Frequently Asked Questions by Current Host Families & Students
May our student’s family / friends / boyfriend / girlfriend come visit them in the U.S.? Perhaps. Students are not permitted to have visitors – or travel to meet up with family or family friends - for the first 6 months of their program. Students are never permitted to have visitors under 25, or stay overnight when someone 25 or over is not present. To find whether your student can have a visitor after he/she has been here 6 months, contact your EPC. Single-semester students may not have visitors, and must wait until after the program to travel with family or family friends.
Can we take our student on a vacation? Yes! Please look over the Student Travel Guidelines (at top) and ensure that the EPC knows how to reach you, in case of emergency.
What should we do if we have a weekend trip planned that does not include our student? Contact your EPC to let him/her know. There will need to be someone 25 or older, who has undergone a background check, staying with your student overnight.
May our student stay through the summer months so that we can go on vacation together? Perhaps. A specific itinerary with dates and places must be submitted to your Exchange Program Coordinator well in advance of the end of school. Your coordinator will then submit the itinerary to the SHARE! National Office for consideration. (Note: proposals for vacations that begin more than 10 days after the end of school will likely be rejected.)
What is required for a student to travel to another country, such as Canada, Mexico or their home country, then return to the U.S.? For travel outside of the US, including cruises and travel to Canada and Mexico, the student must send his or her DS-2019 form (which is inserted into the student’s passport) into the ERDT National Office for a signature, well in advance of the trip. This is the only way the student will be allowed back into the USA, as his or her visa is for a single entry into the US. Contact your Exchange Program Coordinator for detailed instructions. Students should contact the consulate of the country they are visiting (contact information can be found online) to determine visa and entry requirements for citizens of the student’s home country. If students travel overseas after the program, they must take all belongings with them and return directly to their home country (SHARE! will not sign DS-2019 forms for students to re-enter the U.S. after their departure from the host family’s home).
Health, Safety and Cultural Adjustment
How does our student use his/her insurance? SHARE! and its overseas partners use different insurance plans, so see your insurance paperwork or contact your EPC for exact instructions. Your student should carry their insurance information at all times, in case of an emergency. Generally, students must pay bills and submit a claim for reimbursement. If the student goes to the doctor, hospital or emergency room, it is best to call the insurance company first, to make sure procedures will be covered. (In a life-threatening emergency, of course, do not delay getting the student to the hospital). SHARE! recommends that you list our address – 2601 Ocean Park Blvd., Suite 322, Santa Monica, CA 90405 - on the insurance form so that your family is not held responsible for any unpaid bills.
Culture shock... what should we expect? How should we deal with it? Remember – culture shock is the normal reaction to the stress & confusion of trying to adapt to living in a foreign culture. If you are noticing serious changes in your student, such as depression or other apparent psychological problems, contact your EPC immediately.
Our student’s cultural “norms,” (for example, hygiene, dress, behavior, or communication style) make us uncomfortable. But since the student is really doing nothing "wrong," how do we deal with this? The purpose of the SHARE! program is to teach students how people in the U.S. live, and how they can adapt to that way of living. Approach the issue with honesty and explain the issue as it pertains to U.S. culture. And remember, humor can help smooth over what could be a difficult conversation! Certainly contact your EPC if you need assistance or if the student does not change this behavior.
What do we do if we learn that our student is a victim or perpetrator of abuse? Contact your Exchange Program Coordinator immediately. He/she has received the Stewards of Children training, which teaches adults to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to the reality of child abuse. Alternately, you may contact the SHARE! National Office.
How can we keep our student safe online? Online student safety is more important than online student privacy. Students are not allowed to use computers in their bedrooms. Make sure that your student is always using the computer where you can see it. If the student sets up an online blog or profile (MySpace, Facebook, Twitter) they must let you know where it is and how you can view it. You may install programs that limit or track where the student goes online. Students may not post their or their host family’s personal information (addresses, last names, ages, passwords, phone numbers, email addresses) online.
Role of the EPC
Who can I contact if my local coordinator is not available? At your orientation, your EPC should have provided you with the name of his/her Team Leader (who may be an Area Coordinator, Regional Director, or National Office staff member). If you have an emergency that needs immediate attention, contact that Team Leader. If you cannot reach him or her, contact us.
Are the orientations mandatory? Yes, with no exceptions. All students and host families – even those who have hosted for years - are required to have a pre-arrival, post-arrival and pre-departure orientation (student pre-arrival orientations are conducted by our partner in the student's home country). It is a mandate of the U.S. State Department that the pre-arrival orientation must be conducted separately from the home visit. If a host family is unable to attend a group orientation, the EPC must arrange to meet with the host family separately before their exchange student arrives.
