day, including extracurricular activities
  • Welcoming you as a member of the family and encouraging you to participate in all aspects of family life.
  • Providing you with your own bed and place to study, either in a shared room with a family member of the same sex and age range, or your own room
  • Providing you with all meals
  • Encouraging the exchange of ideas and providing you with exposure to the cultural and social environment of the home and neighborhood
  • Providing the love and understanding a young person needs to enjoy a successful stay in America

Most importantly-You are expected to adjust to the family's way and culture; the family is not required to change to your ways and culture

What do American families expect from their International Student? They would like to share with you and for you to respond and take an active part in their lives. They do not want a guest in the house---they want another family member.

actual room actual room

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Safety & Security

When you are a student in another country, there will be times when you may be confused about behavior and what is culturally acceptable and what is not. One of our main goals is to make sure that you are safe during your experience. We would like to share this list that will help you to understand what types of actions and behaviors are socially acceptable and those that are not regarding your personal safety.

Positive/Appropriate Displays of Affection could include:

  • Brief hugs
  • Pats on the shoulder and back
  • A handshake
  • High-fives/slapping hands
  • Verbal praise
  • Brief touch on hands, face, shoulder, arms
  • Arms around shoulder
  • Holding hands during prayer
  • Brief kiss on the cheek

Negative/Inappropriate Displays of Affections could include:

  • Inappropriate/lengthy hugs and embraces
  • Intentional brushing against a person's body, patting or pinching
  • Adult holding hands with student
  • Kisses on the mouth
  • Student sitting in adult's lap
  • Touching bottoms, chest or genital areas
  • Showing affection in isolated areas like bathroom, bedroom
  • Laying on same bed
  • Touching of the knees or legs
  • Wrestling and tickling
  • Any type of massage
  • Written or spoken compliments referring to body or body development
  • Giving excessive personal gifts or money
  • Private meals in intimate places
  • Any unwanted attention

Modesty Guidelines:

  • No nudity by student or host family
  • No contact between student and adult in underwear
  • Wear robes over your pajamas
  • Do not leave the bathroom only wearing a towel
  • No suggestive or revealing clothing

Behavior Guidelines:

  • No request for meeting with students privately
  • No telephoned, mailed or e-mailed messages of a sexual or intimate nature
  • No flirting
  • No jokes with sexual connotation
  • No lewd remarks, whistles
  • No sharing or displaying photos or material of a sexual nature

It is never appropriate, under any circumstances, for a student to be approached or touched in a sexual or sexually suggestive manner by any member of the host family or anyone else. If anyone attempts to inappropriately touch or speak with you, you must contact your local A+ agent immediately. Likewise, it is never appropriate for a student to initiate any sexual contact with anyone.

It is your Host Family's responsibility to provide you with a safe and secure living environment. You might not get the "perfect" family or the "perfect" room. You have to be flexible and tolerant in your new surroundings. You should be adjusting to the American culture and way of life, but communicate with your family about how you are doing and feeling so they can learn about you and make you feel at home. They want you to be happy. Remember however, you should never feel like you are putting yourself in danger by being in your new home.

Contact your local A+ agent IMMEDIATELY if you are ever harmed in any way; this can be in the form of sexual, physical, or mental abuse. If there is an EMERGENCY, you can call 911 and ask for help. This number should only be called in a seriously dangerous situation.

You should never be made to participate in or watch activities that you feel are wrong. If you start to get an uncomfortable feeling about your living situation, you should call your local A+ Agent. They can help you fix the problem before things get out of hand.

How to prevent abuse while in the USA for study:

What Is Student Abuse?
"Student abuse" can be defined as causing or permitting any harmful or offensive contact on a student's body; and, any communication or transaction of any kind which humiliates, shames, or frightens the student. Some student development experts go a bit further, and define student abuse as any act or omission, which fails to nurture or in the upbringing of the students.

The Student Abuse Prevention and Treatment defines student abuse and neglect as: "at a minimum, any recent act or failure to act on the part of a host parents, which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation, or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm."

A student of any age, sex, race, religion, and socioeconomic background can fall victim to student abuse and neglect.

There are many factors that may contribute to the occurrence of student abuse and neglect. Host parents may be more likely to maltreat their students if they abuse drugs or alcohol. Some host parents may not be able to cope with the stress resulting from the changes and may experience difficulty in caring for their students.

Major types of student abuse are: Physical Abuse, Emotional Abuse, & Sexual student Abuse, Neglect.( Physical neglect, educational neglect, emotional neglect)

Emotional Abuse: (also known as: verbal abuse, mental abuse, and psychological maltreatment) Includes acts or the failures to act by host parents or caretakers that have caused or could cause, serious behavioral, cognitive, emotional, or mental disorders. This can include host parents/caretakers using extreme and/or bizarre forms of punishment, such as confinement in a closet or dark room or being tied to a chair for long periods of time or threatening or terrorizing a student. Less severe acts, but no less damaging are belittling or rejecting treatment, using derogatory terms to describe the student or habitual blaming.

