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Student Exchange

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We have had our exchange student ( our first) since Aug and boy are you right about unwritten rules!  Like if you didn't specifically ask for that ice cream you should not be finishing it off. or Don't eat 5 cookies a day if your host sister made them.  Or when you say you don't want yogurt for breakfast and I do not buy sufficient quantities for you, then don't eat all my yogurt. 

But definitely keeping us informed as to where you are and not having people over when we aren't home had to be drummed in.

Our student helps cook on occasion, but for the life of me I cannot get her to clean up after herself.  We have had incidents recently where i have to tell her to:
 -not turn the thermostat up to 76
 -not to leave the burner on under a pan when you have taken all the food out
 -not to eat off a spoon and put it back in communal food
 -not to leave the microwave door open when you are done
 -not to leave your clothes on the floor in the bathroom
 -not to leave empty coffee cups in the car door pocket
 -not to put dirty dishes in the clean dishwasher
 -not to leave gum wrappers everywhere
 -not to leave your dishes on the table
and the latest, don't leave your eaten apple core in the family room on the end table with no plate.

We do not have the problem with her hiding in her room. She is quite chatty and seeks us out.

However, I am getting quite annoyed...I do say stuff to her after each incident but I feel like you are 16, I really shouldn't have to. Whenever I gripe to a friend, they say "And you are hosting her for free in your house and this is what she does?"  I realize they are teens and self-centered is part of being a teen but I compare her to my daughter who cleans up after herself more like 95% of the time.

And I wonder if she is talking to her parents about stuff too....likethe other day my DD was making cookies. Plan the cookies, make the cookes, bake the cookies, clean up.  Then the Exchange daughter (ED) comes over and asks DD if she can lick the bowl.  DD says no, she made the cookies so she gets the bowl.  Perhaps anotehr unwritten rule, but much like the Little Red Hen, if you don't help you don't get the goodies.  She does get the cookies later though!   But then last night DD made more cookies (as they are being eaten at a fast rate...either my DH or ED or both and she offered to let ED help clean up so she could have part ofthe bowl to lick.

What country is your student from?  I have heard of some students from South American families who come from a relatively wealthy background and who are used to having housekeepers pick up after them.  Doesn't mean she should be treating you like the maid, but it would explain her tendency to just leave stuff laying around.

I would recommend that you just sit down with her and talk over your issues.  Do a "sandwich" kind of discussion - start with something good about her, then talk about the issues you need to address, then end with good stuff.  Also be willing to listen to issues she may be feeling about living with your family. 

For instance:

Hey __[name]___, we need to sit down and talk about a few things.  First, I want to tell you that we are really enjoying having you as part of our family this year.  You are cheerful and friendly and willing to talk to us.  But we need to address some things we are having some trouble dealing with.  You may not realize, but our expectation is that you will clean up after yourself when you make a mess or put things back the way they were when you use them.  For example, I have had to talk to you about leaving your things on the floor in the bathroom or leaving apple cores and gum wrappers around the house.  We don't have a maid service and when you do these things it feels like you are treating me like your maid.  Our family expectation is that everyone cleans up after themselves and we really expect you to do the same.  It is uncomfortable for me when I have to repeatedly talk to you about the same kind of behavior.   We know that every family is different and things may be handled differently when you are at home with your family, but here in our family, the person who makes a mess is the one who cleans it up.   We're not asking you to behave any differently than we expect our daughter to behave.  Also, I'm happy to make sure that you have what you want to eat for breakfast and lunch, but when I go grocery shopping, I take into account what everyone has asked for and what I will be cooking for the week.  If you want to eat anything that you haven't requested or I haven't said is for general use - meaning anyone can have it - please ask before you take it.  For example, I bought yogurt for my breakfast and when I asked you if you wanted me to buy some for you, you said you did not.  Then you ate my yogurt and it wasn't there when I wanted it.  Again, I'm happy to make sure there is enough yogurt in the house for both of us, but you need to let me know that you will want some or I will only buy enough for me.  [Add any other things you really need addressed to make the rest of your year comfortable.]   ____[name]_______, I sure don't want you to think we don't like you, because that is far from the case - we're really glad you're here and are enjoying learning about your culture and sharing our culture with you.  And I'm sure not everything is perfect for you, either.  Are there any issues you would like to talk about?  We would be happy to discuss them and see if we can work together to resolve any difficulties you are having.

