Host Family FAQs

Will they have/need cell phones or laptops?
How do they get registered for school, and what classes do they need to take?
Do they have insurance?
How do I enroll them in sports and other extracurricular activities before school begins?
How do I manage getting them around?
How do I handle communications home with friends and family?
What are money expectations? 

Will they have/need cell phones or laptops?

Most do not come with laptops.  They will likely need access to a computer for school, and that can be handled in whatever way your family usually handles computers.  It is perfectly acceptable to have them share a computer or laptop with someone.

Some will arrive with cell phones, and the SIM chips can often be switched out to work for the US.  However, that is rarely the case.  A prepaid phone with texting capability from Walmart/ cell phone providers is a great option.  Another great option is to provide for them an old cell phone someone else in the house (or a neighbor or friend) is no longer using.  We do NOT recommend purchasing or entering into a contract for a student who will be here for a year or less.

How do they get registered for school, and what classes do they need to take?

For CMS students, you should not reach out to the school to register until after you receive their student ID – which may not happen until mid-August, possibly after they arrive.  Only after you receive the student ID, should you contact the school to schedule a meeting with a counselor to get them registered for classes.  Like many students, they may not have a final schedule the first day of classes.  The student will work with the counselor on how to handle that.  Other school systems may have a slightly different process.

For CMS/Charlotte Mecklenburg School District:  students are considered seniors administratively so they have flexibility and priority with scheduling and can also participate in all the senior rites of passage.  The 2 classes we recommend they take are junior-level American Literature and US History, which track together. 

Some students may have course requirements from their school back home – their classes and grades count.  Some arrive with no class requirements, but will need to study in order to take school placement exams when they return home.  Others will say they have no requirements at all.  Regardless of their home country situation, all students are expected to maintain high grades, and that includes completing homework assignments.  Note that many non-American school systems do not have homework that gets turned in; homework is used as optional extra practice.  Your student may not take homework assignments seriously.  You will need to reinforce that even with A’s on the tests, zeros on homework will seriously impact the final grade.  Doing well in classes is an expectation for participation in AFS’s exchange program. 

Most are excellent students from excellent school systems in their home country, so enroll them in AP and honors levels where possible (typically math, science, English, history, other languages).  This is especially true for students enrolled in math, science, or language “tracks” back home.  The student and family can let you know.  You and their classmates can help with any language issues the first few weeks.  Typically, after that, they are fully capable of doing well.

Make sure they also take classes that will be fun for them, or that they take advantage of the ability to try something new.  This year is about experience, so don’t let them bury themselves in nothing but homework.  Weight lifting, theater, chorus, band, and astronomy are examples of classes that could be a fun exploration and social avenue.

Finally, manage expectations regarding classes.  They are registering very late, and therefore may not get the classes they most desire.  That’s OK.  This year is not only about school; it is about life in America.

Do they have insurance?

Yes.  They have 100% medical coverage via insurance through AFS.  They will have an insurance card.  Many doctors’ offices may not be familiar with the insurance carrier, but we assure you it works and they are covered. 

Note:  they do NOT have regular dental coverage, and will not be expected to have 6-month dental visits while here.  If there is a dental injury, this could be covered under their medical insurance.

Their applications that have been submitted to the schools for acceptance contain their medical information.  They should be bringing an updated medical form with them.  Please ask them for this.


How do I enroll them in sports and other extracurricular activities before school begins?

While enrollment may be delayed because of the student ID, most coaches are familiar with exchange students.  Every school and coach and team and timeline is different, so reach out to the coach directly to explain.  In many instances, it works out fine.

The sports physical form is standardized in both North Carolina public schools and South Carolina public schools (make sure you complete the form for the correct state).  It can be sent to the student for them to fill out and return BEFORE they arrive.  If you aren’t able to organize that, the CVS Clinic does it for around $30.  Their medical coverage through AFS does not include sports physicals.


How do I manage getting them around?

For school bussing, once you have the student ID you can try calling school transportation to get them on a bus schedule.  If there is already a bus stop nearby, you may find it easy to just send them that first week at that stop as the schedule is worked out.  Bus drivers are not usually as restrictive for high schoolers as they are for elementary schoolers.

For after-school activities, you may need to support them for the first few weeks.  Several of their new friends are likely to be driving.  Expect them to seek rides with friends – their friends will be happy to do it.  You can also consider carpools with friends and neighbors.


How do I handle communications home with friends and family?

The students are here to experience life in the US.  They cannot do that if their minds and focus are constantly shifting back home.  They need to be fully here and that may require that they disconnect from their home country groups. 

Set up some rules ahead of time, and discuss them together.  One common rule is that they speak only in English the first 6 months – that includes friends and family here via emails and texting as well as verbal conversation.  Another is that they set up a standard time/day to communicate home with friends and family… such as each Sunday afternoon at 1:00pm.  Also, their natural family as well as you may appreciate a weekly email or blog about their experiences. 

Consider their home country’s time zone and keep an eye out for texts coming from their home friends and family at distracting hours.  You may need to remove cell phones from the bedrooms so that the phone isn’t buzzing and waking them up in the middle of the night.  Folks in the home country will understand!

What are money expectations? 

The only rule is that you pay for them as you would pay for your own children.  Typically, if the family goes out to eat together then the parent pays for everyone; if your son/daughter wants to go out with friends or to buy a stylish pair of shoes, then they pay for that themselves.  You are responsible to provide food and lodging and basic necessities.  Beyond that is up to you…just be clear with your student.

Exchange students come from all economic backgrounds.  Some will be from lower income families, and some will have plenty of access to spending money.  Host families also come from all economic backgrounds.   Balance expenses accordingly.  If you and the student come from different circumstances, that is simply part of the experience.

If you are traveling as a family, you should expect to bring the student along with you though that is not required.  For everyday expenses, treat them as your son/daughter.  If a plane ticket is involved, you may speak to the host parents to see if they would be willing/able to pay for the exchange student’s flight.  

There are two optional but highly recommended trips through AFS Greater Charlotte:  New York in November and Washington DC in June.  The student will pay for those trips themselves, and so may want to manage their funds accordingly.