Q: What makes a good host family?
A: What makes a family a good host is their willingness to open their doors to the student. Host families actively make the scholars feel at home so that they can transition well into the new culture, and provide them with the emotional and social support that they need for the four years.
Q: What is a Scholar looking for in a host family?
A: Scholars are usually looking for a community of people that will make them feel like they belong in the new environment, but also a safe space that they can call home and go to when they need a break from the hectic campus life.
Q: What did you get out of or learn from your host family relationship?
A: The host-family relationship is a two-way relationship. Scholars need to engage host families as much as host families do in order to have a great relationship. An invitation to events on campus or a visit once in a while goes a long way in building the relationship.
Q: What are some of the best things that your host family has done for you, generally speaking?
A: My host family always included me in their Christmas gift traditions, even when I was studying abroad, and they would always invite me for all American holidays. Through that, I felt like I was part of their larger families as I got to know more of their relatives, but more importantly that I had people who made the US feel like home.
Q: Was it helpful in your initial transition for your host family to pick you up from the airport and host you before you moved into your university dorm? Why?
A: It is very helpful for the student to have a community/family structure before moving into campus. It allows them to have a tight support group as they discover the new culture and are introduced to many new people in their lives. The move-in day is also a very emotional as most national students come with family members, and students could feel a little bit lonely without the support of the host family.
Q: What can a host family do to help make a Scholar feel comfortable in their home?
A: It is nice for the host family to officially welcome the scholars in their home with all members present, and also occasionally invite them to different events and gatherings to meet some of their extended family. The more time the Scholar spends in their home, the more they will probably feel comfortable.
Q: What does a host family need to teach a Scholar about expectations in staying in their home for an extended period of time? (ex: laundry, helping with chores, doing their own dishes, etc.)
A: Scholars are usually not familiar with the different home appliances that American families use on a daily basis. A short orientation on how to use every single appliance (washing machine, dryer, dishwasher, microwave, cooker, stove, toasters, etc.) would be highly appreciated by the scholar. However, some students might have already encountered one or two of the appliances, so it is always nice to ask them before teaching them.
Scholars might also be too shy to offer help around the house, cook their favorite food, or do laundry in the beginning, so it is nice for host families to let them know, sometimes more than once, that it is alright to do so at their place.
Q: How can a host family best work to build an authentic relationship with their Scholar?
A: There is really no one way to build an authentic relationship with a scholar. The scholars all have different personalities, and our current host families have had different experiences with them. However, staying in communication with them even when they are very busy in school, and reminding them that they can always come visit when they have free time keeps builds the relationship.
Q: How much should a host family try to be in touch with their Scholar throughout the year? Should it be more in the Freshman year?
A: The Freshman Year is very crucial to the scholar as they immerse into a new culture away from home. In their first years, most students will go through phases of homesickness, culture shock, loneliness, anxiety, stress, etc. which could be hard to process without a strong support system. Some scholars might lose touch with their families after the first year, but it is always great to stay in contact and check up on them as the last years of college can be equally challenging.
Q: What are some of the things your host family taught you to do that you had never done before?
A: Some host families have taught students in the past different life skills (financial accountability, driving, cooking etc.) and have helped them explore various fun sports (skiing, swimming, baseball, etc.)Q:
Q: What do you think host families need to know about students from Africa (or specifically from Rwanda, Burundi, DRC or South Sudan)?
A: It is very important for host families to read a little bit on the student’s country general history from trusted sources, and not rely upon common stereotypes about Africa. Scholars do not expect host families to know every tiny bit about their home country, but they would expect families to at least know the main geographical, and historical facts.
Q: What were some of the biggest culture shocks to you when you moved to the US and started college?
A: Social interactions: Americans tend to smile at strangers and scholars usually get confused because they don’t know what it means and how to respond to this. Americans also value firm hand shakes and eye contact in conversations, which is something that is not equally valued in African cultures.