It can be really awkward to have these kinds of discussions.  We had a perfect year with our first exchange student - she was polite, funny, talkative and really bright.  She was a perfectionist who never had to be goaded into doing her schoolwork (and, in fact, she stressed over any grade lower than an A - I only wish my own kids had taken lessons from her!).  Boy, was our second year a shock!  Our student was a sweet gal, but hid out in her room with the door closed most of the time.  I talked to her three different times about it over the school year.  Explained that when she didn't come out and participate with the family, it made me feel like a hotel/restaurant/cab service (because she came out to eat or if she wanted to be taken somewhere).  After each "talking to" she'd start out staying out of her room but would eventually ease back into being in her room more often than not, until I had to talk to her again.  Couple that with her habit of just telling me she needed to be taken somewhere (I expect to be asked, not told) and usually about 5 minutes before she needed to leave, and I was really ready for her to go home by the time she left.  But we're actually still in contact with her to this day - not frequent, but occasional.  Our third, fifth, seventh and eighth students were much more like our first - just a pleasure to have around and it only took mentioning something once for it to be taken care of.  Number four, however, was a different story.  He didn't like to shower on a daily basis and, as a teenage boy, REALLY needed to.  It was horribly uncomfortable, but I had to talk to him about it twice.  The first time, he must have thought I was joking.  But the second, I told him how uncomfortable it was for me to talk to him about it, but that here in America, people are very sensitive to odors and he needed to shower every single day.  That did it.  And I've already mentioned our problems with exchange student number six - we really didn't know there were problems until she was moving out of our house. 

Of course, being a teenager, you might still have to do such things as ask her to look around the car and make sure she's taking anything out that she brought in with her.  No kid is perfect!  If you have to talk to her more than once, I would just reiterate that what you want is for her to function like a member of your family, and you're just letting her know what your family expectations are. 

Good luck!

She is from Germany...and what is funny is we DO have a maid!  But she only comes every two weeks.
I swear she was doing better at the beginning of the year (maybe she feels more comfortable now? yea....)

I don't make them do many chores or really any at all...and my daughter is usually doing homework but our ED is not taking challenging courses and the ones she is taking she is trying to get into an easier section of.  Not sure if this is the winter blues or what.

They do tend to settle in and quit acting on their best behavior after awhile.  But you want them to feel comfortable and not like a guest.  It would be horrible to feel like a guest for 10 or more months. 

I don't have a lot of chores either - they just have to take care of their own room and help out when I ask.  If it's housecleaning time, I put everyone to work - including our exchange student.  My own kids are in the Navy and out on their own, but I am the legal guardian of my nephew and both he and our exchange student love to cook.  I've finally instituted an everyone cooks procedure.  When I'm doing my grocery list, I ask what they'd like to cook the next week and get the ingredients they need.  Then I make a notation on the calendar of who's cooking on what night.  Our house rule is that the cook doesn't clean up, so I also note who is on dishes that night.  I wind up cooking 3 nights, my husband cooks 1 and each of the boys cook 1.  Then we usually have leftovers on the last night.  It's been working great.   If the trash needs to be emptied or taken out to the curb, I just tell the boys to do it and they don't argue.  My nephew is much neater than my own kids and Felix keeps his room pretty much spotless.  Most of our exchange students have left their room a mess on many occasions.  If we are having company and will need to use the bed in that room for coats, I just make sure it gets cleaned up.   Other than that, I don't bother them too much about their rooms.

I really do my best to treat our exchange students no differently than I treat my own kids.  If you don't your own kids get kind of tired of feeling like the exchange student is "special".

I found especially with our German students that school here is much easier so they don't have to do much homework because they can finish it during class.  Sometimes their time here will count when they return to their home countries and sometimes they will have to repeat their year completely.  If it's not going to count, I really don't care what classes they take as I want them to have time to have fun while they're here and not spend all their time on homework.  Usually the exchange program will require them to take certain classes (English, history, sometimes government) and then the rest of their classes can be things they don't have the opportunity to take at home - dance, photography, cooking, construction).

Best of luck with the rest of the year!

We have been exchanging Christmas gifts with our former German student/family...but I don't have any good non-food ideas! Any ideas?


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