Neglect: The failure to provide for the student’s basic needs. Neglect can be physical, educational, or emotional. Physical neglect can include not providing adequate food, supervision, or proper weather protection (heat). It may include fail of hosting. Educational neglect includes failure to provide appropriate schooling or special educational needs, allowing excessive truancies. Psychological neglect includes the lack of any emotional support and love, never attending to the student, spousal abuse, drug and alcohol abuse including allowing the student to participate in drug and alcohol use.

Physical Abuse: The inflicting of physical injury upon a student. This may include, burning, hitting, punching, shaking, kicking, beating, or otherwise harming a student. The host parents may not have intended to hurt the student, the injury is not an accident. It may, however, been the result of over-discipline or physical punishment that is inappropriate to the student's age.

Sexual Abuse: The inappropriate sexual behavior with a student. It includes fondling a student's genitals, making the student fondle the adult's genitals, intercourse, incest, rape, sodomy, exhibitionism and sexual exploitation. To be considered student abuse these acts have to be committed by a person responsible for the care of a student (for example a local representative, a parent, or a host sibling) or related to the student. If anyone commits these acts, it would be considered sexual assault and handled solely be the police and criminal courts.

How do you report suspected student abuse? Once you find that anyone has done any of the above described activities to you, keep distance to this person and report it immediately to below phone numbers: 1-937-623-8592 (Your A+ Agent) or 911. The 911 is toll free and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

A+ will take immediate actions, such as to contact our local representative in your area and you to get detailed information; file report immediately to police so they could take immediate actions, inform students' parents and overseas agents. In most cases, if your report has been defined as abuse, you will be moved to another host family immediately unless there will be certain guarantee the person will not be near you again. If it is not convenient for you to make this kind of phone calls from the host family, you can do it from any payphone, or you can call us from your neighbor's house or a friend's phone where it is safe. If it is under extremely urgent situation, which you think it can be very harmful to you or even life threatening, please call 911 immediately. You just tell them where you are located, the policeman will be there immediately.

Please remember that it is our responsibility to provide you with safe environment while having exchange in the USA. We will do whatever we can to protect you and to let you have pleasant experiences while in the USA.

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American Ideas And Culture

Individualism and Self-Reliance: Most Americans think that the 'ideal' person is someone who is independent and self-reliant. Most American teenagers will try to do things on their own without asking for help unless they really need it. Many teenagers, but not all, prepare their own meals and do their own laundry. The majority of teens move away from home to attend college after high school. Their independence and self-reliance help them adjust easily to living unsupervised by a parent. They are comfortable being responsible for themselves. Still, most parents like it when their son or daughter comes to them for help. Never be afraid to ask for help, they will always be happy to help you!

Equality: In the United States, men and women are considered to be equal. In many families, both parents work. Parents, and sometimes children, share household responsibilities. Some men do laundry, dishes, and chores that may be considered 'a woman's job' in other countries. Some women mow the lawn, shovel snow, change the oil in the car and do other chores that may be considered 'a man's job'. Do not be insulted if someone asks you to help him or her with something that you think is 'a man's job' or 'a woman's job'. They ask you to help because they consider you as their equal. Treating a man or a woman unequally is insulting; please try to avoid doing this to maintain a good relationship with your host family, your teachers, and your peers.

Culture shock:Arriving in a new country is exciting but 'culture shock', feelings of disorientation and anxiety, are common. Even if you are from an English speaking country, there will be things about America that seem strange or unfamiliar. Although everyone experiences culture shock differently, some common signs and symptoms are:

  • Feeling homesick, sad, frustrated, depressed angry or/and lonely
  • Feeling worried about your health
  • Headaches and pains
  • Insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Feeling overwhelmed by small problems
  • Feeling shy and insecure

Some suggestions for coping with culture shock are to:

  • Stay in touch with friends or other people you trust
  • Exercise, get plenty of sleep and eat healthy food
  • Use English as often as possible, if it's your second language – confidence with English will help you adjust more quickly
  • Learn as much as you can about American culture, values and attitudes, and try to respect them
  • Be open to learning new things and spend time doing things you enjoy
  • Keep your sense of humor

We understand the challenges international students face living in a new culture and we try to offer services to help you adjust. Orientation is a good opportunity to find out as much as you can about student clubs, services and your courses. Remember to be kind to yourself and don’t expect too much too soon. It takes times to adjust and feelings associated with culture shock are common.

