The end of the school year can be an emotional time for both exchange students AND their host families.

It can be tempting to avoid thinking about the hard goodbyes that the next few weeks will bring. Not to mention that between tests, ceremonies, get-togethers, and more, the end of the school year is a busy time! 

Still, it’s worth taking the time to think about how you want to end your exchange experience. Whether you’re a host parent, international student, or local coordinator — How can you end your year on the best note possible?

As you look back on the rewards and challenges of a full academic year with all its ups and downs, it can be overwhelming to pick out just a few ways to wrap this chapter up. It may be helpful to think about three priorities in this transition:

  • Lasting relationships 

The number-one goal of our program is to help create lasting relationships that pass the test of time — and distance. Whether you have a close bond with your host child that you’d like to maintain or a friend from a sports team that you want to keep in touch with, it’s important to remember that while your relationship may look different after the end of the school year, it’s possible to stay in touch in new ways that are just as meaningful. 

  • Re-entering your “normal”

After a year of adventure, going back to your “normal life” in your home country or with one less kid in your house can feel . . . strange. Maybe your house will get a lot quieter in a few weeks. Or, as a student, maybe you’re not ready to go home. Regardless of who you are, you’ve likely grown a lot over the past few months, and going back to what used to be your comfort zone may not feel as comfortable. Have grace with yourself throughout the transition, and find ways to apply what you’ve learned about yourself and your world to your “status quo.”

  • Pausing to reflect

As previously mentioned, the end of the school year gets hectic, and your planner may already be filled to the brim with activities and send-offs. But finding a moment or two to reflect on what you’ve learned this year and what you hope to carry forward from your iE experience will set you up for the most intentional departure possible. 


For our rockstar iE-USA students: Here are a few specific ways you can end your year well through gratitude, documentation, and appreciation.

1. Say “thank you” to your host family . . . when necessary, use words!

There are so many meaningful ways to say “thank you.” Here are just a few ideas.

Remember, it doesn’t have to be “big” to make a big impact!

2. Take all the photos and videos! 

It’s important to be present when you’re hanging out with your friends and host family . . . but it’s also SO great to have photos and videos to look back on your memories together after you’ve returned home. (Bonus points if you share them with us so we can share on our official Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok accounts.😉)

3. Let your friends, teachers, community members, etc. that you appreciate them, too

You can never say too many “thank you’s.” Is there a coach, teacher, community member, or friend who made this an amazing year for you? A quick message, handwritten note, or verbal acknowledgement of how much you appreciate them can go a LONG way.  

4. Recognize your growth

Finally, take at least a few moments before you step on your plane back home to think about the ways you’ve changed this year — and be PROUD of all that you’ve accomplished on your exchange year!

Host families

We know that for our amazing host families, the end of the year is full of complicated emotions. You may be looking forward to getting back to “normal” — but at the same time, you’ll deeply miss the student who has become a part of your life over the past few months. 

Here are a few ways you can ensure you end the year well:

1. Soak in moments of “togetherness”

Although you might be starting to feel all the emotions of your host child’s departure, it’s important to stay present and enjoy the time you DO get to spend together. Make it a point to share the activities you like to do as a family — spend time outside or cooking a favorite meal, or if you can, squeeze in a short getaway like a camping trip to mark the end of your year together.  

2. Photos and videos! 

Again, it’s important to stay present. But you’ll also want visual reminders of the highlights of the past year — look for photo ops and take videos of the everyday moments you want to remember. You could even put together a scrapbook or print a physical photo album through a service like Artifact Uprising or Shutterfly to put on your coffee table or send home with your student. 

3. SHARE your students’ growth with them

You may have noticed immense growth in your students over the past few months. Write them a simple note or verbally share over a meal together how proud you are of the ways they’ve personally developed! 

4. Give yourself/your family space to feel what you’re feeling

After your student leaves, it can be tempting to fill the “void” they leave with a rush of activities and “busy-ness.” Summer is a busy time regardless! However, it can be meaningful to take some time, either individually or as a family, to reflect on what you’ve taken away from this experience.

Local coordinators

As students and families prepare to say goodbye, it can be hard for our wonderful LC’s to know how they fit into the puzzle. 

Here are a few ways you can create a strong ending to your year, too:

1. Show appreciation for HF’s

The end of the school year is often focused on students and their departure — as it should be! However, sending a quick text or email to your host families and letting them know you’re thinking of them can be super meaningful. 

2. SHARE student growth

In your last meetings with students, there will be a lot of logistics to go over. But in your conversations about return flights, school materials, and other (very important) items, take a moment to express to each student how proud you are of their growth this year. Receiving verbal acknowledgement from a trusted adult like a Local Coordinator means SO much to any teen, and your words will go further than you know. 

3. Take a moment for reflection

Before you get going on next year, or move into a season of rest and recharging, take some time to reflect on this past school year as an LC. What went well? What could have been better? As always, if there are any parts of the process iE can help improve for the future, please let us know with an email to