Sheer number of choices: Scholars also expressed being shocked by the number of choices that are available for one product at different stores. In most countries, there would usually be one type of milk, or detergent, but US stores tend to normally have more than 10 different options.
Friendships: Scholars struggled understanding how friendships work in the US, as most African cultures treat most acquaintances as friends. For instance, scholars could feel rejected by classmates because they did not greet them outside class.
Informalities: Americans tend to call most people by their first name regardless of age, which is very difficult for most scholars because their culture teaches them to add titles (M., Mrs., Professor, Dr, etc.) to someone’s name when the person is older than them.
Q: How can a host family best support their Scholar’s adjustment to a new culture?
A: Dinners, talks, family parties, concert shows, sports and popular events, movie nights, etc. are all great ways to help the student immerse into the new culture and learn about different topics that classmates tend to talk about.
Q: What are some of the biggest challenges you faced – both in being in the US and being a college student? How could host families help navigate those challenges?
A: Scholars usually struggle getting their message across, or can feel lost in conversations since English is usually their second or third language and things can get lost in translation. It is always great when host families take their time to translate, and ask questions to make scholars feel more comfortable opening up to the host family.
Scholars could also be too shy to ask for help when they really need it, because of the cultural expectations that they should be strong and independent adults. When a host family notices that a student is struggling academically, or socially, it is always nice to reach out to the student and ask them how to best help them.
Q: Does the student live with me?
A: No, the students live on campus as part of their scholarship program.
Q: How long is my commitment as a host family?
A: If you agree to serve as a host family, we ask that you serve for the student’s four years of undergrad at the university. We hope that you will involve other friends and family to help you with this responsibility! It’s a blessing to others to be involved in the process as well.
Q: Who is my point person at Bridge2Rwanda?
A: Each scholar has a Student Support Coordinator with Bridge2Rwanda who will be your primary point of contact once the scholar arrives. The coordinator will also be checking in with the student regularly and can help to solve any issues that may arise. We take a holistic approach in supporting the students, so we are here to support the host families in any way possible.
Q: Will I have the opportunity to interact with other host families?
A: We will put you in touch with other host families by phone or email if you wish to connect. It is helpful to connect with other families who have experienced this process. We also have a private host family Facebook group (Bridge2Rwanda Scholars Host Family Network) to keep host families connected and informed.
Q: What if I can no longer serve as a host family?
A: While we hope this will not be the case, in rare instances a family can no longer serve as a host family (e.g., moving away). If this is the case, please contact the B2R Student Support Coordinator so that a student may receive a new family. We do not want any of our students to feel abandoned; please let us know if you are no longer able to serve. If there are any personal problems with your student, please let us know right away so that we can help to resolve any issues.
Q: Am I allowed to serve as a host family to more than one student?
A: Of course! In fact, it may create a more comfortable environment for the student to have a fellow scholar as part of your family. If families host more than one student, we usually recommend taking students in different graduating classes.
Q: How do I get a student to “open up” to our family?
A: There is no “one-size fits all” approach. However, it is best to genuinely welcome the student into your family, making him or her feel part from the very beginning. Also, do not worry about trying to “instantly” connect, as this will only cause unnecessary pressure to build. Please be yourselves as the student wishes to get to know you and your family. If you are vulnerable with your student(s), it will be easy for the students to reciprocate. Many of our students have very sensitive personal stories, so it may take time for them to share all the details of their lives with you. Rwandans come from a very reserved and serious culture, so remember that it may take some time for them to open up to your family.
Q: Should I rely on the student to share needs?
A: No. Though these students share many similarities to American college students, Rwandan students, in general, will not take the initiative in sharing needs. These students are in large part taught to avoid becoming dependent on Westerners. So, it is unlikely that the students will share needs unless asked. This makes it important to ask lots of questions about their needs.
Q: I know the students are busy. Is it best to wait on the student in scheduling get-togethers?
