When considering to study abroad, people often ask: “How can we survive? How can we live when we’re alone abroad?”
There are a couple of accommodation options here: you can live in a dorm room, rent an apartment, join a sorority/fraternity house, or stay together with some friends. Another alternative is to live with a host family. Most of all exchange students live abroad this way – not just secondary / high school exchange students, but also some college students.
Host family is a family that voluntarily accommodates program participants, for as long as their stay in that country. They wholeheartedly and with open arms welcome us the to their home to live with them.
I stayed with a host family for a year when I was a student for Youth Exchange and Study, a full-funded scholarship program by United States Department of State.
I was hosted in rural community. Norway, Iowa, population 602 and there is a simple, athletic, and a fun family where they open their house for me. They were Mihm family. My family, as I said before, they love athletic and outdoor activities. They love watching American football on TV and they often bring to a lot of sport games. I once went to an NCAA basketball game with them to cheer for Iowa Hawkeyes. My host sister is a volleyball athlete in school and my dad loves to do adventure racing, different from them, my mom loves watching TV Dramas if she didn’t go to work. Beside that, we have a dog and a cat, and I love to bring my dog for a walk in the countryside gravel road.
They taught me a lot about being healthy through loving sport (because I was sport hater before I became an exchange student). They helped me a lot and taught me to be more independent. They really supported me through any activity that I wanted to join. In the family, I’m the one and only artsy person because I joined Fine Arts things and performed in school dramas and music scene often, they would attend the event to support me. They even don’t hesitate to contact with my natural family and they always listen to me whenever I share stories and sometimes they ask things about Indonesia and Islam. My host family opened my eyes to about friendliness, honesty and openness.
Here are some tips about living in host family from my experience:
- Always ask before doing and taking things. Any kinds of things. Remember, you are staying in someone’s home, even though they’re okay with it and they consider ourselves as their family.
- Respect their advice. Why? Because you’re living in different country and different society. Rules will be different and they are giving you advice because they wanted you to survive living in their country and/or society.
- Three magic words: Sorry, Please, Thank You. Let your family know that you’re a respectful person.
- Be open-minded and extroverted, to make your family knows more about you and with this two values, you will gain more knowledge about other cultures and learn tolerance more.
- Ask for doing, at least, one of the household chores. It’s another form of saying thank you. And you have to take parts because you’re now sharing life and sharing home with them.
- When the invite you to some events, attend the events with your family. It will be very fun and you will get to know a lot of people more than just your school friends. It’ll make your mission target to promote your country even broader.
- Don’t hesitate to ask for supports. They are here to help you survive your academic year(s), so don’t just stay in silence, open yourself and tell them if you need any kind of support for your involvements in various activities. They’ll surely provide you with things if they could.
- Give them a souvenir from your country. Beside it’s a thank you gift, it’s a media to share more about where do you came from and to know your country better.
- Do not be vain on facilitation they gave to you, keep it very well, or they will lose trust on you and you will lose sympathy and support, even not entirely. We have to be careful on facilitation things.
- When you don’t live with them anymore, keep in touch and let them know what you’ve been up to. Oh come on, you’re are the part of their family now and forever 🙂 If you have big events of yours, graduation or if you’re getting married one day, if they have a chance, they will come for you. It happened to a lot of students
By keep remembering this simple tips, you will enjoy staying with host family. Staying with host family means that you can’t be selfish and you are going to have a new family in your life, so be prepared. Remember to stay modest and don’t take your family for granted! Enjoy your stay with host family 🙂