Continuing the bond between international exchange students and their host family

Academic Yearlong International Exchange students and their host families enjoy activities to strengthen their relationship.

All 10 host families with exchange students during the 2016 midterm event at Great Wolf Lodge in Traverse City, Michigan.

All 10 host families with exchange students during the 2016 midterm event at Great Wolf Lodge in Traverse City, Michigan.

The Michigan States’ 4-H International Exchange Program team holds a midyear event for all Academic Yearlong Exchange students and host families. This event takes place each year about halfway through their exchange year experience. The reasons to hold such an event is to energize or revitalize the commitment between the student and host family. One way we energize the group is by participating in Radio Taiso the first morning of the event. This is a traditional morning exercise in Japan and a good way to learn about the Japanese culture while learning about their daily routine in schools and workplaces.

During the 2016-2017 school year, Michigan has exchange students from countries such as Korea, Japan, Estonia, Moldova, Kazakhstan, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine and Turkmenistan. Periodically throughout the midterm event, all 10 students share a 15-minute presentation about their individual countries. This is a great opportunity for all delegates, parents, siblings and staff to learn about other cultures. Some exchange students will wear native apparel while presenting to enhance their presentation. The delegates love learning from each other and spending time together while sharing their individual experiences so far. The delegates only have a few opportunities to be together as a group of 10. Great friendships are created between the exchange students during this experience, which continue after they return to their home countries.

The favorite activity of the midterm event is when the exchange students create a picture of their host families, drawing something to represent each member. This fun activity really strengthens the host family and student relationship. The families notice the student is learning about them and the students are able to express this in touching ways. Charades is also a big hit with lots of laughs and interesting acting styles all ages can enjoy.

Another popular, successful activity is the team building activity with half a pound of pasta and half a bag of regular sized marshmallows. Each host family/exchange student team has 5 minutes to create the tallest structure. It is fun to watch everyone working so well together. You can enjoy the experience, too, by watching our 2016 Michigan 4-H International Exchange Academic Year Program Mid-Term video.

Host family and student playing a game together

The Hamlin family created the tallest structure in 5 minutes with half a pound of spaghetti and half a bag of marshmallows.

Michigan State University Extension’s international program team sets appointments with each student individually to discuss their goals, challenges and highlights of their year. Meetings are a great opportunity to discuss things face-to-face and get to know each delegate better. Staff and delegates truly enjoy this brief moment of conversation. Breakout sessions with all host parents, siblings and exchange students are structured to share information, stretch viewpoints and encourage deeper understanding of others. This is always a valued time together.

4-H grows healthy relationships between host families and international exchange students. If you would like to learn more about 4-H international exchange programs, visit the Michigan 4-H International Exchange Programs page or contact me at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Michigan State University Extension and the Michigan 4-H Youth Development program help to prepare youth as positive and engaged leaders and global citizens by providing educational experiences and resources for youth interested in developing knowledge and skills in these areas. To learn about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth leadership, civic engagement, citizenship and global/cultural programs, read our 2015 Impact Report: “Developing Civically Engaged Leaders.”

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