Highschool: Hoe haal ik het beste uit mijn Highschool jaar?
1. Spend time with your host family
When you arrive, it might be more comfortable to spend a lot of time alone in your room, or talking with friends and family back home. This is natural – you’ll be missing them! But the best way to avoid homesickness is to connect with your host family or other students at your school. Have conversations, play games, watch television, or help with dinner with your host family. Talk about how you feel. They’ll do their best to make you feel better. It’s a good idea to call home only once a week. Being in contact more often only prolongs adjustment and makes homesickness worse.
2. Expect some ups and downs
All of a sudden, you’re confronted with a new and unfamiliar culture. It’s a shock – and that’s its name: culture shock. It affects everyone to some degree.
At first, everything is great – it’s all fresh and exciting. But before long, cultural differences start to show, sometimes in unexpected ways. It can be frustrating for everyone, as you and your host family adapt to one another. Nobody expects you to become an American teenager!
Getting used to your new surroundings can take a few weeks, or a few months. Once that happens, you’ll feel more settled and happier – and so will your host family. As always, talking with your family about how you’re feeling and what you’re experiencing can really help. The more open you are, the easier it will be.
After many weeks in your new surroundings, going back home also can be a challenge. That’s culture shock in reverse. It, too, is natural.
3. Living with your host family
One of the most important CIEE program rules is to “live as a member of your host family, respect the rules and customs of your host family, and accept the responsibilities given to you.”
Just like your family back home, your host family members do things in a certain way, and they’ll expect you to act appropriately. There are rules to follow, some of which might seem strange to you. Your host family will talk to you about this when you first arrive. And if you’re unclear or have any questions at all, ask!
It’s important for you to follow your host family’s rules. They’ll treat you as one of their own children. And in turn, you should treat them with the respect they deserve, which includes following rules that are important to them.
Your host parents may seem overprotective of you sometimes. Part of American culture is to closely guard our children from harm and make sure they stay out of trouble. Your host parents are only looking out for you. There may be rules about curfews and making sure your host parents know where you are, who you’re with, and what you’re doing. Give them peace of mind. Stay in touch, and be where you’re supposed to be.
4. Technology: Know when to unplug
You’re on a great adventure, so make the most of it! Smartphones and computers are a good way to capture and share your experiences with friends and family. Make full use of them. CIEE even runs photo and video contests with great prizes.
But technology can also cut you off from interaction with people. Make sure you open your eyes and ears, and live life in the real world. Surfing the web or playing video games should never come before participating in an activity or spending time with your host family.
We recommend keeping your use of technology outside of schoolwork down to one hour a day. It’s also a good idea to not take your computer or phone to your bedroom. That can isolate you from your host family. At the minimum, leave your devices behind when you go to bed to make sure you get a full night of rest.
5. Succeeding at school
Every school has its own rules about what grades are acceptable. It’s important for you to learn what those rules are and what the consequences are for not performing to that standard. Failing grades could result in academic probation or expulsion from schools.
If you’re having trouble, speak up right away. Your host family can help. So can your Local Coordinator. Also, be sure to talk to your guidance counselor and teachers at school. You can work with a tutor to improve your schoolwork.
One of the things you’ll spend a lot of time doing is improving your English. Here are some tips to help you:
•Carry a mini dictionary with you whenever possible. Look up words that you don’t know. You can download a free dictionary app for your phone or go to dictionary.com if you don’t want to carry a book.
•When you hear a new word, write it down. Then, look up its meaning when you have a chance. Returning to a new word later helps you remember it.
•Try not to answer questions with just ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ The more you say, the more practice you’ll get.
•Don’t be afraid to ask questions when you don’t understand.
•Have a sense of humor. It’s OK to make mistakes. They’ll help you to learn!
•Watch television, and repeat what people say. This is good pronunciation practice.
•Consider recording your classes. If you can listen to them again at home, you can ask for help with the parts you don’t understand.
•Talking to friends or joining a club is also a good way to learn English.
The following tips can help make schoolwork easier. Your host family or classmates probably have some good ideas, too.
•Carry an assignment pad to every class. Write your assignments in it, then show it to the teacher to make sure you didn’t miss anything.
•Write your assignments on a calendar at home so that you can plan ahead for tests and projects.
•Decide on a time to study every night. Study for at least one hour. If you have no homework, review your class notes or textbook.
•Finish all homework assignments on time.
•Everyone is there to help – your host parents, classmates and teachers. Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance!
•Ask a classmate to be a study partner, or join a study group.
•Take notes in class. If you don’t understand something, look it up when you get home.
•Balance studying with activities you enjoy. Take a break from homework, and go for a walk, or do something relaxing with your host family for a little while. It will help your brain stay fresh.
•Make sure you’re getting enough sleep. Speaking a foreign language is tiring.
6. Make time for fun and enrichment
Cultural exchange is about making friends. The very best way to do that is to participate! Get involved in school and community activities, sports, and volunteer projects. Sign up for at least one sport or after-school activity and take part in events like the springtime social event Americans call “prom.”
You might want to take part in a community service project. This is a great way to do something you’ll be proud of. What makes a great project? Think of something that interests you and can improve the community. Here are some ideas:
Volunteer at local government offices, agencies, town hall, or political headquarters, to see how this country is run and learn about American politics. Contact your local congressperson, or check out www.firstgov.gov for more information.
Join or create organizations dedicated to environmental causes, such as conservation, recycling, local cleanup, land and air purification, and wildlife preservation.
What do you do best? What do you enjoy? Share it with others!
•If you like to cook, inquire with a local soup kitchen about serving a special dish from your home country.
•If you like to play soccer, organize a soccer clinic for local children.
•Teach people your language, or give a presentation about your country.
•Help someone learn to read through a literacy program (and practice your English at the same time).
•Volunteer at a local retirement home helping an elderly person buy groceries or by just playing a game together.
Your host family or Local Coordinator can help you get started.