If you have decided to become a host family for a foreign exchange student, you are likely very excited and nervous about their arrival and getting them all settled in your home. And if your exchange student is from Somalia, you may also be wondering how you can help someone from such a vastly different culture feel comfortable and safe in your home. Get to know some of the ways that you can help your Somali exchange student to feel like they are a welcome part of your family from the day they arrive so you can begin preparing as soon as possible.
Avoid Keeping Pork Products in Your Home
While not all citizens of Somalia are Muslim, the vast majority are members of the Islamic faith. And one of the major dietary tenants of this religion is that they are not allowed to eat pork or pork products. Islam believes that pigs are unclean animals and therefore make the person that eats them unclean.
If you want to ensure that your Somali exchange student does not feel uncomfortable or as if they have to constantly ask what is in their meals, it is best to avoid having anything with pork in it altogether in y our home. While this may be a slight adjustment for your family, it will prevent your exchange student from worrying about violating their religion.
Ask Them If They Follow a Strict Halal Diet
There are different levels of strictness in the Muslim religion in terms of dietary restrictions. Nearly all Muslims follow the no pork rule. However, some follow more dietary rules. Halal is a term that means "lawful" in that these are the foods and practices that are allowed by the Quran.
Asking your exchange student if they follow a strict halal diet (or asking which fatwas or rules they follow) means that you are asking if they follow rules about how the meat they consume is butchered. The Halal diet refers to a diet in which all meats must be butchered by a Muslim and that the animal is not to suffer or see the tool used to end its life. If your Somali exchange student does follow this strict diet, you will need to find a Halal market in your area if you wish to provide them with meals containing meat.
Be Sure to Find a Somali Interpreter in Your Area
Most exchange students speak a fair amount of English when they arrive in the United States. However, this does not mean that they are fluent or that they will understand everything. Because of this, it is important to know of and be in contact with a Somali interpreter in your area.
If your exchange student needs to go to the doctor for a physical or to the ER for an injury or illness, they may be frightened and confused. Medical terminology is sometimes difficult for even fluent English speakers to understand and a panicked person whose first language is not English may have even more trouble. However, if you have a Somali interpreter that you can call, you will have a resource to make them feel safer and more comfortable.
Additionally, if you want to have a relationship or dialogue with your exchange student's family back home in Somalia, you will likely need an interpreter to translate for you on the phone or in writing (if you choose to send emails or letters). An interpreter is a vital resource for both you and your exchange student in their transition to life in your household.
With these tips in mind, you can be sure that your Somali exchange student feels as happy and healthy as possible in your home when they arrive.