How much contact is our EPC required to have with us / our student? The EPC is required to contact each host family and student monthly, and complete a Monthly Contact Form. This form is submitted to the SHARE! National Office, then passed to the student’s biological parents. Beyond that monthly requirement, EPCs are also required to be available to assist with any issues that come up for the host family and/or student, providing support and relaying information to the SHARE! National Office. Some EPCs choose to plan activities or trips for the students; however, this is not a requirement of their job. If your student would like to go on a trip with other exchange students, visit www.explore-america.com.
Can our student get a cell phone? Yes. He/she may get a cell phone, but may not enter into any contracts in the U.S. He/she may also get a prepaid phone. You may let the student borrow a phone if they wish, but ensure that the student understands they are responsible for any extra costs that are incurred (text messages, overages, data plans, roaming or international charges). If your household does not have a landline, you must provide the student with a cell phone at your expense, to be used for emergencies.
Can our student get a job? According to U.S. government rules, J1 students may not get part-time or full-time jobs while on the program. However, they may do occasional odd jobs, such as babysitting or yard work, to earn pocket money.
What should we consider when deciding what rules to give our exchange student? Being teens, and non-native English speakers, it is important for exchange students to be given clear rules (however, this does not mean you can’t add or change rules later). Consider curfew, keeping your room clean, chores (trash, kitchen, mealtime help, house cleaning help), morning schedules (bathroom limits), meal times and rules, calendar (letting the host family know if you have plans), computer use, riding in cars with other teens, parties, lunch at school, family activities, quiet time, sleeping in, telephone, specialty groceries, transportation to school, taking phone messages, pets, groceries, laundry.
May our student drive or get a driver’s license? What if he/she is over 18? What if we purchase additional insurance? What if he/she could save thousands of dollars by getting a license here? No. SHARE! students are strictly prohibited from operating any motorized vehicle (including your car, Driver’s Education Vehicles and recreational vehicles) at any time. Students who ignore this rule may be immediately repatriated.
Can we lend money to our student, or borrow money from our student? SHARE! discourages host families from lending money to their student. If the student is not receiving enough money from home, notify your EPC. Remember that, when they signed up for the program, the parents agreed to provide an adequate amount of spending money to their child. If this is not the case, disciplinary measures may be taken.
SHARE! strictly prohibits host families from borrowing money from their student.
What food are we, the host family, expected to pay for? The host family is responsible for all meals eaten at home, all meals eaten out as a family, and sack lunches. Students must use their own pocket money to pay for extra snacks, school lunches and meals out with friends.
Our student is eating a lot of expensive food (meat, milk, etc.). How can we keep him/her from destroying our food budget? Contact your EPC for a Problem Resolution. The EPC will meet with your family and the student, and all parties can come up with a solution.
May I claim our exchange student as a dependent on my tax forms? No; however, you may claim a $50/month tax deduction per student per month for the time that you host.
What do we do if the school tells us there is a problem with our student – academic, behavior, language, or otherwise? Contact your EPC immediately. SHARE! personnel have lots of experience helping students and host families deal with issues at school. Ensure that the school understands that while you are hosting the student, it is SHARE!, as the visa sponsor, that is responsible for the student’s actions and safety.
What are the academic standards that SHARE! students are held to? Students must maintain a “C” (2.0) average, with no failing grades (F’s). Students who do not follow this rule will be put on academic probation until their grades improve. If their grades do not improve, the student may be repatriated.
Does our school need to allow the student to graduate / get a diploma / play sports? No. Students are told that they must accept the school’s decision with regards to diplomas, graduation, and playing sports. If your student is lobbying the school to change this decision, contact your Exchange Program Coordinator, who will take disciplinary action.
The school contacted us because the student’s application is missing some academic transcript paperwork or medical paperwork. Contact your EPC, or if you cannot reach the EPC and need the paperwork urgently, you may contact the SHARE! National Office.
Do exchange students need to be enrolled in a specific grade level? Italian, Serbian and Montenegrin students must be enrolled as seniors. All other students may be enrolled in any grade level. Some schools enroll students in the same grade level as their U.S. classmates of the same age; other schools enroll all exchange students as seniors, for example, so that they may experience senior-year festivities. Aside from Italian, Serbian and Montenegrin students, SHARE! students are expected to accept their assigned grade level without complaint.
Are there any class requirements for exchange students? SHARE! prefers that students take American History and/or English, and that at least 2/3 of their classes be academic in nature. Many students have specific classes that they must take to meet academic requirements in their home country. It is the student's responsibility to enroll in these classes while in the U.S.; however, if your school does not offer the required classes, the student must choose other classes.
We’re hosting currently and would like to pick out another student to host for next year / semester. How do we view new students on ZAPP? Just contact your EPC and he / she will ensure that your application is reset. This will allow you to view new students, and update your online application with any new information.