Our 16 year old daughter is climbing on a plane today. She’s on her way to a 6 month foreign exchange in Costa Rica with AFS. We’ve been planning this for about 6 months and yet I find it hard to believe that the day has finally arrived.
A few of the items in her suitcase are gifts to give to her host family. We puzzled long and hard about what would be appropriate, lightweight and durable enough to go the distance and arrive unharmed. After much thought and after consulting a few other world traveler friends, here’s what we came up with:
It may seem like marshmallows are everywhere in the world because they’re so embedded in our culture in the US but they are, in fact, quite a novelty. Other countries may have a version of marshmallows (in a variety of flavors even) but they differ significantly, especially in size. To really impress your host family, show them how to roast marshmallows over an open fire once you arrive.
We tried to think about it in terms of a student from another country coming to live at our house. What information would we like to learn from them? Well, of course pictures (especially with a language barrier) from their home country would be great to share as well as many pictures of family and friends back home too. We found this paperback picture book that really highlights our home state of Utah, even specific places we’ve been many times. Stories can be shared then the book left as a gift after your student goes home.
A copy of few of your favorite movies- this is the gift that keeps on giving. When your student is feeling homesick, it might be nice to sit down and watch something from home while sharing what you love from your home culture with your host family. Also, card games would be an excellent gift, and it doesn’t necessarily require language skills to play (like UNO, Skip Bo or a deck of traditional face cards)
Chewing gum in new, crazy flavors has become all the rage in the US in recent years, so share the novelty of Mint Chocolate Chip, Apple Pie, Rainbow Sherbet or Orange Cream Pop gum. Regardless of taste preferences, your student and their host family is bound to get a good laugh over these flavors.
Since Valentine’s day is just a week or so away we put in some packs of Conversation Hearts, those little candy hearts with short messages printed on them. Share a few English phrases and let the bonding begin.