Area Representative FAQs
Here are answers to some of the questions you might have about being an Area Representative with MyEducation.
Welcoming your students
Our arrivals in August/September usually attend an arrival camp prior to heading to their host family home. Scotland arrivals usually attend a camp in Stirling, England and Wales arrivals usually attend a camp in Stratford or near Cambridge. At the end of these camps the students travel by bus or train to their host family area and we ask that the host family collects them from their arrival point. The arrival date is communicated to everyone ahead of time and transport is usually booked a month before arrival. Sometimes we might need your assistance meeting the students and we would be in contact about this ahead of time.
For arrivals in January the students travel to the nearest local airport. We prefer that families collect their students from the airport, but if this is not possible we will arrange a transfer for them. If you are available to assist with travel, then we would be grateful and you would be reimbursed.
After the students arrive we ask that you meet with them within 2 weeks of arrival so that they can get to know you and build a relationship with you. The sooner you can meet them the better, as the first few months of exchange are challenging and students might need your support early on.
Our best advice to all host families is to start as they mean to go on. As an Area Representative we hope that you will reinforce this message with the host family and the student.
Students will live with their host family for a considerable amount of time, so it is important that they do not treat them as a guest. Students are members of their family and should be treated as such. It is also vital that families and students communicate and understand the rules and expectations that are in place at home and in the local area.
Your early communications with the host family and student should make it clear that you are there to help and be contacted, but also encourage them to look to one another for support and have an open line of communication in the home. This will help to solve issues before they become too complicated.
MyEducation has a list of rules for the students to follow while on exchange and these are communicated to them prior to arrival and at orientation. These rules include, but are not limited to:
- no alcohol, smoking or drugs
- no driving of any motorised vehicle
- must work hard at school
- follow the rules of the host family.
We ask that host families consider the rules and expectations that they wish to put on their student. If they have other teenage children then we would expect them to put the same rules on the student as they have for their own children. Understandably, they might decide that some modifications are needed while their student gets to know the area and makes friends. Families should think about what chores they expect the student to do at home and how they should help in general. Many families experience issues with overuse of screens in the home, so they should consider how they might limit phone and internet time and ensure that homework is being completed. Your guidance and advice, especially for new families, will be vital as they prepare for the arrival of their students.
MyEducation will provide as much support and guidance as possible to ensure that families are ready for the arrival of their student and we will also support their rules as the student is living in their home.
Building a relationship quickly with the host families and students is very important. They need to know that you are there for support and can be contacted if issues arise.
In the first month of the exchange it is vital that you meet your students and spend time with them so that you can get to know one another. That meeting can then be followed up by messages and/or calls to make sure that your students are doing well. If they know you are available then we hope the students will think to contact you rather than calling their parents at home, which will make problem management much easier.
During the program
Communication is key for the success of the program. Encourage your students to talk about their day at school and how they are feeling about the experience. Are they happy at school and at home? Opening up this line of communication will help you all to succeed and to ensure that you both get the most from the experience.
Homesickness can be a problem for many students and so it helps if you make sure that students don’t spend a lot of time in their room alone or speaking with their family and friends from home. The more time they spend isolated in this manner the harder it will be for them to overcome homesickness and cultural adjustment. As the Area Representative, you can speak to the host family to make sure that this is not happening.
Suggest activities for students and families to do at weekends and after school. Also encourage them to meet up with new acquaintances at school to help them build a friendship. Extra-curricular activities are hugely important and we expect that students should do at least one activity. This will help them to meet new people with similar interests and also keep them busier. Consider what is available in your local area and make suggestions to the host families and students about what might be possible.
Gentle encouragement is needed for all students, but some might need a little more help than others. Although you might expect all applicants to the program to be very outgoing and brave, it is not the case. Some students will hit the ground running and take everything in their stride, while others are quite shy and nervous of trying new things, so you may have to adjust your manner and level of involvement to support them accordingly. Over time they will make friends and become busier and you will see them develop and spread their wings more.
Communication is so important during the exchange experience. If there is a problem it is vital that your students talk with someone about it quickly. The longer they leave a problem, the harder it is to fix.
With minor issues we would hope that the host family can speak with the student directly and vice versa. The family needs to explain the problem and make sure that the student understands the rules and expectations, and a student needs to seek the family’s help and advice. For the majority of issues, a clear conversation can resolve problems very quickly.
If a problem is larger, e.g. if the student is isolating themselves from the family or breaking the rules, then it is important that the family or student contact you as the Area Representative. Again, the sooner the issue is raised, the more we can do to help. Once you have been made aware of an issue you might need to speak with the host family or with the student about it to try and work out how you can help and whether they are all aware of the issue that has been raised. In some cases, a family can be completely unaware that a student is struggling and vice versa.
For more complex issues, the student might speak first with the Area Representative. In this situation the Area Representative might then come and speak with the host family about the concern. For more complicated issues, a sit-down might be required between you, the student and the host family to discuss the issue. We hope that everyone will come to that meeting with an open mind and be willing to move forward and support one another. As the guide for the meeting, we would hope that you can give everyone the support they need to speak openly and honestly and come up with a plan to move forward and tackle the concerns.
For especially complex problems, we ask that you contact the MyEducation team before proceeding too far with conversations and actions. We will be able to offer advice about how best to proceed and assist you to prepare for a family meeting. We will also report any serious concerns to the overseas partner when necessary.
If serious issues cannot be resolved then we will work to find a new host family for the student. Finding a family can take several weeks so we must ask for patience while this process is completed.
MyEducation has a set schedule for student contact. This is the minimum level of contact that is required, but our most successful Area Representatives tend to be in contact with the students more often and this really helps to build a relationship. More face-to-face meetings are required in the first 4 months of the program and then these mandated meetings become less. This is because students generally need more support early in the program. Later on they are more established and busy, so these in-person meetings are less regular.
No. Students remain on exchange for the full period of their program. They will spend school holidays and Christmas with their host family.
Special circumstances might lead MyEducation to allow a student to return home for a short period, but this is not common.
You determine how you want to run the role and build the relationship with your students and families. Some Area Representatives like to meet with students on an individual basis, while others like to arrange group meetings at their home or at a local attraction. Area Representatives have taken their students to castles, mini-golf, ice-skating and markets in the past. If you are planning a day out it is best to set these dates early and make the host families aware of your plans so that there is no crossover.
There is no requirement to plan big activities. A simple coffee in the town can be just as effective to find time to speak with your student and build a relationship.