Some families have asked for more guidance as to what they should do, or not do, as host "parents" of Bowdoin students. Every relationship is unique, student needs and interests vary widely so there is no simple formula that fits all situations--but our committee offers the following suggestions.
Get in touch with your student as soon as possible. We try to match new students with families during the summer, giving you the opportunity to start a correspondence and to get to know each other a bit before your student arrives. Meeting a student's plane on arrival will be a nice welcome.
Determine with your student the best way to keep in touch and when possible, do so frequently. We find e-mail useful for most situations, avoiding telephone tag.
We suggest that, soon after your student arrives, a brief tour of downtown Brunswick will be useful. Locate a pharmacy, grocery store, cleaners, the Greyhound bus stop (it is less expensive than Concord Trailways, but not as convenient to Logan Airport), the, the Goodwill thrift shop in Topsham and Salvation Army thrift shop in Brunswick as well as local consignment shops (great places to find inexpensive, warm clothing) etc. A trip to Cook's Corner could be in order. If a student needs to open a local bank account, some assistance as to the types of accounts, credit and debit cards, etc. may be helpful.
Make your student feel welcome in your home. An occasional home-cooked meal, celebrating your student's birthday or sharing a special family occasion, a quiet weekend in a spare bedroom away from a noisy dorm--you can find many such opportunities to offer a home away from home. Special holidays, such as Thanksgiving, provide a sample of Americana to international students/teaching fellows or a local alternative to those American students who are far from home. Many families invite their students and others staying on campus for Thanksgiving dinner. Be sure that your student has a place to go if you are going to be away.
We hope our students will feel free to ask for help with transportation to or from a bus or plane--or fixing a minor problem with a bike. Summer storage of gear to be left in Brunswick is often needed and appreciated.
The question of gifts has been raised. Students from some countries bring gifts but expect no gifts in return. A modest gift at a birthday or at graduation would be appropriate. Gifts or loans of money would not be. A family's principal gift is to be there for its student, to offer affection and help when it is needed--a refuge or "safety net".
Finally it should be noted that our students are very busy at Bowdoin. Once we have helped them with initial needs and they become more self reliant, we may not hear from them as often. Some relationships become very close and may last a lifetime--some may not. But remember that your participation has been of value and is much appreciated. Our reward is in the joy of shared experiences and customs, and in most cases, gaining an extended family from another part of the country or the world.
Host Family Steering Committee - download a PDF version.