Auntie SparkNotes: My Family Is Hosting a Naughty Foreigner
My family is hosting a foreign exchange student from Europe. She's very nice, mature, and responsible. This is my hardest year in school, and I'm feeling kind of bad that I don't have more time to spend with her. She's involved in a school sport and several other extracurricular activities, but still has a lot of left-over time, and seems bored. And boredom leads to... less desirable activities.
She's started hanging out with college students. One guy in particular, whom she met at a college football game. They exchanged numbers, and have been calling and texting. This last weekend she went out for coffee with him, with my parent's reluctant permission, and that turned into going Christmas caroling with his all-male roommates. My parents and I talked about it, and we agree that this isn't really okay (not that it's up to me). The program she's here through doesn't allow one-on-one dating, and I don't think they would approve of someone 3-4 years older. I tried to explain to her that high school and college social circles are very separate in the US because of drinking and age of consent laws (much lower where she's from).
But her enthusiasm hasn't been dampened. I heard a phone conversation between them later, and from what I understood, she basically said that she wants to have fun while she's here, and that's why she wants to hang out with college students. She told him when her sister was on exchange she had "such a person" as him, but that she wasn't the type of person to be able to tell them that she loved them. This sounds like a pretty intense conversation having only met, like, twice. I also happened to see a few condoms in her makeup bag. I know that she didn't purchase them here, but brought them with her.
I don't think they've engaged in illicit activity yet, but I'm concerned. I don't want anything bad to happen to her, and I certainly don't want her to be sent home. I can appreciate that she wants to have fun, but she came here as a high school student, not a college student. This may be normal for her at home, but she's not at home. As I said, I like her, and she's nice, though things are a bit awkward between us, because we don't know each other that well yet.
Do you have any suggestions on how I could intervene without hurting anyone badly? Or should I just keep out of it, and possibly let it get a lot worse?
Okay, Sparkler, I'm gonna need you to assemble the following items: a winch, a scalpel, a bottle of WD-40, a length of rope, and a crowbar.
Got 'em? Good.
And now, I'm going to ask you—quickly, carefully, and with surgical precision—to remove yourself from your foreign exchange student's personal business.
Because while I know you mean well, your involvement here is way over the line. It just isn't your place to judge, police, or condemn this girl's behavior... and even if it were, you wouldn't get anywhere with condescending lectures about some unbridgeable divide between high school and college students that doesn't even exist. Plenty of high school-aged kids have college-aged friends, and nowhere is it written that such relationships cannot happen. The barrier you're talking about is totally arbitrary, and one of your own construction.
Which is fine, by the way. Don't get me wrong: you are the master of your own social circle, and if you want that circle to exclude anyone over the age of 18, that's totally your call. But you can't expect others to do the same, particularly not a girl who you yourself describe as "nice, mature and responsivle," and who, through no fault of her own, happens to have more in common in terms of her maturity and independence than the average high school student. And while she might be technically high-school aged, your exchange student is still old enough to be an exchange student — which means that she's old enough to make her own decisions about how to spend her leisure time and to deal with the consequences should she get into trouble.
And let's be very clear on this: she hasn't. You're terribly worried, yes — but all about things that might happen, rather than things that have happened or that even seem likely to happen. And while your parents are certainly entitled to make rules about acceptable behavior, your family's definition of "undesirable" activity might be just a tad too broad. I mean, your exchange student had coffee and went Christmas caroling with a friendly group of roommates. This is hardly unwholesome, but to hear you tell it, she might as well have been naked rollerblading while high on laundry detergent.
Of course, like you said, the rules governing your exchange student's behavior aren't up to you. But what is up to you, if you really want this girl to see value in spending time with someone your age, is to make yourself a person she'd want to spend time with. Would you want to hang out with someone who was snooping through your things, eavesdropping on your conversations, and side-eyeing your every move in search of something to scold? Of course not, right? You'd expect better than that — and rightly so. So, do that for your exchange student. Show her what a kind, accepting, fun person you are. Show her that hanging out with her college crew isn't the only way to enjoy her time in the States. Show her that your home is a place where she can feel comfortable and engaged, not bored and judged.
And maybe, just maybe, consider that a visiting foreigner could do worse things than have a little seasonal fun with her crush and his friends. One day, you might even want to try it yourself.
Got something to say? Tell us in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.