“Are you a young adult thinking about discovering another country? Are you thinking of studying abroad and trying to figure out which program best fits you? Do you enjoy having your laundry done for you? Would you like to boost your resume and future salary? Then listen up because a host Mom is for you!”
When choosing to study abroad, many students are put off by the idea of living with a foreign family. Many have no desire to learn a new language, they do not want to be tied down by another person’s schedule and they certainly do not want to end up eating things they hate every night for dinner. To be fair, all of these concerns are important and sometimes living with a host family can add stress to the study abroad experience. However, it is my belief that choosing to live with a host family has many more benefits than choosing to live in an apartment or dorm. More often than not, after a few weeks many people begin to adjust to their new families and end up learning a lot of important lessons and skills. So, without further adieu, here is my attempt to convince you that host families are the way to go.
The Pros. Why your future family rocks:
1) They know a different language than you:
I cannot stress the benefits of immersing oneself in another language. Being bilingual makes you more appealing in job applications, is proven to increase your salary, allows you to communicate within a whole new world and is a great hobby for your brain. Obtaining fluency in another language is nearly impossible when you are not forced to use it with native speakers every day. Most host families are obligated to speak to you in their native language, so the focus is always on your improvement.
2) They walk the town (or someone in their family does):
Host families are living in the city of your choice long before you get there and long after you leave. They will be able to guide you, tell you the best places in the area to eat and answer questions about local happenings and current events.
3) They take care of the laundry, food and cleaning:
Say buh-bye to adulthood and enjoy chore-less life for a few months!
4) They show you what real life is:
Many of us have been privileged enough to grow up without thinking twice about water, electricity and food. Although it is annoying to walk around in a dark house and turn the water off while you shampoo your hair, it makes you appreciate little things.
5) They have friends and family:
My favorite days with my host families have been when I was invited to hang out with the family. My second weekend in Spain I got to walk around the plaza with everyone and play with my host mom’s grandchild. It’s nice to feel like you are a part of something when you feel so far away from your own world.
6) They look out for you:
Your parents can put their minds at ease: now someone will be monitoring whether or not you come home from the bar or that weekend trip to Italy. It’s also comforting when you leave to go out and they remind you not to walk home alone.
7) They make you laugh:
Sometimes I cannot believe how entertaining my life in Spain is. Living with five women and five dogs means a lot of frustration but also exasperated laughter. I love to recount tales to others about how my host sister walks around naked and the time the dog hair clogged up the bidet.Language barriers often cause laughs on both sides (search correr and correrme). Overall, I find it hard to feel lonely when there is so much to focus on within your own home.
The Horror Stories & How to Combat Them:
1) The girl who could not say anything to her host mom.
There will always misunderstandings due to language barriers in hosting situations. However, if you are patient and persistent, this will not affect you. Most approved host moms have already had years of experience hosting students or managing flats full of them. Therefore, they have a lot of experience dealing with foreigners. If you attempt to learn key phrases, brush up on vocab and practice the art of charades you will be able to relay most messages. As time progresses you will find it hard not to learn the language.
2) The boy who had to eat pig liver every night.
This is a simple solution: if you do not like something do not eat it. It can be difficult to say no to food, especially if your host father is guilt tripping you about wasting it. However, these people are not your actual parents, and thus they cannot tell you that you can’t leave until your plate is cleared. I made a list of things I liked and things I did not to avoid being served dishes that are out of my comfort zone. Snacks are also not included in most programs, so it helps to buy your own and leave them in the fridge so the family can get a sense of what you like to eat. Just be sure to ask permission to use the kitchen space first.
3) The girl whose favorite dress was ripped in the wash
While it can be nice to have your wash done for you, you also run the risk of having some of your things ruined. Unfortunately, all you can do is point out the articles of clothing that you are worried about and give instructions for washing. Some delicate items you can also wash in the sink. I always take my tights and wash them with a little bit of dish soap in the bathroom.
4) The boy whose host mom went through his stuff
Host moms will want to keep your room clean, and this could mean her going into your room when you are not there. To put your mind at ease, remind yourself that this women has been screened several times and hosted students without serious complaints. If you ever encounter something missing ask your host family. If it still doesn’t turn up talk to your director.
5) The boy who could never go out
Many people seem to have the irrational fear that living with a host family also means having a curfew and being forbidden to go out to the bar. Although you certainly cannot come stumbling home while slurring ”
6) The girl who couldn’t bathe!
Some houses do not have access to a lot of hot water. If you find that your house is without hot water one day, tell your family. It is your right to have a certain amount of hot water. If you choose to join a gym, it can also be helpful to shower there and enjoy all the hot water you want.
I hope you find that the benefits of a host family outweigh the negatives. Whether it be by cooking you a great meal, showing you their favorite movies or taking you on a walk through the city, I promise that your host family will teach you more about language and culture than you could ever learn by sitting alone in your apartment.