Many SYA alums consider their relationship with their host family the most memorable part of their year abroad and maintain that relationship for life.
We cannot overstate the importance of your host family. They will provide you with involvement in your community, authentic means for learning about your new country and culture, and countless opportunities to develop language proficiency that are not possible in the classroom or on your own. By participating fully in the life of your host family, you will come in direct contact with valuable cultural, sociological, personal, political and practical aspects of life in your country that complement and complete the SYA academic program.
FEEL RIGHT AT HOME
All SYA schools have a dedicated Host Family Coordinator whose job it is to get to know both the families and the students well enough that they can make the best possible placements.
All prospective host families are interviewed by the Host Family Coordinator in their homes and provided with appropriate orientation, training and supervision. Many of the SYA host families have been hosting for several years - some over two generations. There is no typical SYA host family; they range from retired adults to families with many children. What they all have in common is the motivation to embrace an American teenager fully into their lives and the flexibility and warmth necessary to make it work.
"It's important to let your child make their own relationship with their host family and that you don't try and micro-manage. That isn't going to work for you or your child. I think that in some ways this experience is like when your child is learning to walk. You want to be behind them, and you want to catch them if they fall but they need to have the confidence to take the steps and build the muscles they need to make it a good passage."
Italy '15 and Spain '16 Parent
HOST FAMILY SELECTION AND PLACEMENT
Host family assignments are made by the Host Family Coordinator on the basis of criteria appropriate to SYA, in consultation with the Resident Director, utilizing information provided by the student, his/her parents, host families as well as other interested parties. Once host family placements are made in mid-summer for the coming year, the only changes made prior to the end of the first few weeks of the school year are for documented medical reasons or other extraordinary circumstances. After that, there is a process for investigating the need for and making any necessary host family changes during the school year.
"The host family is by far the bread and butter of SYA. It’s where you have the best experiences. On the weekends, my host family will either go see a movie, go to northern Beijing to see my host mother’s family or we might go see my dad’s parents who live out on the suburbs of Beijing. There are plenty of different things we can do. There’s never a set schedule, they’re always very spontaneous when they want to take me out."
- Tahrieq Koonce CN'16, Millbrook School, NY
"My host mother is an amazing cook! She makes me all sorts of traditional dishes, and tries to cater to all of my needs. But I always reassure her that everything she makes is incredible. My American friends who have come over for dinner agree. Just like me, my host parents love cultural exploration and often ask questions about living in the United States."
- Will C. FR'16, Millbrook School, NY
My host family and I have built an amazing bond, and at times they genuinely are and feel like my family. Sometimes, the highlight of my day is when I can come home and catch up with my host mom about our day.
- Karen A. IT'16, The Hotchkiss School, CT