It is important for students to remember that all host families participate in the program on a voluntary basis and receive no compensation for their efforts. They genuinely want to get to know students and provide a supportive relationship. Many of them lead busy lives but make time to reach out to Bowdoin students. Because of this, it is critical that each student communicate openly and clearly with his or her family—students should respond to emails and phone calls in a timely fashion and let the family know if they are going to be late to an event or will not be able to attend. Some students may find that they are too busy or lose interest or do not click with their family—in these cases, it is especially important to communicate this with the family and/or Dean Laura Lee in the Office of the Dean of Student Affairs.
Different families have different schedules and varying resources. They are not required to give students rides to the airport or house them or their parents over breaks or store their belongings. Students should inquire respectfully about these possibilities and not expect or demand them. Also, students should consider the reasonableness of their requests—a 4am ride to the airport is probably better handled by a shuttle service than a host family.
Some students might come with certain expectations about their host family. For example, many students might expect a young family with children when most families are older couples with adult children. Some families consist of a single individual. Students should try to enter this relationship with an open mind. A little effort and care can go a long way to cultivating a meaningful connection.
Finally, while students might focus on what their host family can do for them, they might also consider the ways in which they can provide a special experience for their host family. Students in the Host Family Program can consider themselves to be “ambassadors” of the College to the surrounding community. In this sense, students might invite their host family to join them at a play, concert, rugby match, or other event in which they are involved or interested. This is a relationship that can be rewarding for both families and students.
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