Talking with someone about your feelings or concerns can help you feel better. Please contact your A+ agent or make an appointment to talk with a counselor or teacher at school.

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In The Home

Pets: Families in America often keep animals as pets. The most common pets are dogs and cats. But Americans also keep birds, rodents like hamsters and guinea pigs, fish, as well as reptiles like snakes or even lizards. In your home country you might not treat these animals as pets. You are in a different culture now and you must respect it. Remember to always be kind to your family’s pets and NEVER mistreat them in any way. Often, Americans treat their pets as another member of the family! If you are scared of them, just tell your family, and they will understand if you don’t want to be around the animal. They will help you with the situation, either by keeping the animal away from you, or helping you to get used to the pet so you are not scared of it anymore.

Meals: Meals at home are provided. Some, but not all, American families eat meals together. If your host family has their meals together, you will be expected to participate. If your Host Family takes you out to eat, they will pay for your meal. You should certainly smile and say thank you.

If you wish to buy lunch at school or other food outside the home, you must pay for that yourself. For school lunches you will usually take a sandwich and fruit that your host has prepared for you. Refrigerator food and snack food in the kitchen is for the whole family. You must always consider this before you take the last piece of anything.

Cooking: Some families may ask you to cook a traditional dinner of your home country for them on occasion. They might want to try new things and learn about what you are used to eating. Sometimes you may be asked to make your own lunch or breakfast. Most American teenagers do this.

Babysitting: Some families have young children and they may ask you on occasion to supervise them. This is something that is often expected from older siblings and not everyone will get paid for their time. You may be expected to baby-sit for free from time to time. You should work out a system in the beginning with your host family. You should not be asked to baby-sit more than a few hours a week without pay or compensation of some sort. If you feel that your family is asking you to baby-sit too much please let us know.

Chores: In most American families, children are expected to perform chores. They sometimes receive a small allowance for this, but not always. You will probably be asked to clean up after yourself, make your bed, clean your room and possibly help clean up after a meal. This is what is expected of most American teenagers.

If you do not know how to do something, please ask your host family. They will be happy to show you. You may also be asked to teach the family some words in your native language. We encourage this, and it should be fun for you and not feel like a chore. Ask your host family what your responsibilities will be in the house. Remember if you feel like you are being asked to do too much, please let us know.

Laundry: Most families do not do laundry every day. Some families may only do laundry once or twice a week. If your host family does your laundry you will be expected to wait until laundry day. If you need to wash your clothes on days that the family doesn't do laundry please talk to your host family. They will show you how to use the washer and dryer and let you know how often and what hours are appropriate for washing your clothes. You probably will not be permitted to do your laundry every day.

Church: Many American Families go to church on a regular basis. It is important for you to attend church and other functions with the family. It does not mean that you must accept the family's beliefs, but you should show an interest in the family's traditions. Going to church and other events is also a way to meet more people and experience another part of American life. Many churches offer social experiences for young people.

A Youth Group is a social group for teenagers, which is usually affiliated with a church. They often go on outings to the movies, camping, or have dances or other functions. Participating in youth group activities is a great way to meet other teenagers and the activities are usually a lot of fun. You do not need to be of any certain religion nor do you need to convert to join.

Phone: If you do not have your own cell phone please use a calling card unless you work out an arrangement with the family to pay for the calls once the bill arrives. All calls placed by the student that are direct dial calls go straight to the host family's phone bill! Calls made in this manner are the sole responsibility of the student. These calls are to be paid for immediately in time for that month's payment of the phone bill. A+ does not condone any student's disregard of phone responsibility. Failure to adhere to phone rules of the host family could result in the loss of phone privileges in the home.

Overseas telephone calls can be very expensive and have been a cause of severe shock and financial trauma to students and host families! Phone bills for hundreds and even thousands of dollars have been received in a single month! Students are encouraged to purchase a prepaid telephone card available locally at department or convenience stores.

Be considerate and do not be on the phone too long. Many families understand if you talk to your parents once a week for an hour, but if you talk to them that much every day it is too much. Be respectful of the other people in the family. In addition, most families do not like for someone to call them after 10 PM or before 6:30 AM, please especially let your friends and parents who are in a different time zone know this.

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Your host family will provide internet. If you do not have your own laptop your host family may set hours for when you will be able to use their computer. Please respect their wishes. You should NOT spend all of your free time on the computer or telephone, chatting, writing, and speaking in your native language. It will NOT help you to practice and improve your English. Excessive use of the computer, with or without permission, is unacceptable behavior and can result in warning or probation. If you download material that offends members of the host family, this can create problems that will cause tension and be hard to mend. Inappropriate use of the computer can result in a total loss of computer privileges.

