Wednesday, July 31, 2013

What To Do With Your Exchange Students

While our exchange students have been staying us, I've been trying to do as much with them as possible to make this experience fulfilling and fun. I wrote about our first couple days with them in this post. Since then, they have done quite a bit, both with the day camp program and with us.

If you want to read more about what it's been like hosting exchange students from China, you can read all about it HERE. That post will tell you a little about the particular program we're involved in with our school district. I love the program because the kids go to day camp Monday-Friday, which includes lots of field trips. Here is a list of where they've gone with the day camp (Bethany and Connor get to go too). They still have two days left, those last two field trips are not included.

  • Patridge Creek (outdoor mall) for shopping and a movie 
  • Our city pool, x2
  • Detroit Zoo
  • Bowling
  • Roller skating
  • C.J. Barrymore's (go carts, bumper cars, laser tag, etc.)
  • Local park/splash pad
  • Birch Run (outlet shopping)
  • Michigan Science Center
  • Tour of Comerica Park (baseball stadium)
Outside of camp, some things we've done with them (some have been mentioned in previous post):
  • To the beach in Lexington
  • Swimming at my father-in-law's
  • Out to dinner at a Chinese restaurant and an American restaurant
  • Out for ice cream a couple times
  • Outdoor concert at our local park
  • Regular stuff like Kroger, the library, Target, and the local mall 
  • Putt putt golfing
  • The Heidelberg Project (outdoor urban art display in Detroit)
  • Belle Isle, where we visited the Aquarium, the Conservatory, and Dossin Great Lakes Museum
  • World of Discovery Reptile Zoo in Ann Arbor
  • University of Michigan Museum of Natural History
  • Two get togethers with other Chinese students and host families
  • A birthday get together for one of Bethany's friends
  • Dinner at McDonald's (their request)
Including tonight, we still have three nights left with them. We have plans for tonight and tomorrow night, and will probably go out Friday night as well. Everyone is tired, but hey that's what you do on vacation, right? We are sort of having an at-home vacation while they are staying with us, and this is a world wide adventure for them! Coming from Beijing, which is a city of such size and magnitude that I don't think we can quite fathom here in the U.S. (at least not in Detroit!), I am not sure what they think of things around here. But they seem to be enjoying themselves. And they are enthusiastic about every activity and outing that we suggest

As you can see, many of the things we did with them were inexpensive or even free. You can certainly go all out, but if you're on a budget, as we are, there are plenty of things that you can do that won't cost a fortune. At first I was worried that all they would see of the U.S. would be the little bit of Michigan we'd be showing them. But then I found out that they visited New York City, D.C., and Philly, as well as Toronto and Niagara Falls in Canada, before their arrival in Michigan, so I feel that their trip in whole is more well rounded than I originally thought. In a perfect world, I would have loved to have taken them to Chicago and northern Michigan, but nonetheless, I definitely feel like they have done and seen quite a bit while they've been here.

Some nights we've stayed home too, which can also be fun. One of the best nights we've had was when the girls had a little spa time, doing facials and painting their nails. The boys play video games together quite a bit. One evening we had a pizza and movie night. Although Chinese kids do get summers off of school, their school sessions are so rigorous in China that it must be nice for them to be in a more relaxed, yet still structured, environment for awhile. Knowing that they aren't used to having much free time, I have been making sure they have time to read and just relax, or to go upstairs and be alone for bit if they feel like it. I've also (cough, cough) been letting them stay up too late. But our time with them is so limited! Plus it takes awhile for everybody to shower before bed.

The point is to immerse these kids in American culture, and show them some things they can't see at home. Just playing in the backyard, walking around the neighborhood, and accompanying you on mundane errands can be eye opening and enriching experiences for kids from another country! Imagine how cool it would be to do the same in China, or any other country!

If you're thinking about hosting exchange students, but think you can't afford to do a lot with them, think again. Do a little research to find out things to do in your area that are free or low cost. Use Groupon and Living Social to get some good deals too. I'll admit that our program is pretty unique because of the day camp, and that helped out a lot. But I still found plenty to do with our kids that cost nothing or close to it. Meeting your family and friends, exploring your neighborhood, going to parks and playgrounds, free museums and concerts, nature centers, area landmarks/photo opps...use your imagination and a little help from Google and there's a good chance you can find quite a bit! You'll probably even be in my predicament, with too much to do and not enough time to do it all!
Sometimes, or most of the time, Mathilda likes to hijack photos with silly faces.

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