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host family tips: how to say "see you later"

Saying goodbye to your exchange student who has become a family member is tough - read some tips on how host families ease the transition.

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New Year’s resolutions have come and gone, and warmer weather has people antsy to spring into action. Why not add serving others to that bucket list? Giving back matters. Here at EF, we have our annual  EF Service Day

Service learning is an excellent way for teens to carve out their role in society, and how their time and talents can impact the world around them. Whether the service is to complete service hours for school or scouting, or from purely wanting to do good in the community, here are a few ideas for teens (or anyone!) to explore:

  1. Donate children’s books to a local food pantry
    Most people think of donating canned goods or money to their local food pantries, but did you know that many accept gently used children’s books as well? When families come for their food, the kids can go home with book. A simple message inside, such as “A gift for you! Love, Emma from Sweden,” adds a personal touch.

  2. Send mail to deployed troops
    A handwritten note or care package means the world to those stationed overseas away from their families. Check out Support Our Troops and A Million Thanks for ideas of who to send to and what to send.

  1. Remember your furry friends
    Contact your local animal shelter for ideas of how you can be involved – they often welcome volunteer help to walk animals, organize the office, or collect supplies.

  1. Visit a nursing home 
    Play cards, enjoy a snack, or simply swap stories with nursing home residents who may not have the opportunity to interact much with teens.

  1. Bring treats to school staff
    Get a group together and bake or assemble treats for the people who work with your community’s young people each day. Drop them off in the staff workroom or lounge with a thank you note.

  2. Spruce up your community
    What outdoor area is special in your community? Organize a clean-up event for a park, river, or public space that needs attention, or add beauty or function to that area by planting trees, flowers, or building a community garden. Need some ideas? Check this out!

  3. Share your talents with kids
    Kids are natural sponges, and love to learn interactively. Schedule an art session, cultural workshop, or instrument lesson that showcases your talents while helping them learn and have fun! Added bonus if what you’re doing then is used to help others in some way (for example, creating a knitting project that’s given to the homeless, or creating a collection of soothing music for hospital patients).

Looking for another idea that more closely matches other talents and time frames? Check out DoSomething.org for ideas on projects to explore or organize.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

Did you know bringing the world into your home can help get your own son or daughter interested in giving back? Hosting an exchange student is a great way to introduce new dynamics to your home!

On April 22, in celebration of Earth Day and its mission to broaden and diversify the environmental movement worldwide, EF High School Exchange students, families and coordinators across the nation will be participating in a local day of service. We'll be cleaning up gardens, planting seeds, preserving waterways and more, and we want you to join us in showing Mother Earth some love!

Here are some ways you can get involved, both locally and with our EF Family! 

1.  Go green  Ditch the plastic water bottles, commute by public transportation or carpool, and don't forget your reusable shopping bags when you go to pick up the week's groceries - on your bike!

2.  Plant a tree  Our planet is currently losing over 15 billion trees each year —that’s 56 acres of forest every minute. Did you know that one large tree can supply a full day's of oxygen for four people? Get planting!

3.  Clean up a local park or waterway I n a year, the average American residence uses over 100,000 gallons of water. Conserve your intake by turning off the water when you brush your teeth (up to 8 gallons a day), fixing the leaking faucet (up to 3,000 gallons a year) or making sure that running toilet is fixed (up to 200 gallons a day). Our waterways provide us life. 

4. Have a waste-free-week  challenge your friends and family to produce as little trash as possible. Cut out the to-go containers in favor of reusable containers. Eat smaller portions so food waste is curbed. 

5.  Grow your own garden Many animal and plant s pecies are going extinct at a faster rate than ever as a result of global human activity. Gardens provide food, shelter and a habitat for many species, as well as the opportunity to create a fresh and organic meal free of chemicals. 

These local volunteering services are a part of EF High School Exchange Year’s national efforts to build a healthy, sustainable environment and give back to the communities in which our students, host families and local coordinators live. With more than 5,000 active people in the US EF High School Exchange Year community, we can make a difference!

Be sure to join in on the fun on Saturday April 22, and share your own plans for local community action. Don't forget to share your photos using #EFServiceDay on Facebook and Instagram

Want to learn more about getting involved with the EF family?
Who doesn't love to celebrate love? Valentine's Day may be a holiday capitilized by Hallmark (its origins actually date to  the ancient
As a host family, it's not uncommon to find yourself wondering how to provide the best experience possible; how to make the year special 
Sure the days are shorter and the nights are colder, but just because you can’t hit the beach
What's better than a hot cup of groentesoep (Dutch vegetable soup with meatballs) at the end of a long day?
@efexchangeyear on Instagram