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Time Keeping

Curfews: If you would like to go out with your friends at night, you will probably be given a curfew. On school nights it is only acceptable to go out on special occasions or to attend an event. On the weekend, your curfew will usually, but not always, be between 10 and midnight. Your host family will discuss your curfew with you. Please be courteous and respect their wishes.

Punctuality: Most Americans are very punctual and have their activities planned on a schedule. Being late is considered rude. If you cannot be on time, you should contact the people that you are meeting to notify them that you will be late. If you arrive late, you should apologize to the person that you kept waiting.

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In the United States, you should express gratitude when someone does something for you or gives you something. If you do not say “thank you” after a person gives you a gift, he or she may think that you did not like the gift. If you do not say “thank you” after someone does something for you, he or she may feel unappreciated and may be less likely to help you the next time that you need it. When someone tells YOU thank you, be sure to always say, “You're welcome.” Always be sure to use “please” when asking for help or anything else. People who do not use these courtesy phrases are often considered ungrateful, disrespectful, or rude.

Table Etiquette: Every country has different “rules” for how one should behave while eating. Many American families eat their meals together. You should eat dinner when it is served to the family. Always wash your hands before meals. Wait until everyone is seated before you begin eating. Put your napkin in your lap and do not put your elbows on the table. Use utensils, if they are available, to serve and eat food. Chew quietly and with your mouth closed. Do not talk with your mouth full. Do not slurp soup or any other liquids. Do not lick your fingers; use your napkin. Do not burp, and if you do burp accidentally, always say, “Excuse me”. Do not reach for food, if you cannot reach it easily, always ask someone else to pass it to you. When a meal is finished, help the family clean off the table and carry dishes to the sink. Always say thank you to the cook!

Hygiene: In the United States, hygiene is VERY important. Body odor and bad breath are considered to be offensive. This is why the American society has so many products to cover up bad smells such as perfumes, scented lotions and candles, deodorants, antiperspirants, toothpaste, mouthwash, and breath mints. Shower at least once daily, and always following rigorous exercise. Change all of your clothing daily, including undergarments and socks. Wash your hands after using the bathroom and before all meals. Sleep between the sheets and wear separate clothing to sleep in. Brush your teeth every day (most Americans brush their teeth 2-3 times a day).

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Social Activities

Family Activities: Most American families have one or more children and plan activities together. You should always participate when you are asked to join in the fun. They are wonderful opportunities to learn new things and to get closer to your family. Eat dinner with your family if they eat all together, it is a great time to chat. Sometimes families spend the evenings together watching television or playing games. Parents often use these times to talk with their children (including YOU) about what everyone did during the day and to discuss future plans or other family matters. You are a member of this family so use this time to talk to them!

Socializing: Try to be open and accept invitations to go new places or do new things. You will learn something new and make new friends in the process. If you accept an invitation, you are expected to be on time. It is considered rude to accept an invitation and then not show up. When you are invited to do something or go somewhere and you are not sure what to wear, always ask beforehand. While most invitations are informal, some invitations are formal and you should wear nice clothing and shoes. Two examples of formal events are church services and school banquets.

Interest In YOU: Most families host students from other countries to learn more about those countries and meet new people. It is a wonderful opportunity for you to learn about the United States and for the host family to learn about your country. During your stay, your host family will encourage you to try new things. You will learn a lot from them. Ask a lot of questions, your host family will be happy to answer them! In addition, you should share with what your life was like for you at home. Tell them about the differences between life here in the U.S. and in your country. Show them pictures and tell them about your family. Share recipes for food from your province. Teach them how to say something in your language. Your host family will be very excited to have someone so different in their home and they will be very eager to learn more about you!

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It is very important to communicate with your host family! They cannot read your mind. Let them know if something is bothering you. If you do not feel like you can speak to your host family about something, please talk to your Local Representative or our staff here at the office.

Nonverbal Communication: When speaking with someone, you should try to keep eye contact with him or her. If you do not look into their eyes, they may think that you are not listening, that you are not interested, or that you are not telling the truth.

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Dos and Don'ts for International Students

  • Do practice your English!
  • Do ask questions!
  • Do try new things!
  • Do take an interest in your host family’s activities, hobbies, and interests!
  • Do talk about your country and your life at home with your host family!
  • Do share new things with your host family!
  • Do be on time!
  • Do pay attention to hygiene!
  • Do have good manners!
  • Do help out around the house!
  • Do follow host family rules!
  • Do communicate with your host family!
  • Do ask for help!
  • Do make American friends!
  • Do laugh!
  • Do have fun!
  • Don't have bad table manners!
  • Don't forget to say please or thank you!
  • Don't make a mess!
  • Don't wear dirty clothes!
  • Don't criticize or make fun of your host family!
  • Don't study too much!
  • Don't isolate yourself!