January 19, 2012

4 Tips to Surviving Your Study Abroad Homestay

Your application has finally been accepted, and your bags are packed. As relieved as you probably feel to be on your way to your study abroad destination, it is also important to prepare yourself for the culture shock that may come next. Navigating a new city and a foreign language is as exhausting as it is exciting, especially if you have selected to stay with a native host family. But if you find yourself getting nervous about how it will be to live in someone else’s home, remember that your host family is probably feeling the same way about your arrival! If you will be staying with a host family, here are some of the most important things to remember to make your experience a great one.

1. Pretend That It’s Your House, but Remember That It’s Not
The best way to ease the transition from your dorm room to the available space in the home of an unknown, foreign family is to pretend that you already live there. They will (hopefully) be trying their best to help you feel included and comfortable in their home. Rather than acting shy or making things awkward, go ahead and move about the house as if you lived there, too. Don’t be afraid to sit and watch TV in the living room or make your favorite breakfast in the kitchen. Never disregard house rules or fail to be polite, but go ahead and get comfortable. The sooner you do so, the sooner everyone else will feel comfortable, as well.

2. Provide Input About Your Likes and Dislikes
I have heard too many study abroad students over the years complaining about things like a particular dish that their host mom cooks or the way that the maid throws the dry cleaning into the laundry with everything else. These are things that are easily fixed by being brave and respectful enough to speak up. Let your host mom know that you don’t care for that particular dish, but love the side that she makes along with it, if she wouldn’t mind making more of that for you when she cooks that meal. Simply be polite and let people know if something is bothering you. It is rarely a big deal, and it saves you from feeling uncomfortable about small things.

3. Respect House Rules
This is a huge one. No matter what, always remember that you are a guest in someone else’s home. Even if some rules seem strange or unnecessary to you, you must respect them, especially because they may have to do with someone else’s cultural or religious beliefs. If there are any house rules that you truly have a problem with, talk to reps from your study abroad program, and they should be able to advise you on the cultural factors involved and possibly even speak with your host family for you.

4. Practice the Language
You can only get so far learning a language in a classroom. To truly begin to understand it, you have to learn to speak with native speakers. This is one of the biggest reasons to do a home stay. As tempting as it is to speak to your host family in English, resist the urge. Take advantage of the opportunity to speak with them on a daily basis, especially on such casual terms.

This is a guest post by Kimberly Wilson. Kimberly is from accredited online colleges, she writes on topics including career, education, student life, college life, home improvement, time management etc.

Please quote and link to Scholarships, Grants and Events Abroad if you are republishing this article!

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