A: No. Everyone is busy, but we encourage you to take the initiative. These students are very conscientious and extremely hard working, but please keep in mind that the students may not be aware of U.S. cultural norms to the extent that Americans are. They may need encouragement to pursue outside activities, such as joining you and your family for events.
Q: Are we required to have our students join us at the holidays?
A: If possible, at least part of the time! We realize that you may travel out of town for the holidays, and it is not expected that you take your student with you. However, if you do not take your student with you, please help to make sure that they have somewhere to spend the holiday! For many schools, the dorms close for several weeks during Christmas, so they will need a place to stay over the break. You will want to share the blessing of these students with your friends, so ask another family to host if you are not able. Sometimes the scholars may prefer to stay in the dorms for part of the holiday break since many of their other international friends may be staying there.
Q: How do we actively make the student a part of our family?
A: We hope that your student will be an interactive part of your family and not just a typical houseguest. We encourage you to teach your student about cultural norms in the U.S., including gratitude, general manners, participating in household chores, participating in family activities, appropriate interpersonal skills, punctuality, etc. We have instructed the students in these areas, but they will need encouragement and reminders as they are transitioning to a new culture. The students are expected to lend a helping hand around the house when they stay with you. We suggest you do an orientation to your home (including how to use a dishwasher, how to do laundry, how to work showers, turn on/off lights, etc.) as many Rwandan students have never encountered these things. We encourage families to share expectations with the student as well, including chores, tasks around the house, etc. that each person is responsible for in the family.
Q: What happens if a problem arises with our student (i.e. academic, personal, health, behavior, mental health issues, etc.)?
A: Bridge2Rwanda staff members are here to help you through this process, so please keep in close communication with us about any issues that arise. It is better if we know about them right away so that we can help resolve immediately. Again, the students may not come to us themselves, so we rely heavily on host families to help communicate issues. Although our students are very respectful, hard-working and well behaved, occasional incidents are bound to happen when dealing with college-aged students in a new culture. The B2R Student Support Coordinator regularly checks in with the students about academic performance and makes recommendations as needed, but we certainly value your input in this area.
Q: What will the students do during summer break?
A: Every student’s summer break is unique and depends completely on the student’s situation. B2R’s Career Development Team helps students find summer internships in Africa to gain practical experiences in their area of study. We prefer that the students return to Africa for the summer so that we can keep them engaged with their country, but often we need to find funding to help with the cost of the plane ticket, which occasionally host families help to sponsor. If you have ideas about this, please speak with the Student Support Coordinator. If that is not possible, then we prefer them to either intern in a job relevant to their area of study or to take summer classes. We do NOT expect the host family to provide summer housing or logistics if the student chooses to stay in the U.S.
Q: Can my student travel to other places during school breaks?
A: Sometimes students find the means to travel to other parts of the U.S. during spring or summer breaks. As a host family, you should advise them on safe and responsible traveling. If you are concerned about a student traveling to a certain location, please notify our team so that we can help assess the situation. Ultimately, we recognize that these students are adults, but it is also necessary to help them assess unfamiliar situations which could be potentially be out of their comfort zone.
Q: How should I encourage students to return to Rwanda or elsewhere in Africa after they graduate?
A: Although we know it may be tempting to become attached to your student and want them to stay in the U.S., the final goal of the B2R Scholars program is that students will return to their home country to contribute to the development of their country. We also accept for students to return to other parts of Africa, especially for a great job opportunity. Without this final component, the mission of our program will not be fulfilled. We ask that host families help us remind students of this and encourage them in this direction throughout their four years of education. If the topic of graduate school arises, B2R also believes generally that students need to return to their home country and be reacquainted with it, establishing themselves as independent professionals before considering the value of graduate school.
Q: What if financial requirements come up that were not expected?
A: Communicating any financial concerns or challenges that arise to the Bridge2Rwanda Student Support Coordinator is most important so that we can help figure out a solution. We are all here to help throughout this process.